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Many U.S. ski areas lack snow

By Abby Goodnough

New York Times News Service

Published: Thursday, Dec. 22 2011 11:21 p.m. MST

WEST DOVER, Vt. — There were far too many skis on hand this week at High Altitude, a rental shop on the road to Mount Snow here, and Andrew Glover, the manager, was far too lonely.

The problem was the weather. Week after week of balmy temperatures have made snowfall scant in New England, and, worse, wreaked havoc on snowmaking at ski resorts that like to have a healthy base of, at the least, manmade snow by Christmas.

Many ski areas opened late this year, and the slow start is threatening the fragile economy of towns that rely on the ski traffic that usually starts in earnest over the holidays. Hundreds of seasonal workers have been unable to start their jobs, while some innkeepers report far more empty rooms than is customary during the holidays.

Nor is the frustration limited to the Northeast. Out West, some of the country's more famous ski resorts have been waiting for the steady snowfall that made last year an epic season.

At Squaw Valley in Olympic Valley, Calif., near Lake Tahoe, only 15 percent of the mountain was open this week. Just 12 inches of snow had fallen at the base of the resort and 26 inches on the upper mountain, by far the lowest in a decade for this time of year. (By this point in 2010, the resort had received 135 inches at the base and 246 inches on its upper mountain.)

In Colorado, ski areas like Keystone and Arapahoe Basin had opened less than half of their terrain, although colder temperatures were allowing snow-making machines to keep runs open and both had a few inches of snowfall this week.

There is a bright spot: northern New Mexico, where Taos Ski Valley has received more than 50 inches of snow this month, compared with only 6 last December.

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