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I  got out for my first runs of the season today at Cataloochee and had a solid day, actually a great first day given the challenges of high temps and no snow that have plagued the southeast thus far.

Trip Report & Photos by David McCue

To quote an obscure little band from the sixties: “Oh that magic feeling.” Laws of physics were suspended once again and lift off was achieved. The unlikelihood of it all blows me away every year that I drop into my first run.  Friday at Cataloochee is often my first day of the season, after gobbling turkey with my family in Sylva, and usually that is with my sons too but they’ve had the audacity to grow up and move elsewhere so I was solo today.

I arrived at 8 a.m. and found the next best parking spot available; apparently the director of ski patrol feels entitled.

cataloochee ski area, friday November 27, 2105
I couldn’t believe how empty the slopes were.

After a cup of coffee I hit the emptiest holiday slopes I have ever experienced.  For most of the morning I could never have looked around and counted more than 20 people on the slopes.  Just before noon I finally had to brake once or twice before skiing directly onto the lift.  Was there a bad turkey outbreak yesterday because the slopes were insanely empty today?

It may just be that folks can’t wrap their heads around what snow makers can produce now and how the groomers can make it last.

2015-nov-27-David-McCue001As far as the slope conditions;  it was choppy and stiff, a little rugged, early in the morning;  soft and fun but still not slushy when I left at one o’clock.  Significant patches of dirt were breaking through above the halfway mark, but almost none from mid-mountain to the bottom.  I’ll put it this way, my new skis still don’t have a scratch and I was not treating them with any special care (although I stopped treating skis with care a long time ago.)

I want to stress how surprised I was at the conditions and lack of crowd and as a result how much fun some of the new families and old regulars were having.  I don’t know with certainty, but I’m guessing they will manage to open the same amount of terrain tomorrow. If you can get there early you will have a great day in store.

By the way I may have mentioned this in an earlier column,  but check out the Slide in Five package that Cataloochee has put together this year, I think it’s pretty exceptional.

There is a bit of white at a few ski areas if you’re wanting to ski or ride today and resorts and ski shops around the region are offering some sweet deals on skis, snowboards, clothing, gear and accessories. Don’t forget that even those ski area which are not operating for skiing and snowboarding ARE OPEN with the shops, etc.

So if you’re looking for great gift ideas for that snow lover in your family or circle of friends – look no further than the ski areas and ski shops of the region.

A lot of ski areas are still playing the waiting game in terms of waiting for colder and more consistently cold air to make more snow and open – however there ARE four ski resorts that are open for skiing and snowboarding today and they are all located within the borders of the state of North Carolina.

In alphabetical order, they are:

Appalachian Ski Mountain – 45° and 8 slopes and trails, serviced by 5 lifts and a base of 12-24″ being reported. App is open for day and night sessions with skiing til Midnight with their Midnight Blast session from 5pm-midnight. Terrain park is open as well.

Beech Mountain Resort – 44° this morning and open with 6 slopes and trails, serviced by 2 lifts. The quad lift was flying this morning when I was touring the ski area webcams. Beech is reporting a “wet packed and variable” surface and they are only open for day skiing and snowboarding today. This is Beech’s OPENING DAY of the season.

Beech Mountain Brewing Company will open for the season today as well.  The brewery will operate Friday and Saturday from 11am to 8pm and Sunday from 12pm to 8pm. Under the guidance of new brewmaster Billy Smith, Beech Mountain Brewing Co.’s popular Blonde Ale recently won a bronze medal at the North Carolina State Fair.

Cataloochee Ski Area – 45.7° and open with 6 slopes and trails, with 3 lifts operating. Groomed conditions and tubing is open as well AND Cat is open for day and night sessions on Friday.

Sugar Mountain Resort – 39.9° and holding fort with the same 4 slopes and trails to the top of their mountain serviced by 1 lift – their new Summit Express, 6 pack chondoloa lift. Ice skating is open as well.

Here’s a couple of notes of interest in an effort to continue our “No Bull Reporting”.

First, evidently snow only melts at Sugar Mountain. Sugar is the only ski area to report a drop in base depths since the last round of snowmaking which took place days ago now. It’s been warm to say the least and we’re seeing some thin coverage areas already beginning to show and yet only Sugar is reporting a drop in base. Sugar’s base dipped 2-4″ over the last two days.

