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Boyce Park manager hopes for a cold winter so folks can hit the slopes

| Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, 8:58 p.m.
(c) 2012 Aaron Loughner
With the drop in the temperture this week Boyce Park is anticipating the opening of skiing season. Aaron Loughner | For The Times Express
(c) 2012 Aaron Loughner
With the drop in the temperture this week Boyce Park is anticipating the opening of skiing season. Aaron Loughner | For The Times Express

Despite the recent snowfall and cool temperatures, Boyce Park wasn't open for skiers and tubers last weekend.

After being forced to close the slopes for the majority of last winter, manager Tom Mettrick is hoping this year will be different.

“Last year was a terrible year,” Mettrick said. “It didn't stay cold all winter. When we did open, it was iffy.”

Manufacturing snow is reliant on freezing temperatures, and the lower the temperature, the faster the snow guns can lay down the necessary two foot base, Mettrick said. Skiers and tubers who are pining to hit the slopes are sometimes disappointed to learn that having six inches of snow on the street doesn't guarantee the slopes will be open, he said.

The slopes were open for only 30 days last season. In an average ski season, the slopes are open about 70 days, Mettrick said.

Last winter was “definitely an extremely warm winter,” said Lee Hendricks, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. He said he is predicting colder temperatures in Pittsburgh this winter due to an expected temperature drop in parts of the Pacific Ocean, as the tropical Pacific transitions from its El Nino to La Nina phases.

Based on past seasons, Mettrick said he expects between 500 and 800 skiers on a weekend afternoon this season, in addition to about 400 tubers.

For those who couldn't wait last weekend, the slopes at Seven Springs Mountain Resort and Hidden Valley Resort were open. According to the National Weather Service in Moon, the higher elevations in the Laurel Highlands had about 8 inches of snow by Saturday afternoon. Between 500 and 600 people hit the slopes on Saturday at Hidden Valley, said Scott Bender, vice president of operations, which he said was very good for a pre-Christmas weekend when most people are concentrating on holiday activities.

Seven Springs spokeswoman Anna Weltz said between 700 and 800 people were at the resort on Saturday.

Despite the expected cooling affect this winter, warm temperatures last winter — and below average snow accumulation — have affected sales at Willi's Ski and Snowboard Shop locations, said general manager Bill Linkenheimer.

New equipment purchased by customers last year, in many cases, is still in good condition, he said.

Linkenheimer said if there isn't snow on the ground, the prediction of snow is “the next best thing” for business.

“When they actually see the white stuff on the ground … that's when it really has a major impact,” Linkenheimer said.

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or klawson@tribweb.com.

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