Hello Everyone –
Growing up many a year ago in Baltimore, Maryland, one of my father’s favorite shows was the Jackie Gleason Show on CBS. After Jackie was done with the opening to his show he would always say, “And Away We Go.” That’s how I feel about this year’s ski and snowboard season, that actually begun in early November at Cataloochee and Sugar resorts in North Carolina, but turned north with the opening of resorts in Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. It’s here folks, grab hold because there is no turning back now until late March or early April.
Unless you have been under a rock the last few week and haven’t been checking in with this website, you know that cold temperatures have invaded the Allegheny and Smokey Mountains from Tennessee to Maryland allowing snowmakers at every resort to do the thing they do best and that is to make snow and in this case lots of it. I checked the snow report the other day and Appalachian Resort began the season 100 percent open, not just one or two trails, but everything from top to bottom and by all accounts with excellent slope coverage. Way to go Brad and your team, that’s the way it’s needs to be done to impress the folks that don’t understand what skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing in the southeast is all about.
Speaking to an official with Winterplace in southern West Virginia a couple of days ago, I was told by him that when they put the word out on social media they were opening this past Friday for the Thanksgiving weekend, the resort’s phones lit up. By the way, here is some inside the beltway info for you, in the tourism/recreational industry that’s called the “PUD” factor, or “Pent Up Demand.” That just means a lot of you out there were more than ready to make those first turns of the season. That is awesome to hear from this keyboard, because it takes a lot of will power for resort operators to pull that “let’s go” switch sometimes, not knowing if anyone is going to show up and make the decision worth it, business wise.
Let’s return for a few minutes to the conditions that were found at every resort that is providing winter fun right now. Along with the excellent snowmaking conditions that have been with us for most of this month, there has been a good deal of natural snowfall throughout the region and for the resorts that are open that snowfall was icing on the cake for out of the box conditions. When I was at Snowshoe Mountain, early season visitors would question sometimes the amount of terrain available for skiing and snowboarding. Message to mountain operators, if anyone dares question the amount of terrain open for those first tracks of the season, just send them my way and I will take care of the rest, no worries. Just look at the various live cams available on this site and you will see with your own two eyes that there are some large amounts of snow in the mountains of Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. I have been doing this since 1990 and I can’t remember a better opening to a season than this year.
Please understand I am no “Snow Goose,” just ask Mike or Kenny about that one. I really am a watchdog when it comes to snowfall totals and snowfall predictions. When I saw forecasts calling for up to eight inches of snow in some places, the red flag went off once again in my snow reporting head and I thought, “Here we go again.” Then I read where The Weather Channel had named the storm (that is going to be a topic for another column later this season) and I just thought, “I hope the storm wasn’t being over forecasted.” Well to my delight, but maybe not to the snowplow drivers, but I do believe more snow fell than was first expected, so if you were out there on the slopes for those early tracks, you weren’t disappointed. Actually looking at the advance two-day forecast convinced me and my family to leave for a Thanksgiving trip to Chapel Hill, North Carolina a day earlier and when I saw eight inches of snow on I-77 around the West Virginia – Virginia line, I knew we had made the right decision and that the conditions on the slopes for everyone were going to be perfect and they were.
Now let’s jump back again and discuss the reason for this week’s column, the 2014/15 season is really off and sliding this year and it looks like only more good things can be expected. The short term weather coming up is a bit mild, but don’t fret a tiny bit because the snow that is out there isn’t going anywhere and there are more resorts scheduled to come on line for the season in the very near future. All of the resorts have done an awesome job of getting the slopes ready for you so don’t let them down and go and make an early turn or two before the holiday season gets too busy for you.
That’s it for this column, more to come as the season continues, just remember whether it be cold or whether it be hot, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather will be. Think about it! See you on the slopes.
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Joe Stevens, a member of the southeast ski industry since 1990 is a regular columnist for skisoutheast.com and serves as the Communications Director for the West Virginia Ski Areas Association.