All others are still reporting the same snow as they did three days ago.

In fairness to Beech Mountain, they just opened today so there’s been no previous report of base, and they are reporting an 8-24″ base. Some thin coverage spots are already appearing at the merge of their “Crossover to Freestyle slopes”.

The forecast for today over at Maggie Valley, NC – home to Cataloochee Ski Area – is calling for a 64° high temp and sunny skies. App, Sugar and Beech should see temps in the 57-60° range as well and that won’t bode well for maintaining base depths.

The best snow or slope quality available today – is unquestionably at Appalachian Ski Mountain but even they have some thin coverage areas and some bare spots showing such as at the terrain park hill and off the left side of Big Appal.

2015-nov-27-SugarSugar Mountain Resort has re-aimed their base camera back over to the slope just enough to show good snow coverage at the base area. Late on Thursday I drove up and had a look at some the mid and top slope area and they too have some thin coverage areas.

Cataloochee looks pretty good as well and they’d probably get our “tip of the cap” at providing the second best conditions of the four ski areas that are open today.

The truth is – it is borderline miraculous that we even HAVE snow on the slopes at any resort because we’ve only seen a handful of snowmaking nights to this point in the early-season. I have received a bunch of emails about how great Snowshoe looks at the top of their mountain. No doubt, that they could be offering a trail or two. However with all of the guests that visit that mountain, they really want to provide a good bit of skiable terrain before they open.


Speaking of Visits…

A couple of weeks ago as we were covering the NC Ski Areas Association Economic Impact presser, the featured speaker, Dave Belin of RRC Associates reported a lot of great information. The most important data to take away from that meeting was the fact that the 2014-2015 ski season was the second most visited ski season on record for the state of North Carolina based ski resorts at 653,654 skier visits. The most visited season was during the 2009-10 campaign with 671,000 visits.

RRC Associates is a Rocky Mountain-based research firm that monitors skiing nationwide for the National Ski Areas Association. Belin’s presentation, streamed live on SkiSoutheast.com. You can watch the entire presentation by clicking here> NC Ski Areas Association Economic Impact

Among the good news was the fact that those 653,654 visitors last season generated $197.2 million in total economic impact.

2015-nov-27-NCSAAHOWEVER, during that presentation Dave Belin made a huge error in one of his comments and in the Powerpoint Presentation graphics.

Notice in the graphic to the right that Belin’s report states that with those 653,654 visits last season, North Carolina ranks “JUST AHEAD of West Virginia and Virginia”.


At 653,654 visits in North Carolina last season – that falls about 170,000 visits LESS than the ski areas of West Virginia.

I have purposely waited to see if any media outlet or anyone (period) would come forward and offer a correction. I’ve looked around at several newspaper and other online media websites to see if anyone else caught that error. If they did, they haven’t reported the error.

I know that many of these kinds of events are kind of “dog and pony shows” where the hosts can basically say whatever they want and we in the media just report it as news. I would have thought that those “in the know” within the management staffs of the NCSAA or even at RRC Associates would have caught that mistake – especially since they have all of the data for every state.

However, just to be fair and accurate, we’re going to go ahead and report the correction. While North Carolina’s ski areas pull a ton of traffic and while they DO an amazing, amazing, amazing job of generating hundreds of millions of dollars in economic benefit – they (we – because I too reside in the awesome state of North Carolina) rank behind the state of West Virginia in numbers.

Bad News Part …whatever…

The weather forecast for the next 10-15 days is, in two words, not good. In fact we should see some rain Sunday through Wednesday and there’s MAYBE 3-5 nights of the next 15 that will allow for snowmaking and a couple of those nights are borderline.

It’s not out of the question to expect that we could see ski area closures mid-week next week.

2015-nov-27-beechBeech’s base is the most suspect right now and they could see the start to their season happen much like Sugar’s did with only a couple of days of operation and then shut back down until cold air returns. We haven’t heard from Beech, but they COULD be planning to only ski and snowboard this weekend and then close during the week next week anyway.

