Hello Everyone –
Usually this time of year is when you start hearing the complaints from folks that just can’t understand why there isn’t more terrain open for skiers, snowboarders and snowtubers to enjoy. The only thing I am hearing right now are crickets. You see, anyone in their right mind now realizes that the conditions everyone is enjoying are some of the best first of the year conditions in recent memory.
There have been times in the past that those who have gotten new equipment for Christmas have had to wait to put the new stuff on the snow because there was a lack of snow. Not the case this year and there is more to come. Other than a little speed bump of mild weather in the beginning of the holiday period, Mother Nature has granted every ski operator’s wish this year of awesome snowmaking temperatures and just enough natural snow to keep everyone happy.
Recently a reporter threw a question to me about the mild temperatures that were occurring in the metro areas and if all of the snow at the resorts was going to melt. So after taking a real big, deep breath, I suggested that they go on the National Weather Service website, type in the town where a resort was located and take a look at the difference in temperatures. The reporter did it while we were talking and to their amazement the temperature was 17 degrees lower at the resort’s base than in the city that their newspaper is located. I got the response I have heard many a time, “I never knew that sort of thing happened.” Will they ever learn? But on the other hand we now have a reporter who is more educated about the industry and is now willing and wanting to learn more. A wise man (my father in-law) said just yesterday, “How does one eat an elephant, why one bite at a time, silly.”
Speaking of the National Weather Service (NWS), I recently was able to sit down with one of the service’s lead meteorologists in the southeast and got a little educating myself. If you are a regular reader of this column, you know that I cringe when I see or hear snow total forecasts with six to eight inch ranges, such as two to eight or four to 12. I contend that no one hears the low end number – only the high end – and they either run to their nearest supermarket or cancel their resort reservations. Well the meteorologist enlightened me that by policy they can only give two inch ranges, which I am glad to hear as that is much more realistic than this scribe believes. Also, if you check a NWS extended forecast it only goes out seven days, none of the 10 to 14 day extended forecasts that other well know weather sites like to provide. That also causes problems because there are those visitors who use those sites to plan their vacations and if one of the sites shows the possibility of rain two weeks from their arrival time, the cancellation thoughts begin to come.
I was told by the meteorologist that even though forecasting technology is light years ahead of where it was a decade ago, it’s tough to forecast in states where mountains are present as things can change from day to day or even from hour to hour. That is why the weather forecasters at the NWS only put out a seven-day forecast. Now the meteorologist did say they look and study further out but for forecasting purposes for the public they only provide a seven day forecast so as not to rely on speculation.
While speaking with the NWS meteorologist the term “artificial snow” came up in the conversation. Again I took a mighty deep breath and did a little teaching of my own with the weather forecaster, informing them that again artificial snow was chemicals that mixed inside of a can and was then sprayed on windows during the holidays. Making sure that they understood that what was made by the snowmakers was real manmade snow, using real cold water, mixing it with real cold air allowing real manmade snow to fall to the ground. In other words, there is nothing artificial about what skiers, snowboarders and snowtubers have fun on at the resorts throughout the southeast region.
To push the education point a bit further, it was decided that the various meteorologists from the NWS office in Charleston, West Virginia are going to take a trip to a local resort after the first of the year to see snowmaking up close and personal. I just wish that more weather folks that sometimes speak before knowing the science of snowmaking would also take the time to learn the art that keeps this region’s winter recreation industry sliding along.
That’s it for this week, more to come as the season continues, just remember whether it be cold or whether it be hot, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather will be. Think about it! See you on the slopes and enjoy the holidays, you deserve it! Happy New Year everyone!
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Joe Stevens, a member of the southeast ski industry since 1990 is a regular columnist for skisoutheast.com and serves as the Communications Director for the West Virginia Ski Areas Association.