The bar is much lower for local skiing. It's a daytrip, no lodging cost, airfares, etc. The more $ I'm putting up in advance the higher my expectation needs to be that skiing will be worth it. Christmas week usually fails that common sense test because costs are at maximum and it's early enough in the season that the risk of inadequate snow is much more than it will be mid-January and later, especially if you want to ski steep ungroomed terrain.
There were quite a few of these slow start seasons back in the late 80's/early 90's. We've been mostly spoiled over the past decade. Early season is overrated, late season is underrated. More people need to spend their ski vacation $ accordingly. Just say no to Christmas week and do your family skiing during February (some Northeast states) and/or spring breaks as I did for 15+ years with kids.
You bring up some good points here. Early season skiing is always a crap shoot, and this year is no different. I guess I just figured people would be factoring that in when they shelled out the money for a X-Mas vacation. Although, I am more of a roll with it kind of person, so even if the skiing is abysmal, I'm confident I can rustle up a good time no matter what.
As far as the bar being higher for ski trips, kind of like you said, how often will you actually clear that bar for steep ungroomed terrain around X-Mas? I just used my local hill as an example because I do live in an area that attracts a lot of destination skiers, and the skiing is far from push the abort button bad.