New Mexico

Ruidoso business owners struggle to stay afloat: 'We haven't had a winter'

Driest winter in 125 years for New Mexico

RUIDOSO, New Mexico - More than halfway through the ski season, Ski Apache on Sierra Blanca Mountain has only recorded twenty-four inches of snow.

"It's been a pretty slim winter for snow," said Justin Rowland, director of operations for Ski Apache.

For comparison, the mountain resort saw more than 300 inches of snow during the 2010 season, Rowland said.

"We haven't had winter," said Jodee Damron, the owner of Alto Ski Shop. "That's all there is to it."

In her 38 years of business, Damron said she's never seen a winter so dry. She said business has been down about 75%.

"It's very frustrating," Damron said. "It's nerve-wracking. You don't know the next day if you're going to have a customer or if you aren't."

She told ABC-7 she hopes she can stay open until spring break.

"This is the driest winter we've had in 125 years," said Tom Dorgan, owner of Ruidoso's Winter Park.

Dorgan can stay in business because of one factor: artificial snow.

"Well if we didn't have snowmaking, we wouldn't be in business," Dorgan said. "I learned a long time ago that it's very difficult to sell tickets to play in the snow if you don't have any snow."

Dorgan said his snow is chemically altered to resist melting. Two weeks passed since he "made" the artificial snow and he still had mounds as large as twenty feet.

"It doesn't always snow in the mountains," Dorgan said.

Ski Apache has relied on artificial snow every day of the ski season, which started in November, Rowland said. On Thursday, only six of fifty-four lanes were open.

"We want to make sure that snowpack for those skiers is really good," Rowland said.

However, Ski Apache has an alternative activity to increase business. The mountain resort has the third longest zip line in the world, which is open year-round.

"With the nice weather and the warmer temperatures that we've seen this winter, more people want to try that," Rowland said. "That's definitely been a hit this winter."

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