Snow Plentiful at Colo. Ski Resorts After Slow Start As the Northeastern United States enjoys a good snow following last year's abysmal snowfall, the year has been mixed in the West, where Colorado's season got off to a slow start.
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Snow Plentiful at Colo. Ski Resorts After Slow Start

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Snow Plentiful at Colo. Ski Resorts After Slow Start

Snow Plentiful at Colo. Ski Resorts After Slow Start

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JEFF BRADY: I'm Jeff Brady in Colorado where the sky season started a big later this year. Last month was a bust for a few resorts because they didn't have enough snow to open for Thanksgiving. But now, slopes have plenty of powder and skiers.

Mr. KEN BANISH(ph) (Skier): Beautiful. There's probably six to eight inches of fresh powder, nice dry champagne powder.

BRADY: Ken Banish is skiing in Winter Park about an hour and a half outside Denver. Snowboarder David Beneren(ph) is a frequent visitor from California. He says snow was in short supply both here and there.

Mr. DAVID BENEREN (Snowboarder): It was starting off slow, but there was a couple of storms that came through that really dumped on California and on Colorado. So it's been getting better. But it's still early in the season.

BRADY: In November, Winter Park had one of the smallest amounts of snow on record. Only 15 inches. But the storms brought almost 100 inches more over the last month.

Mr. GARY DeFRANGE (President and CEO, Winter Park): We're now above average for the month of December. We've got great snow conditions.

BRADY: Gary DeFrange is the president and chief operating officer at Winter Park. He says the resort typically receives about a million visits a year and he hopes to meet that mark again. The slow start to the season is just one thing that will make that difficult.

Mr. DeFRANGE: When Christmas falls on a Tuesday or Wednesday, it sort of changes travel patterns. If Christmas is closer to a weekend, you sort of have a bigger crowd prior to Christmas. So from a crowd standpoint, I think we'll end December about the same as we were a year ago.

BRADY: He's hoping the good snow will draw large crowds in coming weeks. That's what's been happening at Whistler in British Columbia. It opened a week early this year. In New Mexico, Taos opened late, but now the ski area has the most snow managers have seen there since the 1970s. In Oregon, several resorts remained close through mid-December, waiting for snow.

Back at Winter Park, Melissa Hendren(ph) is visiting from King(ph) City, Missouri. She is pleased with the new six-person lift at the top that replaced an old two-seater.

Ms. MELISSA HENDREN (Tourist): That was a great improvement.

BRADY: What about the snow?

MS. HENDREN: Oh, the snow is wonderful. Lots of powder out here. I haven't really come across a lot of ice, so I really like it.

BRADY: That powder also coats construction equipment in the resort's parking lot, earth movers and a crane. You'll find new projects underway at ski resorts all over the west. Real estate has been a focus. Condos near ski runs are popular among retiring baby boomers. Aspen Skiing Company just opened a $17 million development for children and parents who need a babysitter while they ski. It's called the Tree House, and is intended for children as young as 8-weeks-old. Kids have been getting a lot of attention at resorts lately. Winter Park has ski lessons for 3-year-olds. Gary DeFrange says you have to hook them while they're young.

Mr. DeFRANGE: If they learn to ski and ride in a way that provides more enjoyment, because they're doing it so well, they tend to become lifelong skiers and riders.

BRADY: And down the road, they'll come back as paying adults.

Jeff Brady, NPR News. Denver.

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