..and HOW CAN YOU PICK THE BEST SKI AREA TO GO TO IN THE SOUTHEAST?
Winter is nature’s way of saying, “Up yours.” ~ Robert Byrne
I figured I’d start off today’s comments with an appropriate quote since even though Winter officially doesn’t begin until 6:38pm today (Tuesday), we all know that it began December 1st or so around here. I’ve always agreed with Byrne’s assessment of Winter because just about the time that weather gurus think they have it all figured out – God throws them a curve.
It’s off subject a little but for some reason I’ve always remember that Bryne quote and only one other one – "Everything is in a state of flux, including the status quo."
I was reviewing several regional weather gurus comments pertaining to the long range forecasts and even though more weather pros are coming around to thinking that January will be a rather "normal" month (weatherwise) most are saying that we’ll see a "mild up" around the beginning of the month. One such forecaster wrote, "If you are enjoying all the cold/snow, enjoy it now. If you hate it, hold on. The big flip to milder is on schedule for either late in December or early in January."
I don’t want to have the poor guy bombed with email so I won’t share the source…but those of us who are snow-and-cold-weather-loving peeps hope that "Nature" says "Up Yours" and brings a continuing trend to cold and snow. We’ll see.
A WHITE CHRISTMAS FOR THE MOUNTAINS!
We received Meteorologist Brad Panovich’s most recent Skier’s Forecast Video and you guys and gals should check it out as Brad is forecasting a dreamy, White Christmas from the North Carolina Mountains through all of the ski resorts of the Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee and Maryland!
How’s THAT for a nice Christmas present for skiers and snowboarders heading to the slopes for a Christmas to New Year’s getaway?
I was speaking with Gil Willis of Elk River Touring Center up in Slatyfork, West Virginia on Monday afternoon and he was sharing the fact that they and Snowshoe were experiencing a "champagne snow" at that time. While the area only saw an inch of new snow overnight, bear in mind that portions of the higher elevations of the ski areas (particularly the resorts in North Carolina, West Virginia and Maryland) have seen as much as 52.1" of natural snow in the month of December – already! Some of the West Virginia resorts have seen measurable snow on 18 of 21 days so far in December! That and some awesome temperatures during the month have made for some awesome early-season ski and snowboarding conditions.
Those conditions and the forecast ahead will make for a GREAT Christmas through New Year’s getaway! Since I mentioned Gil, he’s the owner of a great Cross Country Skiing outfit at Snowshoe and if you’re into some great dining or lodging choices in that area – he has that as well. Need skis, a snowboard, etc? Yep, he can help you there as well. Since we gave him a pug, check out his mothership website at http://www.ertc.com/ (He has links to their beautiful Elk River Restaurant, lodging and his convenient ski and snowboard shop up at Top of the World / Soaring Eagle Lodge atop Snowshoe. Gil’s trying to work out a special for our readers to provide a nice discount to SkiSoutheast fans so stay tuned.
There’s some freezing rain, sleet and general YUCK in the forecast for Wednesday and maybe into Thursday for the region, although Canaan Valley, Timberline and Snowshoe should still see a mostly light snow event. Wisp Resort may see some wet snow. The rest of us from Winterplace Resort on down through Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina will see some light mix of yuck…
BUT, BUT, BUT THEN SNOW!
According to our snow-loving buddy Brad Panovich we should see some decent Christmas day and weekend snow across the entire ski area region of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic. He’s sounding very confident that we’ll get some significant snowfall although he’s not as certain about HOW we’ll get the majority of our White Christmas. He’s expecting more of those Northwest Flow snows that we’ve been getting most of our December snow with, however he’s forecasting that this event could go in one of two directions.
Option ONE is for more of a system snow event that will track further south and bring a significant snow for most all of the region and maybe even track into some of the foothill communities. The second option is that the system will track a little further north and bring more of the same kind of Northwest Flow snows that we’be been enjoying all month.
Either way, we should see some nice snow for Christmas! Light snow will begin Friday evening (maybe a brief start as light rain at some locations). Christmas Day will be cold and snowy. The day after Christmas will be much colder and windy with snow showers.
Brad isn’t quoting any numbers just yet, because he said that the system is still west of California and hasn’t made it to the United States just yet. Brad’s going to be sending us his next Skier’s Forecast Video from Ohio as he’s visiting family there. He’ll be doing a snowy remote broadcast for us and we should know more by then as to how much snow will fall this weekend and into the first of the following week.
MAGAZINE READERS WANT TO KNOW…WHAT’S THE REGIONS BEST SKI RESORT?
I had the pleasure of speaking with two magazine peeps on Monday. US Airways Magazine and Upstate Be Magazine (based in Spartanburg) called to inquire about how the season has gone and to ask us our thoughts on the "best" ski areas in the region. These guys and gals know how to get us in trouble!
