Ski Season Takes Off After Slow Start Due To Weather

Cockaigne in Cherry Creek opened its ski lifts on Jan. 28. Periods of snowfall followed by warm weather resulted in a slow start to the local ski season. Submitted photo

CHERRY CREEK — As the slopes go, the local ski season has been a little up and down this season.

Cockaigne in Cherry Creek opened its lifts on Jan. 28, more than a month later than anticipated. According to Brandon Odell, resort general manager, that’s because many days of snow accumulation this season have been followed by a spike in temperature and sometimes rain.

But that’s how it goes for smaller, locally owned resorts that currently rely more on natural accumulation than artificial snow.

“It’s always about Mother Nature,” Odell said this week. “It was a rough start — even the Farmer’s Almanac had it wrong that said there’d be a lot of snow. We’re still getting hit, but it’s followed by a heat wave and then rain.”

Now up and running, Cockaigne located at 1493 Thornton Road in Cherry Creek, was open this week Wednesday through Sunday. At peak times, including ski patrols and dining services, Odell estimates there are upward of 50 workers at the resort.

At present, 30% of the snow at Cockaigne is manmade, currently utilized on the learning hill. Odell said other resorts may operate with up to 90% of the snow produced manually, which helps ensure the slopes are in ideal condition for skiers and snowboarders.

Odell previously worked at Peek’n Peak Resort in Clymer, and also was the general manager for DoubleTree hotel in Jamestown. He began serving as the resort general manager at Cockaigne in December.

Though new to the position, Odell said there’s plenty in store for the local resort, which reopened around 2020 after a fire destroyed the previous historic lodge in January 2011. This summer, he said, work will begin to update pipes first installed in the 1960s that go toward the manufacturing of artificial snow.

“The snow-making pipes are costly, but we’ll slowly phase that in this summer,” Odell said.

Cockaigne also is looking to revamp its website.

Odell hopes the resort will remain open through April, but noted that it will depend on the weather.

“This is the perfect time to come learn our trails, which are not hard,” he said. “It’s a great place and stepping stone for other, bigger ski resorts. It’s a good place to come out for the day with the family and kids.”

Peek’n Peak Resort this week said it expected to have every trail open this weekend.

“Mother Nature has been on our side, but it also doesn’t hurt to have a team that is as amazing and as hardworking as ours, either,” the resort said on Facebook.

The unpredictable season with regard to the weather apparently remains in the early months of 2023. A wind chill advisory for much of Western New York remains in effect through Saturday morning. The National Weather Service in Buffalo states that wind chills today could reach as low as 15 to 20 degrees below zero.

“The cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 30 minutes,” the Weather Service said in its alert. “This is a potentially dangerous situation to be outdoors. If you must be outside, be sure to cover all exposed skin.”


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