"Mixed Signals", "Differing Perspectives"
As I sit down to write these stories daily it always seems like there’s something to influence the direction that they take. Sometimes it’s comments on the messageboard. Sometimes the emails that you guys send me. Sometimes it’s the weather and sometimes it is conversations that I’ve had with the local ski resort management crews. Sometimes it’s all of the above.
Today I couldn’t help but feel that we’re all getting mixed signals as to whether the ski season’s coming to an end…or not. For example, a couple of ski areas have recently announced that they are EXTENDING their seasons. Wisp Resort says that they will extend the season after this weekend and ski weekends only perhaps through April 11th. Cataloochee Ski Area had intended to close sooner but now will ski until April 4th.
Other ski areas like Wolf Ridge had tentative closing dates that were going through March 28th but they changed their minds and are closing after tomorrow – Saturday’s day sessions.
We’re all trying to keep skiers and snowboarders around the Southeast and Mid Atlantic interested in coming up and we’re sending them mixed signals. Of course you can’t blame the ski areas for switching up operating schedules when the weather has been sending mixed signals. Greg Dobson, who is the GIS Research Coordinator, with the National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center at University of North Carolina – Asheville wrote yesterday that some of the higher elevations of the North Carolina mountains had as much as 3.5 to 8" of snow in the previous three days (early this week) and yet nobody (including us) was really talking about it. One-eighty from that perspective are near 70° temperatures that are in the forecast for today and Saturday across the region.
How’s a poor, potential visitor supposed to make an informed decision? Heck, it’s probably approaching 80° at some off-mountain locations. How are you guys supposed to believe ME when I write about a FOOT OF NATURAL SNOW STILL ON THE GROUND all over the place in West Virginia and Maryland. Heck we’ve still got some snow in MY YARD! …and it’s 80° in YOUR back yard. That’s a hard marketing battle to win to get you guys up here to ski or ride.
Some ski areas only have TWO MORE DAYS available to ski or ride their slopes (Beech Mountain and Wolf Resort). Some ski areas are going for what might seem like an ETERNITY YET. Appalachian Ski Mountain and perhaps Wisp Resort in Maryland will ski and ride until April 11th (24 more days! More than THREE MORE WEEKS until they close for the season!) Snowshoe will ski and ride for 19 more days!
Heck even the weather is playing fickle on us. After dumping record breaking seasonal snowfalls on our region through March 4th…it just kind of stopped. We’re still getting some colder-than-normal temps, but tomorrow we’ll see temps in the mid 60s. Monday is supposed to offer some sub freezing temps and maybe even a little snow. Brad Moretz of Appalachian told me last night that they will make more snow when possible to offer the very best product that they can even into April. Brad’s telling me that, while I’m hearing the snowmaking ops are a done deal everywhere else.
I’ve had all sorts of conversations about how this season has gone down as far as being a successful skier visit and revenue season. By all accounts when talking to ski area management people at the resorts that they represent – this has been a very successful season at ALL of our ski resorts of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic. After getting off to a slow start (Appalachian opened December 6th) things have been great and we’re seeing better-than-normal late season visitation. Christmas was a mix of good and bad with great snows a week or so prior which excited the masses. Then we had a Christmas Eve MAJOR ice storm that hampered things a bit. Christmas to New Years was great but if that ice had not hit….
MLK and Presidents Day weekends were great, but both had some iffy weather forecasted that kept things from perhaps being record breaking across the board. Post holiday weekends were fabulous as I don’t think anyone has seen late February traffic at Beech Mountain like we saw this season. They had more groups booked for the same weekend that we held our SkiNC Summit than they had during President’s Day weekend.
Talking to some industry insiders (competitors), you get the idea that this or that resort was down 5% to 30% this season. Some were "hurting".
I DON"T THINK SO…
I like Brad Moretz’s response when I was speaking with him Thursday (last) night. I asked him what kind of season they had and put it into "up or down 5%, etc." or whether it was a top five kind of year. Brad responded, "Mike I don’t think we’ve ever had a season that I’d say that I compared it as a top five or even top three year!"
I was confused a little as well until he explained that every single year they strive to beat the previous year and most often they do. He described the 2008-2009 season as a great year and he felt that this season would be right there with it. Appalachian and other resorts may or may not have had record breaking seasons this season, but it has been a very strong season regardless.
