A Mild Beginning to the Week; Cold Returns by Thursday and Some Chances of Snow Surface Mid Week and This Weekend!

We’re going to see some sixty degree days today through Wednesday in the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia. Take those temps down about seven degrees into West Virginia and Maryland. It is 5° colder this morning up at Bryce than at the North Carolina ski areas. They are reporting 32° early this morning while Sugar’s low was 37°. You can almost SEE the line of colder temps as Massanutten was at 27° this AM. Canaan Valley is reporting 25° but they report that "snowmaking is just not necessary at this time" (That’s when you know how good conditions are! When they COULD make snow but they still don’t!)

What is a little confusing is that we’re seeing morning lows in the mid 20s across some of the upper tier of Southeast and Mid Atlantic ski areas, yet they are reporting "Wet Granular" conditions. We have to assume that they are projecting the conditions for later in the day as temps warm into the 50s with lots of sunshine.

Those temps will translate to 70°+ days off the mountain and a lot of you guys will start thinking about breaking out the golf clubs and tennis rackets. Go ahead and enjoy yourselves, but don’t get used to it – cold weather and plenty of snow is still left in the 2008-2009 ski and snowboarding season! These kind of February stretches do tend to crank up the dreaded "end of season" sales and get a lot of you guys thinking about mid summer beach trips. We are a fickle species!

Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves! As forecasted last week, we’re going to play through a mild week and we’ll see some light shower chances around Wednesday evening in the Norh Carolina mountains. The ski areas further north into the Virginias and Maryland may experience a little more rain than those further south and there might even be some thunderstorms popping on Wednesday evening in the West Virginia and Maryland mountains.

Behind that colder air will hit the mountains and bring with it some chances of light snow into WV and MD. Snowmaking temps will return for the West Virginia ski areas and Wisp on Thursday night as temps dip back into the upper teens and low 20s. The weekend looks colder across the entire region with some additional chance of snow further north.

Snowmaking temps should return Saturday evening into the North Carolina and Virginia ski areas and there’s a chance for some wintry precip a week from now that we’ll be keeping an eye on. Meteorologist Matthew East is still holding to his forecast for the second half of February being more normal with some cold outbreaks and snow.

So let’s "weather" this week’s volatile systems and mild temps and then get back to some good ski weather towards the end of the week and weekend.

These kind of mid February mild stretches also signal some shops to begin sending out some bad signals as well and Joe Stevens talks about those in his weekly column.

End of the Season SALES…

Be sure to check out Joe’s column today. End of Season Sales have been a annual pet peeve with Joe and I have to say that although I’ve heard him mention it over the last few years, I really haven’t given what he was saying much thought – til now.

In marketing you are either sending out positive signals or you’re sending out negative ones. There really is no in between. For decades all of the ski areas have been trying to sell the idea of how great the snow is in late March (and even into April) in an effort to PROLONG the season. We have mentioned for years that it is NOT usually a lack of snow that shuts down ski seasons; it is a lack of people laying down money for lift tickets. When the fiscal part of the equation stops making sense ski areas close up.

So WHY in the world would shops start promoting "end of season sales" as early as the beginning of February? Joe’s point is valid. In his column today he suggests, "Why not a “Get ready for the best spring skiing and riding in years” sale."

With nearly TWO MONTHS LEFT in this ski season I say boycott any "end of season" sales. If you see one and could use some discounted equipment – go take advantage of the pricing – but inform the sales manager that there’s plenty of this great ski and snowboarding season left.

There’s a few more BIG SNOWS, some sweet powder that hasn’t fallen yet and some great events to attend – all left in these next six to eight weeks! Let’s not hurry them to a close.

NOW TO WHAT USED TO BE MY PET PEEVE…

Joe also touched on my "base depth reporting" story from the other day where I talked about Jim Cantore’s comments on THE WEATHER CHANNEL the other evening. Cantore took a little slap at a few of the North Carolina ski area’s base depths. You can read that story by clicking here.

Often when I or others have spoken about base depth numbers – we’ve gotten a call or two (or emails) from this or that resort hinting that their numbers were accurate. The truth is they ARE "kind of accurate". THERE IS A LOT OF SNOW at all of the ski areas right now and most of them probably have CLOSE OR ALL of what they are reporting at some locations on their slopes. However I think that after 13 seasons of handling this website and monitoring numbers that I can safely say that NO ski area in the Southeast or Mid Atlantic – and maybe none east of the Mississippi – AND MAYBE no ski area anywhere in the United States – measures their base depths daily. 

I mean, they "kind of do" but not really. …and SO WHAT if they did. They don’t – but so what if they did because ski areas would post their average minimum and their average maximum and that figure would not be anything more than a "relative" figure. For example, you could still have bare spots all over the place and be reporting an AVERAGE minimum of 26" if you measure one number of 42" and then figure in the one or two inches close to the bare spot.

That is WHY we stopped displaying base depths on our Slope Report page. We discontinued that LAST SEASON. During the first part of this season we shared those with you because you guys needed to see the numbers climbing. However once the season kicked into full force, we went back to our scale from one to ten.

