Is this really it?
Forgive the weather curmudgeon if you will for a moment, but there was a moment on Thursday morning while riding the gondola at Killington Mountain Resort when a general sense of bitter angst took over.
The view of bare ground outside the window — brown, leaves, dirt — might have come as a pleasant sight for those not trying desperately to grab hold of whatever remainder there is to the 2015-16 skiing season (if there was, indeed, one to begin with), but for those of us who gravitate toward the outdoor activities of the winter season, it was a death knell.
New England’s skiing and riding season is just about finished.
And oh, how truly awful it was.
It’s supposed to be prime time for the local season, and yet some smaller facilities such as Yawgoo Valley in Rhode Island and Ski Bradford in Haverhill have already closed for the year, a development that might be soon followed by some bigger names in the business after a campaign with unseasonably warm temperatures and a scarcity of natural snow. Good things can’t be ahead for the likes of Mad River Glen and Burke Mountain, even with a full schedule of spring events planned at most ski areas in the region.
Westford’s Nashoba Valley didn’t run its lifts on Friday, but still had its pond skimming event scheduled for Sunday. Even behemoth resorts such as Sunday River, Stowe, and Bretton Woods are feeling the pinch, making snow at any chance that weather will allow in order to satisfy a long list of events set into April. Black Mountain, located in Jackson, N.H., suspended its lift operations for the season beginning on Friday, resorting to offering guests a lawn party this weekend.
Meanwhile, Lake Tahoe, snow-starved for the past few years, just got five feet over the last week.
But here, no such luck. All six New England states set winter records for warmth. In fact, the Lower 48 states had its warmest winter in 121 years of record-keeping, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
As for that ever-present hope that a March snowstorm might extend things for the desperate among us, that hope is dwindling with every depressing change in the weather pattern.
“It’s friggin’ horrible. It’s been an epically bad year,’’ Eric Friedman, marketing director for Mad River Glen told the Globe late last month. “We get snow and then it rains. It’s below zero and then it’s 60 degrees. We just keep getting beaten down.’’
March is typically the snowiest month for the north country of New England, so to be nearly halfway through with a lack of precipitation to accompany the record warmth of the last week is a fairly clear-cut sign that the worst skiing season in any recent memory is just about finished, no matter how rosy your outlook might be.
Skiing Killington on Thursday would have demolished whatever positivity you might have had in any case.
While Wednesday was a brilliant, spring-like day at the resort, with temperatures pushing into the 60’s with a wealth of soft goods available to play in on Superstar,. New England’s premier spring mecca, it was also the sort of day you’d want to experience in early May, late April at the earliest. But Wednesday’s sunshine and fun times evaporated into an early-morning Thursday fog that enveloped the resort in a pocket of doom. Lifts were delayed while the groomers could put their finishing touches on a dubious attempt to make the mountain presentable. But the difference over a little more than 12 hours was too drastic, a development all-too-familiar at ski resorts across the Northeast. Once the rain started consistently around 11 a.m., it was clearly a mass exodus of retreat at the K1 base lodge.
Killington’s Bear Mountain, the normal site for next month’s mogul challenge, was a ghost town, boasting more brown than white, including a totally unattended halfpipe. The resort closed the area on Friday, but maintained that it hoped to reopen it by the weekend.
It’s not overly pessimistic to suggest that this season is tightening up, perhaps even following this weekend for many places. The big fellas will keep their commitments to stay open based on their calendars, but the majority of ski areas may have to face the ultimate reality of just how truly awful this winter has been.
But even they probably can’t mask how bad the skiing might be within only a few more days.
Don’t cancel. Go. There’s sure to be enough snow for your liking wherever you end up.
Just don’t plan on going much past next week. Even this perennial winter optimist understands that this season is dead.
“Friggin’ horrible’’ is right.
Snowboarders fly over Boston