The US Airways author was doing his annual story on promoting the ski areas closest to Charlotte and Lynchburg according to him. Michael Staton of Spartanburg’s Upstate Be Magazine was a little more to the point. He asked, "Since most people don’t think about North Carolina or the Southeast when it comes to snow skiing, where does most of the ski resorts get their traffic from?"
(This is WHY we continue to educate the media…)
He later asked, "If you could tell us if our readers wanted to know what the top three ski resorts are in the area – what would you say those are?"
I spoke on a number of topics with both reporters and did my best "political" impersonation by talking up the better points of all of the ski areas. However HERE are my HONEST, non-politically-correct thoughts.
Throw a dart at a map of the region and go visit the ski area that is closest to that dart and I will GUARANTEE you THAT resort will become a favorite memory. We all remember our first ski trip. Very few of us remember it as a negative memory. More often than not that first ski trip and that first ski resort will always be among your favorites. For me it was Appalachian Ski Mountain and then shortly afterward – Beech and Hawksnest. Not long after Sugar Mountain was a favorite. Then I found Snowshoe in the mid to late 80s. Then – Beaver Creek in Colorado. I’ve been fortunate enough to ski at most every ski area in the region over the years and as I told both reporters – I sincerely have never skied any ski area that I didn’t have a ball. They ALL are special; they ALL bring something different to the table; and because of your skiMails to us I KNOW that every ski resort in the region is a FAVORITE to lots of people!
Michael Staton did ask me an interesting followup question, "How would you say that people should go about picking the best ski area for them?" He added, "…especially when it’s obvious that some resorts exaggerate their snow reports?"
UH-OH…he DIDN’T go there, did he? Yes he did. You see – THAT’S WHY we have to CONTINUE to educate the media because things change.
Let’s be as honest as possible without offending anyone today. I’m sure I’ll get around to ticking somebody off later in the season but it’s Christmas and I want to enjoy a great Holiday. The truth is MOST of the ski areas in our region have ALWAYS reported near perfect snow reports, reports of natural snow and everything related to their on-snow experience. Most owners and marketing departments are just built that way. There have been times that people have made mistakes in reporting how much natural snow fell during some crazy snows. We all get excited and sometimes mistakes are made.
There’s a perception that all resorts lie about there conditions. Okay they’re not a perfect as they could or should be about reporting what their perfect, average base depths are. To be honest that would be harder than any of us knows to get perfectly correct – and that’s why I prefer a SINGLE DIGIT number rather than reporting something like 40-112".
Then in the past there were some ski areas wherein management peeps looked out a window and guessed how much snow was added during snowmaking ops and compared that thought with what they saw on the snow reports of their competitors and that’s what was posted. I DIDN’T NAME NAMES, but I know this has happened – IN THE PAST.
I say "in the past" because websites like ours, OnTheSnow, SkiCentral, etc have done a decent job of influencing ski resorts to be more accurate in reporting conditions, natural snowfall, trails open, etc, etc. Some people like Bill Rock, former COO of Snowshoe outwardly credited us and others like us for holding the resorts’ "feet to the fire". He and others have openly told me that they love what we do BECAUSE we are independent of the resorts and any resort association and therefore we tell it like it is – which influences THEM to tell it more like it is.
That said, I can state proudly (even though we’d NEVER be given credit for it by some ski area peeps) that some of the resorts that used to be notorious for not reporting thin coverage, bare areas and which always overstated natural snowfalls – are among the best at accurate reporting these days. That said, our website has mutated to more of a "here’s what’s happening" website than a "policing" kind of website. We never intended to be "SkiCop" – with respect to "SkiCop" over on the messageboard – however we’ve always offered "No Bull" reporting and we always will. If what we’re reporting is different from what you’re seeing elsewhere – I’ll bet you that ours is the accurate one.
As per Michael’s question as to "How should our readers pick a ski area to go to?" I’d answer simply, pick the ski area that best fits your budget, your lodging desires, your travel preferences and your need to see natural snow, etc, etc. For example, if you’re wanting to go snowmobiling in the region – you only have a few choices as none of the North Carolina ski areas offer snowmobiling. We get that questions nearly every day. If you’re looking for ice skating, snow tubing, snow cat tours, horse-drawn carraige rides in the snow or other non-ski or snowboard related activities, your choices narrow. If you’re a hardy party animal, you’re probably not going to go to Appalachian Ski Mountain. If you’re a mom or day and looking for a great ski area where you won’t find beer served and the cafeteria resembles an hugely, oversized version of your home dining area – then App might be your best bet.
The illustrations could go on and on. Simply put – don’t fret the details. Pick one and go and I’ll bet you’ll have a great time.
You can thank me later. That’s it for today. See you on the snow – hopefully!
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