Do a little dance, say a little prayer, think SNOW

Have you done your snow dance yet?

The shortage of typical winter weather is causing some local winter sports enthusiasts to resort to prayer and snow dances to keep their spirits high while waiting for significant snowfall -- or at least, a period of cold long enough to run snow machines.

According to their Web site, the Boston Mills and Brandywine ski resorts in Peninsula have not opened yet this season.

"Due to the recent unseasonably warm and rainy conditions, we have not yet been able to make enough snow in order to open Boston Mills or reopen Brandywine. Operations at BMBW remain temporarily suspended," the snow report released from reads.

And they're not the only closed ski destinations. In fact, all of the largest ski areas in Ohio still haven't opened for the season -- including Alpine Valley near Cleveland, Mad River Mountain in Bellefontaine and Snow Trails in Mansfield.

Hidden Valley Four Seasons Resort in Pennsylvania remains closed. Seven Springs in Champion, Pa. had five of 14 trails open, with "bare spots," their snow report said.

Gary Hoff, owner of the Ski Chalet in Niles, said he's noticed some change in their sales because of the recent lack of snow.

"It isn't as bad for us as it is for the ski resorts. We were actually ahead of our schedule until the middle of December," Hoff, who appears in the main photo on, said. "Obviously, when it doesn't snow from Christmas to New Year's -- when people would've come in with Christmas money -- then that money is gone.... If we don't get any snow for the next three weeks, then we don't get any of that money at all."

Hoff said skiers and snowboarders heading to ski resorts in the western half of the United States accounted for much of their business so far, so he wasn't worried about his sales.

"The problem is, the ski resorts can't make up for days when people don't come. At least with me, when it does snow, I'll still get those people in my store," Hoff said. "When you're a ski resort, when you miss those days, you don't recover."

The owner of R Ski Ranch in Austintown, Rich Edwards, said he's optimistic for the rest of the season.

"Business is off, but not as bad as you'd think," Edwards said. "We still have a lot of people that come in who travel, especially out West."

Edwards said this winter reminded him of the late winter of 1997.

"We still finished out the same. I expect we'll do the same this year," Edwards said.

Hoff had the same optimism.

"The good part is that the lake [Erie] hasn't frozen over yet. As soon as we get cold weather, we should get really good snow."

To help usher in some of that cold weather, the Warren Ski Club had a member half-jokingly perform a "snow dance" at their last monthly meeting Tuesday.

"We make do. Sometimes you don't get in as many days as you'd like, but we still have fun together," Warren Ski Club president Jeff Driscoll said. "Everyone is watching the weather and making their own predictions.

The group had scheduled a race at Holiday Valley in Ellicottville, N.Y., for this past weekend, but Driscoll said the trip was canceled. He was unsure of the exact reasons why, saying it involved decisions made by Holiday Valley and the other club in the race.

Holiday Valley is one of the few ski destinations frequented by Valley residents to open so far this season. The latest snow report from Holiday Valley listed three of its 53 trails open, faring better than several other Northeast ski destinations. Peek'n Peak Resort in Findley, N.Y., has two of its 26 trails open.

"It's been a really wild winter," said Chip Day, vice president of Brand Management that operates Peek'n Peak. "Normally we would have about 400 hours of snowmaking in so far...we have just in a little over 100 hours so far."

Day explained that for Peek'n Peak to make snow, the temperature has to be below 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

"Thank goodness we have these machines. Most of the resorts have machines that need the temperatures to be at least 6 degrees colder," Day said.

Day said New York has 52 ski areas, only six of which are open and operating.

"It's tough on a lot of people," Day said of the weather.

But Day said guests were still coming to the resort for their hotel reservations and others were taking advantage of the open two trails.

"It's a good time for beginners. It's good for them to learn without a lot of people flocking around them," Day said.

Brian Hinchcliffe, president of the Youngstown Ski Club, said the club isn't disappointed just yet.

"Optimism is still high in our club," Hinchcliffe said. "We just try to stay optimistic and pray for the best."

The Youngstown Ski Club has its first trip of the season planned for Jan. 12 with a weekend trip to HoliMont Ski Area in Ellicottvile, N.Y., near Holiday Valley. The latest condition report from HoliMont listed one slope and two trails open.

"The resorts are doing all they can to make snow," Hinchcliffe asserted.

But Driscoll was already looking at alternatives.

"We're a social club, too, so we have a lot of gamblers that are coming with us. So, we may go to the casino," Driscoll said. "You just have to play the hand you're dealt and make the most of it."

Day offered simpler advice: "Think snow."

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