What winter?

Elizah French / Castleton Spartan

A rainy February day in Castleton leaves students missing the usual wintery snow.

The question on many people’s minds this winter isn’t how long it will take to warm up the car, or how well the road is plowed – it’s whether or not to wear a t-shirt to class.

According to WeatherDB.com, the average snowfall for Rutland is 72.9 inches. This winter, however, has seen a measly 32 inches, with less than an inch remaining on the ground currently.

For many students who purchase season passes to local mountains, or the Big 4.0 pass, a season lift pass for students valid at Killington, Pico, Okemo and Sunapee, the worst part of the winter is the wasted money.

“I’m pissed. I spent $400 on my pass and I’ve gone once,” said sophomore Haley Connor. “I want to go, but man-made snow isn’t the same.”

The Castleton Alpine Ski team has also been affected this season.  

“Our conference decided to postpone our first two races of the season at Okemo in early January because most teams could not get on snow to get training,” said Alpine Ski coach Chris Eder. “We had plans to train on snow in early/mid-December, but never got around to it because of the warm weather and lack of snow on the local mountains.”

Eder added that although training has been cancelled several times this season, the mountains are working hard at making snow when they can.

“The folks at Okemo, Killington, Pico and West Mountain have been super great to us in regards to getting us good hill space to train despite the warm weather and lack of snow,” he said. “When the temperatures have dropped, the ski areas have done a great job making snow.  So, that has been the saving grace for our season.”

Emily Hudson, president of the Castleton Ski and Snowboard Club, said it’s thanks to that man-made snow that most of the club’s members have been able to get some time on the mountains.

“For the most part, students who bought the season passes should still be able to get their money’s worth since the mountains associated with the pass have very strong snowmaking capabilities,” she said. “We may not have had much natural snow, but the mountains have been taking advantage of the below freezing temps and have had the snow guns blowing as much as they can and they drastically expanded terrain. The conditions have been pretty good lately given the circumstances.”

Hudson noted that the ones really feeling the challenge are students who rely on the mountains for work, like herself.

“For the month of December, Killington had to drastically cut back the amount of hours part-time employees were working, including myself, because business levels were so low,” she said. “For those students who depend on a Staff Pass from Killington, they were unable to ride because the staff passes kept being blacked out, so that paying customers could enjoy the limited conditions.”

Despite the fleeting snow, the Ski and Snowboard Club hosted a rail jam back in December using ice trucked in from the ice rink in Rutland as “snow.”

“We had probably about 30 skiers and snowboarders show up to participate, as well as three different sponsors show up to the event,” Hudson said.

Skiing and snowboarding aren’t the only winter activities affected by this winter. The warmer temperatures have also affected students like senior Jimmy Britt who enjoy ice fishing.

“[The warmer weather] doesn’t allow the lakes or ponds to freeze over thoroughly, so good spots are harder to reach,” Britt said. “Because of that, if I want to go ice fishing I have to get up early and hope that someone hasn’t taken a spot that has frozen.”

Britt said he normally goes three to eight times a winter, but because of the mild weather will get to go maybe three times if he’s lucky.

Hudson said what everyone interviewed and many people on campus have been thinking since December.  

“If everyone can do their snow dance and start thinking snow real hard, it would be much appreciated!”

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