With unreliable winters, Pa. ski resorts invest in new attractions

PALMERTON, Pa. (WPVI) -- When it comes to snow-making conditions, ski resort managers in this part of Pennsylvania know: you have to play the hand you are dealt.

But relying on Old Man Winter is getting tougher and tougher.

For example, Bear Creek Ski Resort in Macungie didn't fully open for the season until January 12.

"On an average year we'd normally open around December 15, so that was quite a bit later. We just had fringe temperatures that wouldn't allow snow-making," said Jeff Zellner of Bear Creek.

Things have been just a little better 25 miles to the north on Blue Mountain in the Poconos.

"We had an early opening. We were going really smoothly until Christmas week, then we hit some warm temperatures. It seems like every other week we hit a cold spell, and then it's followed by a rainy, warm spell," said Tricia Matsko of Blue Mountain.

Still, both resorts are having a strong 2019, financially speaking.

The reason? Both Bear Creek and Blue Mountain have had to diversify their revenue streams, and now offer everything from live music, to restaurants, to weddings and corporate events.

What used to be a four-month business model is now a year-round venture.

"We didn't have to rely on those 20 years ago. So not only do we have the weather in the winter we're always watching, we also have the summer," said Matsko.

Regardless, skiing and snowboarding remain the bread and butter of eastern Pennsylvania ski areas.

In fact, customers we spoke with said they live for long holiday weekends like this one.

"It's just we had the day off from school so it's nice to drive out here and enjoy the snow," said Jake Engstrom of Spotswood, New Jersey.

"You kind of feel free when you're out there, just worrying about snowboarding. That's it," said Jessica Rieger of Green Brook, New Jersey.

Despite the issues with making snow, Blue Mountain will make a profit this year, and Bear Creek will, financially speaking, will have its best year ever.

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