David Crowley, General Manager of  [R488R, Wachusett Mountain Ski Area], said initial concern has been overtaken by brisk season pass sales and strong purchases of ski and snowboard gear.

"We were nervous," Crowley said. "However we are now delighted by the signs we are seeing. Our central location within a one-hour drive of more than 8 million people makes us an economical local choice. We've just finished up our strongest fall festival season on record and are experiencing a solid increase in season pass sales."

The area's Century Pass sales saw a 27 percent increase over last year to date at the first deadline of Oct. 29. Wachusett held the early season pass prices at the same rate as last winter and extended the deadline for those rates an additional six weeks, to help bolster sales.

The area's annual five-day Columbus Day Ski & Snowboard Equipment Sale & Swap was the best in its 18-year history, with sales up 22 percent over last year, Crowley said. He said the mountain also is experiencing one of its strongest fall retail seasons in the Mountainside Ski & Sports Shop.

"With our customers making retail purchases at this point in the season, we are encouraged they are planning to ski and ride just as frequently this winter," he said.

This winter-related activity comes in the wake of Wachusett's strongest KidsFest and AppleFest events in 25 years. The combined fall festival season  attendance was up more than 20 percent over last year, Crowley said.