A 137 Day Ski Season Here in the Southeast! Are 160+ days possible?

Some of us, non-ski-area-management people measure the success of a season not by skier visits or ticket sales; and not by natural snowfall numbers but by how LONG a ski and snowboarding season is. A few of our readers have obviously been paying attention to the fact that this season we’ve been tracking which day of the season we’re on (and how many days are left) and a couple asked the question – "I noticed that if App makes it to April 11th that we’ll have had 137 days of ski season. Do you think we’ll ever see a 150 day season?"

HOW SOON YOU GUYS FORGET!

Actually, last season exceeded 150 days! Over the last couple of seasons we’ve seen some very good, early snowfalls and cold weather and remember that Cataloochee started skiing in October! Sugar and Cat both got early starts for the previous couple of seasons and even though there were some early "days off" with meltdowns…the ski season exceeded 150 days. Last season technically went 157 days.

So is a 160 day season possible? Absolutely!

Even though this season got off to a slower than normal start, we’re still officially on day 118 of the 2009-2010 ski and snowboarding season here in the Southeast and Mid Atlantic. There’s 19 more days of skiing and riding left since Appalachian Ski Mountain is operating through Sunday, April 11th. When the last skier or snowboarding slides down Big Appal or Orchard we will have witnessed a 137 day season. Several ski areas like Sugar Mountain, Appalachian Ski Mountain and Snowshoe Mountain all provide from 135-140 days of skiing and snowboarding seasonally for their fans and season pass holders which always makes their pass prices a better bargain.

That got us to thinking – if the ski areas had been able to open in early to mid November like they have done so many times in the past – just how many days might a ski area operate?

How about a 164 day season!?? Sound unlikely? It isn’t. If the weather were to come together early – like it’s done many times in the past, we could easily see it happen. Remember that Cataloochee and Sugar have BOTH opened in October within the last few years. If either or others were to open even on October 30th to offer Halloween skiing (which they’ve done) and then ski until April 11th – like Appalachian is doing this season – then that would constitute 164 days! That’s only a couple of weeks short of skiing and snowboarding for ONE-HALF of an entire year! Okay 17 days to be exact…but skiing during 45% of a calendar year is crazy to think about – but possible!

SNOWMAKING-R-US

With the snowmaking technologies that we’re seeing these days where resorts can make enough snow to open after one day of snowmaking – we’ll likely see that happen within the next year or so. That would mean that we’d be skiing and riding nearly half the year around the Southeast and Mid Atlantic!

Doc Brigham must be smiling from heaven! He and Sepp Kober are both often recognized as the "father of southern skiing". They were both vital to the early beginnings of skiing in the region.

However without the all-important snow making machines that dot our slopes and trails of the southeast, those early pioneers of skiing would have tabled their adventurous undertakings.

It was the snow making "gun" that provided the impetus for making it all possible. Have you ever wondered to what, or whom, we owe our thanks for inventing the technology that helps provide us with the great snow cover we’ve come to expect every winter?

Over the years we’ve received input from dozens of sources about how it all got started but believe it or not, the first snowmaking "gun" was "discovered" quite by accident. In the late 1940s Canadian researchers were studying the effect of rime ice on jet engines. In an effort to simulate natural cold weather conditions, engineers sprayed water into the air just in front a jet engine’s intake in a wind tunnel.

The funny part of the story is that they were not able to produce any rime ice but they had to stop the engine frequently during the test … to SHOVEL THE SNOW THAT THEY WERE MAKING out of their way! They were not interested in making snow and didn’t give any thought to what they had just "accomplished" so they didn’t file any patents or anything. However they DID mention the phenomena in their scientific journals. Obviously some snow loving, entrepreneurial spririts took note of what was written in those scientific articles.

Somewhere around 1950-1951, Wayne Pierce, an engineer/inventor in Connecticut had the idea that he could make snow if he blew droplets of water through freezing air. Using a paint spray compressor, nozzle, and some garden hose, he and his partners created a machine that made snow. His company was granted a basic-process patent, and they installed a few of their machines at a local New England ski area but never went very far with their business.

Years later and now into the 1960s, several other "inventors" improved, developed and patented various snowmaking machines and the use and reliance on snowmaking machines became a standard practice throughout the ski industry. Now days snowmaking mechanisms are including as many machines as possible that don’t even need the costly air compressors to make snow.

