ELLICOTTVILLE, NEW YORK – It's starting to feel like winter in Western New York— and you know what that means.
It's time to ski.
"It's the most exciting time of the year," said Pat Morgan, a member of Holiday Valley Resort's marketing department. "People come from far and wide to come to Holiday Valley. It's like a pilgrimage. The start of an incredible winter."
Enabled by a significant amount of snowfall during the past few weeks, Holiday Valley's ski season officially kicked off during this post-Thanksgiving weekend. It has not opened this early since 2008, but Morgan said he expects about 400,000 to 500,000 customers to come through the doors this winter.
Amelia Cortez and Josie Wright, two cousins originally from Ellwood City, Penn., came to Holiday Valley to hone their snowboarding skills.
"It's nice when you're with someone you know, because you can really make fun of them if they mess up—like her!" Cortez said, pointing at her cousin, although both had their share of funny moments on the slopes on Saturday evening.
Holiday Valley officials say their resort creates about 1,000 local jobs from seasonal employment, and it has a profound economic impact on the surrounding businesses. In a sense, then, it's fitting that the resort opened on the same weekend as Small Business Saturday.
"And that's what a lot of the businesses are downtown," Morgan said. "They'll go downtown, fill the restaurants, fill the bars, fill the shops."
But back on the slopes, it's not all fun and games, of course. Even though Cortez and Wright were shaking off the off-season rust, they'll have an entire winter to improve their skills.
"We're gonna have to train," Cortez said.
"We're gonna be pros, by the end," Wright added.