I spoke with another industry insider on Thursday that was quoting some numbers and I will go on record to say that across the region this 2009-2010 ski and snowboarding season will rank right up there with some of the best in the last 15 years and some ski areas will set skier visit records.
Revenue-wise a lot of ski areas made less snow this season that in most previous seasons so their profits will be greater. …and there are probably a resort or two that might have seen slight decreases in skier visit numbers and overall profits.
The bottom line is that I’m getting mixed signals even as it applies to just how great this season has been. Regardless…it has been great and so that I don’t contribute to the mixed signals…
THERE ARE STILL MORE THAN THREE WEEKS LEFT OF IT…
Let’s wrap up things with a quick tour…
Appalachian Ski Mountain – 39° – 100% open with all trails, terrain parks and ice skating open for day and night sessions. Great snow coverage and no bare spots or thin coverage whatsoever. "We plan on making snow right into April to keep a quality product on the mountain", says Brad Moretz. Appalachian plans to operate through April 11th.
Beech Mountain Resort – 34° – They are open for day sessions today and Saturday and will close for the season after Saturday’s day of fun. They have all but the Oz Run open for both days and some of the best closing weekend conditions in years! Talia Freeman posted, "Saturday, March 20th, will be our last day of operation, with a closing celebration that includes pond skimming and a cookout. Pond Skimming will start at 1:30pm. Registration will be held in the View Haus starting at 11am and is free with a valid lift ticket. Prizes will be awarded for distance and best costume. Rates will remain at $20 for a day ticket and $10 for a half day ticket."
Beech will close with more than two and a half feet of minimum base depth still on the mountain.
Cataloochee Ski Area – 38° – 100% open from 1pm to 10pm today and then here is their operating schedule for this weekend and the rest of the season which they’ve announced is through April 4th.
Tammy Brown wrote, "We will close for daily operations at the end of the skiing session on Sunday, March 21 as originally scheduled HOWEVER, by popular demand and based on the amount of snow base we currently have, we will reopen for two additional weekends of skiing and riding on Saturday and Sunday, March 27 and 28 and Saturday and Sunday, April 3 and 4. Skiing on those days will be from 9am until 4:30PM and weekday rates will be in effect. We will not operate during the week from Monday through Friday, March 22-26 or March 29- April 2. Now, on to current operating hours…
On Friday, we will be skiing on 100% of the mountain on 16 out of 16 slopes with two aerial lifts and one conveyor lift operating on a base of 47-122” and a machine worked surface. On Friday we will offer two sessions of skiing, twilight skiing from 1pm until 10pm and night skiing from 6pm until 10pm with an afternoon half day rates also available."
Sugar Mountain Resort – 36° – They are 100% open for day sessions and offer night sessions as well with tubing and ice skating all open as well. Sugar has had some brisk traffic over the last couple of days according to reports. They are hosting some fun this weekend. Live bluegrass by BOSS HAWG plays at Sugar Mountain Resort between 4-6 pm on Saturday, March 20th and you can join them Sunday, March 21 for Sugar’s 4th annual Easter Egg Hunt. Dress up in your Easter costume and join Sugar Bear and Sweetie Bear on the slopes in search of prize filled eggs. Be the lucky winner when you find an egg containing a season pass! Valid lift/slope tickets or passes are required for participation. Event is for children 12 and under ONLY and begins at 9am at the bottom of Summit #1 lift.
Wolf Ridge Resort is CLOSED TODAY but will reopen for SATURDAY ONLY. They had previously reported March 28th to be their tentative last day, but they have now changed their plans and will open for ONE MORE DAY of skiing and riding – Saturday, March 20th and they will ski and ride from 9am-4:30pm only and then close for the season. They will offer 1/2 price lift ticket prices on Saturday.
Ober Gatlinburg – The Smoky Mountain ski area is open today from noon until 10pm with tubing, ice skating and 7 of 8 trails. They have tentatively announced that they will be open this weekend and next weekend (closed during the week).
Sapphire Valley Ski Area is already CLOSED FOR THE SEASON.
Bryce Resort – They offer 7 of 8 trails for day sessions only today, Saturday and Sunday and then will close for the season.