Wolf Ridge Resort, over in Mars Hill, Wolf Laurel had hoped to get open today, but they were not able to.

All other ski resorts are simply stalled due to the weather and awaiting a change in weather patterns to something more winter-like.

There’s been a lot of weather chatter that Winter is on the way and that we will see a pattern shift more conducive to snow and snowmaking coming soon, but it really can’t come soon enough, right?

There are some “rain/snow showers” in the forecast towards the end of next week and into the end of the first week of December, but the low temps through December 10th or so – just doesn’t look all that “winter-like” just yet.

We’ll take the tact that Snowshoe’s marketing people are using as they posted today, “Winter is coming… soon! Colder temperatures are on the way and the forecasts are calling for a fantastic, snow-filled season.”

We have been getting some emails from concerned travelers who have mid-to-late December travel plans to the mountains. The truth is that it is much too early to worry about what the weather might be like just prior to Christmas. That’s nearly a full month away and the weather can turn on a dime up here. The winter forecast is for a snowy and cold one, with more than a few significant snow storms. That sounds great to us…so bring it on.


Enjoy your day and THINK SNOW! THINK COLD!

Also visit all of our Ski Resort WebCams.

Be sure to email us your thoughts about “SkiSoutheastTV“. Should we do it? If you don’t know what we’re talking about, READ THIS STORY and comment.

2015-nov-18-newsletterAlso be sure to sign up for our newsletters. It’s FREE and easy. Click in the signup to the right.

Email me anytime and about anything at: [email protected]

A slope-level view of grooming at Appalachian on Wednesday.

Or is it Groundhog Day?

First, we just want to pass on our “thank yous” to each and every one of you who make SkiSoutheast.com and ResortCams.com a regular stop in your day. We certainly are doing our part to provide some measure of excitement for all things skiing, snowboarding and tubing in the southeast and mid-Atlantic despite the fact that the weather has not been as cooperative as usual for this time of year.

skisoutheast TV

We’ve posted more content, news, stories and even thrown in some new offerings like “SkiSoutheastTV” than any pre-season in our twenty seasons of covering the region. So we’re TRYING to get winter jump-started.

Here’s the latest video from Appalachian Ski Mountain on Wednesday:

WE DO have three ski areas to THANK for being open. Those are ALL North Carolina ski areas – Appalachian Ski Mountain, Cataloochee Ski Area and Sugar Mountain Resort.

I can personally report that the snow is of a particularly nice consistency at Appalachian Ski Mountain. It also passes “the eye test” (as you can see by the lead photo in this post!) and App is operating with 8 of 12 slopes and trails.

All three ski areas that are open ARE operating with one-to-two-FEET of base depth (or more) and the surface conditions are rather nice. We welcome you to view our SNOW REPORT for the details.

Appalachian Ski Mountain and Sugar have their ice rinks open today and Cataloochee has their Tube World tubing park open.

Appalachian and Cataloochee are only open for DAY SESSIONS today and Sugar is the only ski area operating for DAY and NIGHT sessions.

Snowshoe Mountain Resort TRULY LOOKS like they could be open and actually with more snow on their slopes than those that ARE open, but they are still in a holding pattern until they can make a bit more and open more terrain.

(Click the image below to see full size)

Looks pretty ready to ski or ride, right?

(You can also click here to see some dramatic LIVE shots of Snowshoe’s Shaver Center Webcam)


Despite that, Snowshoe announced earlier today,

“While we won’t be spinning the lifts this weekend, we are making Skidder available to those who don’t mind earning their turns. Our Mountaineer Parks Crew is going to set up a handful of small to medium terrain park features, and then it’s time for a pre-pre-season session! Ski or ride, then hike back up and repeat.

Open this Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm. All you need to join the fun is a valid 2015.2016 season pass, current employee ID, or a non-perishable food item to donate to the Snowshoe Foundation (exchanged for a day ticket at The Depot).

As always, the MAC will have great equipment available for rental to guests who want to join in the mellow, pre-season warm-up.”

So how about that? Kind of cool way to allow those near Snowshoe to get in some fun on the snow even though they are not open for skiing and snowboarding the entire mountain.



