Contributing Writer

It is a beautiful winter morning in Exeter, with the sun shining bright under cloudless skies.  A group of beginner snowboarders and skiers are about to embark on their first ever lessons at the Yawgoo Valley Ski Area. There is no doubt that this winter has been a challenge for Rhode Island’s only ski area, but the staff has risen to the task. 

Rain and warm temperatures have been relentless for the past two months, but snow maker Sean Klaboe has managed to produce enough snow on cold nights, to provide a solid base and total coverage for all of the major trails in the ski area. “We have had Yellowjacket, Ledges, Hubs, and the beginner hill covered all winter,” said Sean. “We have been lucky that there have been some very cold days mixed in with the rain, and that is all we needed to make the snow.

“The only two trails that have suffered this winter, were TNT and Outback,” said Ski School Supervisor Patty Harrington. “This is certainly not the worst season we have ever had, despite the rain,” said Patty. “We have had to extend our lesson programs a few weeks because of all the rain, but nothing has been cancelled.”

Conditions this week were excellent, especially for beginner riders. Snow was soft and granular, and very forgiving. There were plenty of students wiping out as they tried to master both disciplines, but they all bounced back up and got back to work on the slopes.

Lillian Gates had just come into the lodge, after giving two private ski lessons, and was very enthusiastic about the conditions. “I just got off the trails, and it could not be better for teaching,”she said. “Nice and soft and easy to learn on. Not one bad spill all morning.”

The always popular tubing park has been open all winter as well, and has been busy right through the school vacations. A solid ice base has made for some very fast conditions, especially after cold nights with air temperatures dipping below freezing.

“We have seen a big shift in the ages of students in both the programs and private lessons,”said Patty. “20 years ago, the median age for our students was between 8 and 12 years old. Now it is between 4 and 8 years old. Parents are starting up their children’s lessons much earlier. I think that this is also because we are now offering ski and snow board lessons with some groups as young as 3 years old.”

Both ski and snow board program lesson sessions sold out in October, and both private and group lessons have been steady all winter, despite the rain. Veteran ski and snow board instructors at the area agree that the current snow conditions are about as perfect as they can get, for any kind of lesson.

You would never have thought that Yawgoo Valley would have been covered with this much snow, if you had not seen it and ridden it for yourself. With a deep base of around 18-24 inches, the area is planning to stay open until March 13th. “We have a lot of activities coming up in the next few weeks, including the Rhode Island Special Olympics on February 29th and the Annual Winter Fest on March 1st.

There is still a lot of winter to go, and with the weatherman predicting more cold weather and snow flurries, anything is possible.

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