Massanutten Resort – They are 100% open from 9am-10pm today and Saturday with all 14 trails and snow tubing as well. Massanutten posted, "Due to unseasonably warm temperatures projected for the next two weeks, the Massanutten Ski Area and Tubing Park will be closing on March 21st. We will try to re-open the weekend of March 26th – 28th (9am-4:30 pm ski, tube 9am-5pm) for our final ski weekend."
They will operate Sunday, March 21 from 9am-7pm and then it all depends on the weather ahead. So this COULD be Mass’s last weekend for the season. Go take advantage of it.
Wintergreen Resort – They are open with 19 of 26 trails for today and this weekend for day sessions only from 9am-5pm. They will also have tubing open for Saturday and then close for the season after day sessions on Sunday are completed. Anne Marie posted, "BEAUTIFUL WEATHER! SLIDE AND SPLASH BASH WEEKEND IS HERE WITH A 50% DISCOUNT ON LIFT TICKETS, RENTALS AND TUBING. WE WILL ALSO HAVE GREAT MUSIC, POND SKIMMING, RAIL JAM, AND MORE!"
WEST VIRGINIA RESORTS:
Canaan Valley – David Lesher’s weather center in Davis, WV is still reporting more than an average of a foot of natural snow depth still on the ground and Canaan Resort is still going strong with a base depth minimum of 24" and 35 of 39 trails open. They offer day sessions today and they still have tubing, air boarding and ice skating open. This IS Canaan Valley’s last weekend for the season as they will close after day sessions on Sunday. Lenora Testerman of Canaan’s Marketing Department sent us some great St. Patrick’s Day photos and you can find those in our photo gallery pages.
Snowshoe Mountain – They are still open with 100% of the main portion of their mountain open. They closed the Silvercreek side of the mountain last week and now offer 42 of 60 trails for day sessions right through Monday, April 5th. Laura Parquette posted, "You can’t ask for more than warm days, sunny skies and cold nights that allow for the perfect corduroy in the morning. That’s the kind of weather we’ve seen for the last several days, and it should continue through the first part of the weekend. Whether you like carving the hard pack in the morning, or gliding along the softened afternoon snow, this time of year makes for some great skiing and riding."
Timberline Resort – They are riding on 36 of 37 trails for day sessions and great snow conditions for Spring skiing and snowboarding. They are hosting their annual "Snowy Luau" this weekend and it is certain to be a great time on the mountain. Here’s the schedule:
Friday, March 19, 2010
Friday night Open Mic, 7 PM to close
Saturday, March 20, 2010
10:30 am – Lahaina Triathalon
Noon – Pig Roast on Deck
Noon – Luau Nastar
1:00 pm – Rail Jam Series Final
1:30 pm – Lava Garden Children’s Obstacle Race
2:00 pm – Hoaloha Polynesian Review
3:00 pm – Synchronized Skiing Contest
4:30 pm – Sleds, Shovels & Sliders Hawaiian Derby
7:30 pm – Apres Ski Bonfire & Drumming Party
8:30 pm – Lava Light Parade & Fireworks
9:00 pm – Entertainment by Hoaloha Performers
10:00 pm – The Outlaw Band
Sunday, March 21, 2010
10:30 am – Border and Skier Cross
Noon – Costume Parade
12:30 pm – Snow Sculpting Awards
12:30 pm – Hawaiian Lunch Specials
12:30 pm – Hoaloha Polynesian Performance
1:00 pm – High Ollie Jump Off for Skiers & Boarders
1:00 pm – Luau Nastar
2:00 pm – Bump Contest
3:00 pm – Award Ceremony – Coronation of the Snowy Luau Kahuna
Winterplace Resort – They are skiing and riding on 27 of 28 trails from 9am-9pm for today and Saturday. They also have some fun happening at the Ghent, WV resort. Missy posted, "March Madness ~ Spring Fling Race! Sat., March 20th
Keep on skiing, boarding and snowtubing! Plus, keep on racing with Head to Head Racing! Come on out and race to win COOL Prizes including Rossignol Skis & Rossignol Snowbord!"
Their schedule for the rest of the season is as follows: Fri 3/19 & Sat 3/20 is 9 am – 9 pm; Sunday 3/21 through closing is 9am – 5 pm.
Wisp Resort – They are operating for day and night sessions Friday and Saturday with 28 of 32 trails open. They have their mountain coaster, snow tubing and ice skating all open as well. Wisp plans to ride weekends until perhaps April 11th weather permitting.
We’re on day 113 and there are 24 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]