Over the last few weeks my phone sends me powder alerts every freaking day from Colorado where ANOTHER 7-10″ of snow has fallen. Winter Storm Cara has dumped another round of snow on that region. In fact, Loveland Ski Area in Colorado has now seen 94″ of snow for the season …and the season still isn’t really HERE quite yet.

One look at the weather forecast for Loveland for the NEXT FIVE DAYS shows nothing but SNOW every day. High temps in the TEENS and TWENTIES and lows overnight in the single digits.

…and here we are STILL STUCK in this “every day is another 50-55° high with sun or showers and overnight lows in the 30° range” kind of pattern.

Meteorologist Brad Panovich posted his Thanksgiving Weekend forecast video (click to watch it) and he’s suggesting that we MAY FINALLY start seeing a pattern switch that will push that trough DOWN and OVER towards the Southeast and mid-Atlantic.

Watch Brad’s Comments About a Pattern Change:

I KNOW that I am speaking for every ski area management team when I say, “We are ready. Bring on the cold air and a nice measure of snow would be awesome as well.”

We can hope. H-o-w-e-v-e-r don’t expect to see the temps and snow to fall overnight or really even over the next week. It is going to be more of the same for the next week to ten days with highs forecasted to reach into the mid 50s and even some low 60s even up into the West Virginia mountains. There’s some rain in the forecast for the entire region Sunday through Tuesday of this week and even a few more days – perhaps over NEXT weekend.

Overnight lows don’t appear to be “snowmaking worthy” until MAYBE into the middle of next week and maybe next weekend when those lows look to be in the mid to upper 20s.

Sometimes it hurts to report the news accurately when it just isn’t good news, but this Groundhog-Day-Like nightmare might just keep playing out for ANOTHER TWO WEEKS as we’re not SEEING evidence of what Brad Panovich is reporting…but gracious I hope that he’s correct and that RIGHT BEHIND that December 10th date comes a very cold and snowy pattern.


By this time LAST season Canaan Valley Resort and Timberline Resort in West Virginia had already received 29.6″ of snow. Beech Mountain Resort in North Carolina has already seen 17.7″ of snow.

Thus far this season? Ninguno. Nothing. Okay, so there HAS been a “heavy frost-like” snowfall that dropped a measurable 0.1″ of snow thus far. I’m not counting it. It was barely a trace.

So brothers and sisters it is TIME to get to the three mountains that ARE open right now because the next week or so isn’t going to get better. Things WILL get a little “worse” before we see the next round of cold and snow.

Be THANKFUL for what we have right now and I’d recommend heading to Appalachian, Cat and Sugar today, tomorrow, and this weekend. Beech is reportedly opening tomorrow. Their LIVE CAMS are showing plenty of base and side-to-said coverage that will allow some Thanksgiving Weekend skiing and snowboarding – BUT past that?

…the Groundhog Day nightmare continues to play at ski resorts near you.

We’re thinking that it’s time to do an organized snow dance, snow burn, offer up prayers…something to get us some winter weather. Ideas? If you got them, share them? We’ll give away a vacation or two and some lift tickets for great ideas.


Enjoy your day and THINK SNOW! THINK COLD!

Also visit all of our Ski Resort WebCams.

Be sure to email us your thoughts about “SkiSoutheastTV“. Should we do it? If you don’t know what we’re talking about, READ THIS STORY and comment.

2015-nov-18-newsletterAlso be sure to sign up for our newsletters. It’s FREE and easy. Click in the signup to the right.

Email me anytime and about anything at: [email protected]

scroll below and click on the video

We met with Brad Moretz of Appalachian Ski Mountain on Wednesday – prior to Thanksgiving Day and Weekend and the conditions looked pretty awesome after just 30 hours or so of snowmaking.
Click on the video below to play and select the HD version if it doesn’t start automatically.



Enjoy your day and THINK SNOW! THINK COLD!

Also visit all of our Ski Resort WebCams.

Be sure to email us your thoughts about “SkiSoutheastTV“. Should we do it? If you don’t know what we’re talking about, READ THIS STORY and comment.

2015-nov-18-newsletterAlso be sure to sign up for our newsletters. It’s FREE and easy. Click in the signup to the right.

Email me anytime and about anything at: [email protected]