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Looking good in white Ski areas going all out to make the most of recent snowfall and colder temperatures

After a bleak start to the season in Western New York's "Ski Country," there's white at the end of the tunnel.

More than a foot of lake-effect snow has fallen in recent days, and colder temperatures have snow guns firing at full throttle. For ski areas, that means a resumption of the season or expanded operations.

"We look good in white" has replaced "It ain't easy being green" on the sign at the north entrance to Kissing Bridge Ski Area in Glenwood.

A couple of trails and lifts at Kissing Bridge's central area could be open by midday today, according to ski area President Mark Halter.

After opening for a few days in December, Kissing Bridge was idled by unseasonably warm weather.

"I want to keep the guns fired up on the primary slopes until the last minute," Halter said Wednesday.

Even with more than a foot of natural snow, "the ground was so wet and warm underneath that as we packed it, the snow compressed," Halter said. "We are starting to see the base firm up. That's good for us."

Down at Holiday Valley in Ellicottville, the extra couple hundred feet in elevation has meant better snowmaking conditions and more days of operation, yet open terrain has been limited.

"It's certainly looking up," marketing director Jane Eshbaugh said Wednesday.

"We were down to just two lifts and three slopes," Eshbaugh said. "We will be back to five lifts and about 11 slopes" today and six lifts and 15 slopes by Friday.

With Monday a holiday for many in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, "This is just in time," Eshbaugh said.

Nearby HoliMont reported a foot of new snow Wednesday and intense snowmaking in progress. Two lifts were open Wednesday so that full-bore snowmaking could continue.
"We're gaining terrain very rapidly," the center's recorded message said.

Cockaigne Ski Area, near Cherry Creek in Chautauqua County, reports it will be open from 1 to 10 p.m. today and Friday, as well as through the weekend.

Peek'n Peak Conference Center, in southwestern Chautauqua County, reported 7 inches of new snow, as well as continued snowmaking, and will double the number of lifts -- from two to four -- operating this weekend.

Bristol Mountain Winter Resort, near Canandaigua, missed out on the lake-effect snow but has been making its own since Monday. A reopening date hasn't been set, however.

Metro Buffalo received just a dusting of snow this week, and it isn't until you reach Orchard Park that the effect of the lake-effect becomes evident.

Drive along Route 240, and the blanket of white becomes deeper, clinging to fence rails, roof lines and tree limbs. Even as the snow guns hissed Wednesday along the ridges of Kissing Bridge and the nearby Buffalo Ski Club, big flakes of the real McCoy floated silently to the ground.

John Kralisz was back to work Wednesday in his West Falls Ski Shop. Last week, he was one of dozens of golfers taking advantage of still-green links and temperatures in the 50s.

"The snow hit yesterday, and everything picked up all of a sudden," he said.

People are bringing in their skis and snowboards for tune-ups, Kralisz said, and buying hats, gloves and heated boots.

At a staff meeting Wednesday at Kissing Bridge, Halter said, there was talk about opening up some of the restaurants and shops and activating the ski patrol.

But snowmaking remains the highest priority.

"Our intention right now is to continue to make snow late into the year so we can continue to prolong the season," Halter said. "That's our intention, but Mother Nature really rules the roost."

e-mail: jhabuda@buffnews.com

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