Preps underway at ski resorts ahead of winter

MACUNGIE, Pa. (WPVI) -- Colder weather in the forecast is exactly what local ski resorts want to hear. They are getting ready to open, and hoping for a much better season this year.

Ski season is just days away, and while the slopes on Bear Creek Mountain Resort look more like a fall greeting card, workers say that will soon change.

"Our goal is always to be open by Christmas week. That's always the big one," said Jeff Zellner, Bear Creek Mountain Resort.

If Old Man Winter doesn't bring the snow, crews on the mountain can make their own - huge snow blowers will do the trick.

"We can cover the mountain in 72 hours with optimal snowmaking conditions," said Zellner.

The hope is to start making snow to coat the mountain as early as this week.

"These machines you see behind us are not like shooting a hose up in the air and letting the water freeze when it comes down. These have independent weather stations on them. They monitor the weather conditions all the time," said Zellner.

For ski resorts seeing white, means green in the cash register.

Break Creek hopes to open by mid-December. However, workers admit even with high-tech snowmaking machines, they are at the mercy of the weather. Some years the slopes have seen skiers as early as Dec. 1, other times as late as January.

The key is a long, cold winter.

"I think first-timers are kind of in awe because they have never seen this kind of operation before. They have never seen what snowmaking is, they've never seen what lifts are. The people that keep coming back, they come back for our product," said Jake Henschel, Bear Creek.

For employees, the best marketing tool would be temperatures below 26 degrees and a good amount of natural snow. But at the end of the day, whether it's manmade or the real deal, workers and customers want to see the mountain transformed into a winter wonderland.

"On a yearly basis we can have up to 200,000 skier visits. On a busy day ,we can have 4-5,000 people here, so there is definitely an appetite for the winter sports," said Zellner.
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