ASC's eastern resorts weather rain

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Ski area managers at American Skiing company's New England resorts say the storm front that pushed temperatures into the forties and dumped rain on the slopes over the weekend, didn't cost them any of their available terrain as they head into the critical holiday weekend. New England ski areas have a reputation for getting wiped out by warm rainstorms. But American Skiing managers in Vermont and Maine say they withstood this mild storm front with skiing intact.

Steamboat and ASC's other western resorts, The Canyons, Utah, and Heavenly, Calif., have an abundance of natural snow. But their fates are linked with the six New England ski areas. Stock analysts pointed that situation out when American Skiing's fiscal year-end report reflected $450 million of indebtedness on high interest loans and a loss of $52.4 million.

ASC director Les Otten said a significant portion of his recovery plan for the company in 2001 relies upon a return to more normal weather patterns at all of his resorts. That would drive an increase in skier days and allow the company to act on its plan to increase revenue per skier visit in fiscal 2001, Otten said.

The manager of Sunday River, Maine, said current manmade snow technology helps resorts like his get through unseasonable weather.

"It's a testament to snowmaking," Sunday River managing director Chip Seamans said in a prepared statement. "Twenty years ago, a storm like this one would have left us with minimal terrain open."

Seamans explained that manmade snow is more dense than natural snow, and therefore has a greater thermal mass.

"We make it dry, so if we experience rain, it'll soak right through. We can groom it, make a bit more snow on top of it and end up with (good) conditions all over the mountain two to three days after a warm front passes."

Sunday River plans to have 75 trails open this weekend.

Scott Peterson, communications director for Sugarbush, Vt., said the storm produced several inches of fresh snow, but warm temperatures caused the ski area to temporarily close its "Castlerock" area. Castlerock is dependent upon natural snow, Peterson said.

Killington, Vt., had received four inches of natural snow as of 9 a.m. Monday and expects to have more than 160 trails open for the holiday.

In New Hampshire, Attitash Bear Peak kept its trail count at pre-storm levels and expects to add terrain for the holidays, as do Mount Snow, Vt., and Sugarloaf/USA, Maine.

Sugarloaf was reporting a base of 12-30 inches on Monday. Sunday River was reporting a base that ranged from 16-32 inches.

Attitash Bear Peak had a base of 14-50 inches, but was offering skiing on just 12 trails and had no top to bottom skiing. Killington, Vt., reported a settled base of from 20 to 40 inches.

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