Some ski areas in western Massachusetts have been open limited hours even without much in the way of natural snow and are hoping for some help from Mother Nature to reach full capacity.
Bousquet Mountain in Pittsfield was open Thanksgiving weekend, the earliest it had been in more than a decade.
General Manager Kevin McMillan said a large investment in snow-making equipment allowed for the early opening.
"We're fortunate that we have a completely new system, so it's efficient, very energy efficient, it's state of the art," he said. "A lot of it is automated, so we can turn it on and off from a computer station, which means we can get up and running quickly."
McMillan said it's now a waiting game. There's no snow in sight and the forecast calls for mild rainy weather for parts of this week, certainly not conducive for making snow. A return to cold nights will help, along with any natural snow that might fall.
At Ski Butternut in Great Barrington, the ski season hasn’t started quite yet. But, marketing director Dillon Mahon said the mountain hopes to open up soon.
“We're hoping ... this coming weekend, it looks like the temps drop and we're hoping to get a few more nights in and get the place ready to go," Mahon said.
Jiminy Peak in Hancock has also been open the last few weekends. Spokesperson Katie Fogel said she anticipates the facility will be open on a daily basis by the middle of this month. She said some natural snow would not only help coat the ski slopes, but it also serves an important marketing tool to bring people out to the mountain.
"While snowmaking is super-important to us, it definitely helps to have snow in people's backyards," Fogel said. "It's good to get a little bit of snowfall, get that in people's heads."
All ski areas hope to be fully up and running before the lucrative holiday week in December between Christmas and New Year’s.
This story is a production of New England News Collaborative. It was originally published by New England Public Media.