"It was like spring skiing, a little slushy and heavy, says jibber Rob Aseltine, who spent his Independence Day doing rail slides at New Hampshire's Tenney Mountain. "But what do you expect? We were skiing in July. Aseltine was one of more than a hundred skiers who showed up to sample the 25-by-300-foot patch of wet corn Tenney had laid down despite temperatures pushing into the upper 90's. The event was so unprecedented in the history of Right Coast skiing that record keepers are still scrambling to determine if it should set the mark for latest close or earliest opening.
Tenney's Fourth of July festivities had been planned since October 2002, when the mountain purchased the Japanese- developed Infinite Crystals Snowmaking (ICS) system. While manmade snow is traditionally created by shooting water particles in the air when temperatures drop below freezing levels, ICS snow is made inside the cooled confines of a 2000-square-foot, $400,000 machine and then sprayed onto the hill, allowing Tenney's crew to blow snow in practically any weather. The July event was mostly a novelty, but the mountain promises to open more than 1,000 feet of vertical with a 12-inch base during the first week of October this year—almost a month before New England's usual early-season stalwart, Killington.
For now, Tenney is the only ski area in North America with the technology (there are more than 90 ICS units functioning in Japan), but expect that to change should the mountain make due on its October promise. "We're getting calls every day, says Albert Bronander, president of SnowMagic, Inc., the company that imports the machines. "A guaranteed opening is everything for a ski area. And that's exactly what we're selling.