We think it is better to simply DESCRIBE the slopes rather than post marketing numbers that only serve to tell newbie ski visitors something that is not necessarily indicative of what they’ll find when they hit the slopes.

MAKE NO MISTAKE…things are GREAT RIGHT NOW NO MATTER WHERE YOU HEAD TO RIDE…TODAY!

However, when a national television personality like Jim Cantore goes on national cable news and singles out Cataloochee, Appalachian and Sugar Mountain as "probably measuring right next to the snow blowers" that isn’t great publicity.

NOT GOOD PUBLICITY, BUT IS HE CORRECT???

I’ve made the same kind of comment that Mr. Cantore did the other evening. I’m almost certain that he will get the same kind of invitation that I have received. I have been invited to go with the mountain manager at a few ski areas to measure snow to prove that this or that resort had the snow that they were reporting. Anyone who doubts that Appalachian doesn’t have an average base of 90"-115"? Go over there and measure – they have it. Do they have it across ALL of the 10 trails from top to bottom? Does ANY of the ski areas have what they are reporting from top to bottom on all of their trails?

The simple, non political answer is: NO. No they don’t.

WHY IS THIS A NON ISSUE WITH YOURS TRULY ANYMORE?

Why have I changed my stance on this issue? Mainly because I don’t pay attention to these numbers anymore unless someone emails us about them…or unless some big media type like Jim Cantore brings these up on a national television show. He talks, dozens email me, and I respond.

Personally I would LOVE to see ski areas do away with base numbers altogether. I’ve advocated a single number report for years and it is kind of cool to hear from people like Laura Parquette at Snowshoe Mountain that they’ve implemented that system. They are reporting an average base of 56" right now. I’ll bet they have that and maybe more. Single numbers are AT LEAST potentially more accurate or safer numbers to defend. Massanutten, The Homestead and even Sapphire Valley are all reporting single numbers today.

However the argument even to single number reporting is somewhat the same as the minium and maximum system. You can still say you have an average of 40" and STILL have lots of thin coverage and bare areas on your slopes. A 40" average only means that you have 78" somewhere and 2" somewhere else.

It would be great if we’d simply see ski areas state, "we have at least two feet of snow across our entire mountain top to bottom". When things get a little "dicey" they could report, "We have a good base across all of our trails with only 2% of the mountain showing thin coverage".

That kind of reporting would be accurate and very descrptive. Let’s say you had 100 acres of terrain and even 10% of it was uncovered or bare during a mild spell. Reporting "We have a 20" base on 90% of our mountain" would be pretty darn descriptive…and honest. I kind of like Timberline’s system of reporting what percentage of their mountain has been groomed. Resorts could do that with base reporting.

RIGHT NOW…every resort could easily report, "We have at least a two feet of snow on 99% of our mountain". That won’t fool anybody and egos can stay out of the way.

GOOD LORD, I’ve gone off on a tangent again!

Let’s put Mr. Cantore’s hint to test. It’s been two days since we looked at reported base depths. Let’s have a look and see how much they deteriorated in 48 hours with the mild temps of the last two days. Let’s see if resorts measure and report a factual number or perhaps more of an informed estimate.

Here we go….

48 Hour REPORTED Losses:

MARYLAND AND WEST VIRGINIA SKI AREAS: Snow melts only at Timberline and Wisp Resorts 😉

Canaan Valley – Current base: 20"-40" – NO Reported Loss

Snowshoe Mountain – Current base: 56" Average – NO Reported Loss

Timberline Resort – Current base: 35"-72" – Lost 7" of base

Winterplace Resort – Current base: 40"-80" – NO Reported Loss

Wisp Resort – Current base: 20"-60" – Lost 8" of base

VIRGINIA SKI AREAS: Evidently snow only melts at Bryce in Virginia.

Bryce Resort – Current base: 43"-69"" – Lost 3" of base

Massanutten Resort – Current base: 50" Average – NO Reported Loss

Wintergreen Resort – Current base: 50"-70" – NO Reported Loss

TENNESSEE SKI AREAS: Ober Gatlinburg ALWAYS adjusts their base daily. Always.

Ober – Current base: 54"-82"" – Lost 6" of base

NORTH CAROLINA SKI AREAS: Snow melts everywhere in North Carolina except Beech.

Appalachian – Current base: 90"-115" – Lost 5" of base

Cataloochee – Current base: 45"-99" – Lost 3" of base

Sapphire Valley – Current base: 48" Average – Lost 5" of base

Ski Beech – Current base: 42"-75" – NO Reported Loss

Sugar Mountain – Current base: 50"-83" – Lost 10" of base**

Wolf Ridge Resort – Current base: 56-76" – Lost 2" of base***

…we report – you decide! Sorry Fox News! (I had to use that!)

Until we see egos get out of the way and some uniform system of reporting, resorts will leave themselves open to reporters taking stabs at them. We received a few dozen emails from people alluding to Jim Cantore’s remarks on the air. The guy didn’t say anything wrong. He may not have been exactly RIGHT, but he wasn’t wrong either. Therein lies the dilemma.

This will probably hold me for another year!

Conditions are really, really nice EVERYWHERE this morning. Check the SLOPE REPORT page and go enjoy your day!

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