Who would’ve thought that work on a jet engine would be the real origin of the great skiing and riding conditions we expect every time we head for the mountains? So the next time you’re skiing or snowboarding at Snowshoe Mountain when one of those F-16s roar overhead just remember that as strange as it might seem, those roaring jet engines are distant cousins to the machines that help to produce the base depths that you’re riding on?

Kind of cool, huh???

WHILE ON THE SUBJECT OF LENGTHY SEASONS…

Ober Gatlinburg is celebrating 100 Days of Snow!

Kathy Doyle wrote us on Wednesday, "You might be thinking spring, but at Ober Gatlinburg there is still plenty of snow for skiers, snowboarders and tubers to enjoy.

To celebrate a terrific season and the fact that the snow base on most slopes is still several feet deep, Ober is offering a special event this Sunday – the final day of the 2001/10 season.

Skiers and snowboarders who donate $5 will receive an area/lift ticket and can win prizes. Even better, all proceeds benefit Friends of the Smokies and Cool Earth. Free t-shirts will be given to the first 100 donors.

Snow tubing is open daily and the ski slopes reopen for the final weekend at noon on Friday. Winter is still alive at Ober!"

Here’s the official press release:

Ober Gatlinburg Celebrates 100 Days of Snow

GATLINBURG, Tenn. – Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort and Amusement Park is celebrating 100 days of skiing and snowboarding with 100 Days of Snow on Sunday, March 28, 2010.

December 11, 2009 marked opening day for the resort. No one could have imagined that, 50+ inches of natural snow and 100 days later, Ober would still be open. This Sunday marks the 100th day of ski operations for the resort without any weather-related closures this season. This has been a record-breaking season for snowfall, operating days and ticket sales. To keep the momentum going, on March 1st, Ober lowered prices on area/lift tickets and equipment rentals.

Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park assists the National Park Service in its mission to preserve and protect Great Smoky Mountains National Park by raising funds and public awareness and providing volunteers for needed projects. Sponsored by Head Sports, Cool Earth is a charitable organization set up to protect the most endangered rainforests around the world. This combats global warming, protects ecosystems and provides sustainable jobs.

This celebration is to say thank you to Ober Gatlinburg’s faithful skiers and riders and to mark the last day of an exceptional season! Everyone is invited to come up to ski, snowboard and enjoy the spring weather. Special prizes will be awarded to non-ski/snowboarding guests who donate to these worthy causes. For more information, call 865-436-5423.

VERY COOL, KATHY…VERY COOL!

YET ANOTHER SKI AREA TALKING OF HAVING A RECORD SEASON!!!

Did you guys just notice that Kathy related that Ober is closing out a record season in ticket sales! If you’ve been reading our daily posts you’ll know why we’re emphasizing this fact. (Check the archives…if you missed it.)

A week or so ago I kept hearing from multiple staffers at one resort that no other resort in the region had experienced a fabulous season. We said it then and we’ll repeat it now…every ski area in the region has had a very good to great season. We’ve heard from several ski area managers in the last week or so and one by one they’ve all related very good numbers during the 2009-2010 season.

…and it’s great to hear that Ober was among them.

This weekend will be a mixed bag of weather as Friday and Sunday are looking a little wet, but Saturday looks phenomenal all across the region. Several more ski areas are closing ski and snow ops for the season this weekend so get out and ride.

Officially…there are 19 more days to ski and ride with Snowshoe going to April 5th, and Appalachian Ski Mountain and perhaps Wisp Resort in Maryland riding until April 11th.

SOME CLOSING NOTES…

Nathan Gill of Morristown, Tennessee wrote us about some late season snowfalls. He wrote, "Just a note the snow at Mt. Pisgah in May 1992 was 59 inches. My mom and dad surprised us kids on Saturday Afternoon with a trip up the mountain to play in the snow. Canton, NC got 5-6 inches as well."

Nathan included a nice story that appeared in The Mountaineer about the snow. Check it out

We’re on day 118 and there are 19 more days of opportunities to enjoy the snow for the 2009-2010 ski and snowboarding season!

Go enjoy the snow! Check out the Snow Report at http://www.skisoutheast.com/skireports.php  and please send us your favorite ski photos, ski videos, trip reports and comments to [email protected]