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Lots of white means lots of green, but weather needs to cooperate for NJ ski biz

Snow machines (Campgaw Mountain)
Snow machines (Campgaw Mountain)

Ski slopes in mountainous North Jersey would probably be out of business if all they counted on was snow that actually falls from the sky.

While real snow can help, most of what you see over the winter is machine-made. Ski businesses just need certain conditions in order to produce the white stuff.

As long as humidity is low and temperatures are no greater than 35 degrees, machines can crank out snow around the clock at Campgaw Mountain in Mahwah.

“We have about 38 machines that produce man-made snow,” said Tony Rinaldi, director of daily operations. “The colder the weather, the more we can produce because we can open up more nozzles.”

At Campgaw, about 90 percent of the snow on the slopes doesn’t come from the sky, Rinaldi said.

Mother Nature does help, though. Natural snow can add to what’s already been produced, Rinaldi said, but it mostly assists “mentally.”

“People realize – hey, there’s snow in our backyard. Maybe the ski area’s open,” he explained. “But we always have a saying that just because there’s no snow in your backyard doesn’t mean there’s not any in ours.”

Business at Campgaw is already on pace to beat last season, which was one of the weakest in a while, Rinaldi said.

Last winter featured the warmest December on record in New Jersey. It was the fifth-mildest winter for the state, based on more than 120 years of climatological records.

“When people are in 60 degrees on Christmas Eve, they’re not thinking about skiing,” Rinaldi said.

A late 2016 prediction from Old Farmer’s Almanac called for additional cold snaps in mid-to-late January and early and mid-February, as well as above-average snow in mid-to-late January and early-to-mid February.

A winter storm covered New Jersey with up to 10 inches of snow on Saturday.

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