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Cold weather lets Dry Hill make snow, keep season alive

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Dry Hill Ski Area’s snow cannons are running full bore this week, pumping massive quantities of powder onto the slopes in an effort to see the season through to its spring conclusion.

Timothy L. McAtee, the mini-resort’s owner, is spending thousands of dollars a day to get the base layer just right while the cold weather and low humidity provide ideal conditions for snow making.

Mr. McAtee said he would prefer 5 inches of man-made snow over 2 feet of natural snow because artificial snow is better for the base.

That calculation doesn’t account for the sentimental effect the real stuff has on area residents, though.

Mr. McAtee said it is hard for people to comprehend that even when the rest of Jefferson County is without snow, if the temperature is right, Dry Hill is covered.

It is a quirk in logic that cost the facility a pretty penny last year when it incurred the same expenses from artificial snow making but lost revenue because of the lack of natural snow to whet appetites for wintry sports.

The area on County Route 67 in the town of Watertown offers skiing, snowboarding and tubing and expects to be open through March 15.

Mr. McAtee said snowboarding was the most popular offering a few years ago, until changes in technology brought about a resurgence of interest in skiing. Now there are more people taking ski lessons than ever before.

And then there’s tubing: a good remedy for cabin fever requiring almost no skill or equipment.

“We provide the tube, the lift and the hill,” Mr. McAtee said.

According to Mr. McAtee, there are so many ways to find out if the area is open, such as checking out the website or simply driving by the place, that it’s easy enough to tell if there’s snow on the ground and whether a trip is in order.

“There aren’t too many communities with a ski area so close,” he said.

Mr. McAtee said the area had a decent Christmas, but the recent warm weather put a damper on the season. The area had to close Sunday because the winds were too high to run the ski lifts.

By keeping the snow cannons running all week, Mr. McAtee said, he hopes to salvage the season by laying down a good base layer that will make it through at least two more thaws before residents start to turn their minds to spring sports.

Skiing came to the site years ago when a farmer hauled skiers up the hill behind his tractor. In the 1950s, Hall Ski-Lift Co., Watertown, built the lifts that now ferry riders to the top of the run.

The name itself has an altogether different genesis. According to Mr. McAtee, during prohibition, a liquor distillery was located on the hill until it was destroyed by law enforcement officials, who then christened it “Dry Hill.”

The fact that Dry Hill overlooks Watertown makes it even more ironic, Mr. McAtee said.

He said he has contemplated changing the name but eventually decided against it. It’s just too popular with customers.

Dry Hill is open from 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, noon to 10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Lift tickets are only $15 from 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

A $2 discount on lift tickets is available for active-duty military members and their families. For more information, go to skidryhill.com.

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