Wachusett Mountain often makes its snow at night, when conditions are better and trails are free of visitors.
On the heels of a record snowmaking season, Wachusett Mountain Ski Area has seen a 67-percent increase in visitors compared to last year, when lackluster weather patterns dampened the Princeton resort's attendance.
Last summer, the Princeton ski resort invested in a new $2-million pump station that more than doubled its water pumping capacity from roughly 4,000 gallons per minute to 8,000. The investment is already paying off, said resort President Jeff Crowley, who called the new water pumping capacity a game changer.
The new pump station and snowmaking equipment has allowed Wachusett to maintain an average base depth of four feet of snow, despite only receiving 40 inches of natural snowfall so far this winter.
Wachusett is able to maintain a higher quality packed powder snow. When snow conditions are poor, Wachusett can resurface trails with new machine-made snow. Higher quality snow pulls in more customers as packed powder is more consistent and easier to ski on, said Crowley.
Not even halfway through the current ski season, Wachusett Mountain Ski Area has broken its personal snowmaking record, turning more than 95 million gallons of water into snow.
All that snow means more visitors. Beyond just improving attendance 67 percent over last year's lower-than-average attendance, the number of visitors this year is beating Wachusett's five-year average by 16 percent, Crowley said.
Wachusett expanded its water pumping capacity in order to weatherproof its business model. The water pumping expansion was planned for a couple years prior to execution, but the need for it was highlighted by last year's low snowfall, said Crowley.
The investment was smart, as increased snowmaking capability will help keep Wachusett Mountain competitive, said Christina Andreoli, president of regional tourism council Discover Central Massachusetts. Wachusett is not only competing against other ski resorts in Massachusetts but also with mountains in Vermont and New Hampshire that are within driving distance of Central Massachusetts.
“Given the unpredictable weather patterns, investing in their snow-making capabilities made sense for this season and in the long-term,” Andreoli said. “It gives them an edge over the competition while allowing them to keep their existing customers happy throughout the season.”
Vermont had an early start to its ski season this year with snow in November, said Philip Tortora, communications director for the Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing, adding Vermont resorts are expected to make up for the off-year last year with a return to the 4.7 million people that visited the state's mountains in 2015.
“The northern resorts have more favorable snowmaking temperatures, so with our increased pumping capabilities, we can compete by providing a similar or even better snow surface,” Crowley said.