I hate it when my pessimism allows me to become a better weather forecaster than the weather gurus of our area. After each of the last couple of forecasts included "borderline snow" in it – I grumbled out some commentaries that made reference to the fact that they would be mostly rain events or that no snow would fall. Over the last couple of days, a couple weather forecasters were mentioning snow in our forecast for this Thursday night and Friday. Now they have replaced that with sunny skies. As I said recently – all signs are pointing to the fact that there will be no late return of winter weather as we’ve normally had in the past.
Spring is due to arrive in these parts on Friday, March 20th at around 11:43am – not one minute before or after. The upside to all of this is that maybe we can have a gorgeous Spring with the pear, apple and dogwood trees all in bloom without the usual 3-4" of snow and freeze that turns it all brown. That would be a nice tradeoff – since right now all of the snow on our favorite slopes are turning brown. All except for Appalachian Ski Mountain. I still say that they use tooth-whiteners in the snowmaking plant 😉 App looks nearly as good as they did for "day three" of this ski season – just with a lot more snow. That snow – and the snow at Cataloochee and Sugar Mountain (those are the only three ski areas still operating in the state) will be a heavy, wet granular snow – but it’s plentiful. Spring skiing will be at a premium at those three ski areas this week. All three look to be primed and ready to ski until March 29th.
It is really amazing how nice those three ski areas look today. There’s really very litte in the way of thin cover or bare spots are either Cat or Sugar – and none at Appalachian. So if you’re wavering on whether or not to get one more ski or snowboarding trip in – quit thinking about it and go for it. You’ll enjoy some very nice Spring Skiing.
What is NOT clear is whether or not there will be many "takers" this year. We watched the live cams at all of the resorts yesterday and there simply were not many people on the mountain. It was another rainy day and that certainly put a damper on traffic, but web traffic is way down another notch across the region which is yet another sign that people may be "flipping their winter sports switches off" and moving on to Spring/Summer activities a little sooner than usual this season. Ma Nature seemingly flipped her switch back around March 5-6th and since that time, the mild temps and Spring-like rains have made for declining traffic.
The good news is that the ski areas have all had VERY NICE seasons in terms of skier visits with most all of them sharing that the 2008-2009 season will go in the books as a "top three to top five" kind of season and that is great news. We all need these guys to do well, because that is what affords them the ability to reinvest in their infrastructure and snowmaking, etc.
It will be interesting to watch the skier traffic this week after this rainy stretch exits the region. The sun is forecasted to appear again on Tuesday and we should have nice weather through Saturday. Temps will be very springlike with highs in the 50s and 60s – with a slight cool down on Friday. There is no snowmaking weather in the forecast until perhaps Friday night and if things go the way that they have over the last couple of weeks – that window of opportunity will disappear. FYI, right now Friday night is the only below freezing night in the long range forecast.
Once the sun appears and we have some nice weather, we’ll all get a better look at whether or not there will be some pent up desire to hit the slopes one more time by enough of you diehards to show up on the cameras. From the emails we’ve received, our guess is that we’ll see as many skiers on the slopes as we saw snowflakes from the last forecasted snow. (A few dozen flakes might have fallen, mixed in with rain.)
We’ll see. There’s some good, carvable snow on the three ski areas remaining open in North Carolina. Appalachian is certainly in the best shape with the best snow and no thin areas and no bare spots. Sugar Mountain has the most terrain open (17 trails) and really nice conditions and Cataloochee is down to 7 trails but offers some good snow. Appalachian and Sugar are open for all sessions and Cataloochee is open from 1-10pm this week.
Here’s some quick notables:
Appalachian Ski Mountain – 50° – Base: 51-80" – 100% open, Day and Night Skiing open – both terrain parks and ice skating
Cataloochee Ski Area – 44° – Base: 27-52" – 50% open with 7 of 14 trails operating from 1pm-10pm today.
Cataloochee and Appalachian Ski Mountain have formed a bit of synergy. Tammy Brown writes, "Don’t forget that season passes are on sale now for the lowest price of this year and next – this pass pricing tier will continue through March 31 and passes will go up again on April 1. And new this year for our unlimited pass holders, Appalachian Ski Mountain, North Carolina’s First Area for Family Fun will give Cataloochee unlimited season pass holders for the 2009/2010 season, $10 off of the purchase of a daily lift ticket when they ski or ride at Appalachian – making having a Cataloochee season pass an even better deal – call the ski area for more information."
Sugar Mountain – 42° – Base: 18-65" with some thin areas and minimal bare spots – They are down to 17 trails open for the first time in quite a while, opting to close "Little Nell", "Sugar Bear" and the Ski School Play Yard. Sugar has their annual Easter egg hunt planned for this weekend.
Ski Beech is now CLOSED FOR THE SEASON. They write, "It is sad to say, but our 2008-2009 ski season is over. Thanks for visiting us this year! We are already looking forward to a great 2009-2010 ski season, and we hope to see you then!" Beech ended their season with a subpar 67.8" of natural snow but they have to feel pretty good about the year they had. They certainly made some huge strides in snow management this season and according to their management will be making even more noticeable moves prior to the 2009-2010 season.
Sapphire Valley and Wolf Ridge Resort had previously closed for the season.
There’s some good snow and resorts still open northward. To see the rest of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic ski resort news, visit www.SkiSoutheast.com
Send your comments, trip reports, photos and videos to [email protected]