CARRABASSETT VALLEY – With their success in one of the biggest winter vacation weeks at stake, ski resorts do much more than dream of a white Christmas.

Planning begins as early as July to ensure that crowds take to the slopes and spend nights during Christmas week at Sugarloaf and other ski resorts, said Ethan Austin, communications manager for Sugarloaf.

Everything from marketing budgets to schedules for snowmaking is part of the preparations, said Austin.

“Christmas week is a very important week for us; we’re always planning for the holiday,” he said.

At Saddleback in Rangeley, Christmas week and schools’ winter break in February are the main gauge of seasonal success, said JoAnne Taylor, director of marketing.

The most visible work is when snowmaking machines ramp up in the weeks leading up to the holiday.

Sugarloaf has been running as many as 175 snowmaking machines whenever weather conditions have been right, said Austin. About 4,550 gallons of water per minute are fed up the mountain through five pumps feeding the snowguns, he said.

About 40 of Sugarloaf’s 146 trails were open last weekend, and Austin said the resort hopes to have “considerably” more open for the holiday week.

Saddleback opened Thursday with less than 10 of its 66 trails, but had more than doubled that, to 26 trails, by Monday, according to its website.

Austin declined to give any details on revenue for the holiday week, or the number of visitors in past years. He said this year’s early-season visits, season pass sales and bookings for lodging are up from recent years.

There are ski-and-stay packages for the holiday that are promoted through targeted mailings, advertising and featured through online social networks like Facebook, Austin said.

A rainy day or two can eat away at the snow, so resorts try to build up enough snow to survive any warm-ups, Taylor said.

Sugarloaf had almost a foot of natural snow washed away last week, as did Saddleback. The resorts’ snowmaking operations quickly made up for the lost base, according to Austin and Taylor.

“We’re making tons of snow on some new trails. … So that’s exactly where we want to be,” Austin said.