Cataloochee is MAKING SNOW and Plans to Open at 1pm Tuesday, October 28th!!

Good Grief…it’s Started…Already!

Last night I was thinking about the temps and the forecast for snow and thinking to myself that we’re only a week or two away from the sound of snowguns roaring and the opening of the 2008-2009 ski and snowboarding season across the Southeast amd Mid Atlantic. Like many of you, my heart was beating a little faster thinking that the dropping of the ropes were only days away. Also like many of you, I watched the forecast and paid particular attention to the forecast for this weekend and the following week through November 7th and I figured that even the most agressive ski areas (usually Sugar and Cataloochee) would hold off from any snowmaking until the NEXT cold blast of air.

So I came in this morning, prepared to do a "weather-tease" kind of a story – you know the kind that shares all of the morning temperatures from around the region AND the mention of SNOW in the forecast and then advise all of you that we’re still a week or more away from the official start to ski season.

WRONG!!!!

WATCH THE CAMERA!

That was the advice given to me by Gil Adams of Ski Beech. More on Beech in a second. But first…

Cataloochee Ski Area began making snow this morning at 7:30am and they will continue to make snow as long as temperatures allow. Cataloochee’s General Manager, Chris Bates told me, "We’re expecting to lose our snowmaking window in another hour or so, but we’ll be back at it by dark and then make snow all night and Tuesday. We’ll open up at 1pm on Tuesday and ski from 1-10pm all week and then this weekend."

Of course, being the "smart guy" that I am, I asked him if he’d had a look at the forecast for later in the week, this weekend and into next week. He replied, "Yea, we know it’s going to melt, but we’re looking at a pretty nice forecast for this week and we’ll make anywhere from a foot-and-a-half to two feet of snow through mid day Tuesday and we should have some nice conditions for this week and we’ll ski as long as it lasts." He added, "Who knows…but yes, we’re making snow!"

Well that jump started my week in an entirely different direction!

Ski Beech to "TEST" their Snowguns…MAYBE MORE…Who Knows!?!?!

After getting off the phone with Cataloochee, I looked at Sugar Mountain’s cams and webpage. No snowmaking happening over there. According to a couple of insiders, they probably won’t make snow this week. (But WHO KNOWS after this morning!)

So next I decided to call Gil Adams up at Ski Beech. Recent history would dictate that Ski Beech wouldn’t even be thinking about making snow this early, but remember that this is "a new day at Beech." After two sub par years and volumes of complaints, Ski Beech has embarked on a new direction under John Costin and I figured I’d better put in a phone call. There’s unquestionably a LOT of changes forthcoming from them and I’ll share that with you in the coming week as we post all of the "What’s New" columns for all of the ski areas; however one thing that hasn’t changed – just yet –  is Adams’ willingness to release information freely.

He repeatedly told me to "Watch that machine" through a bit of a chuckle. "The machine" he is referring to is the one visible on the live webcam that we partner with them that is running live on HighCountryWebCams.com and on SkiBeech.com.

He did quickly add, "We don’t want to wait until December to crank up the guns and find out that we have some problems, so we’re planning on doing some snowmaking before that."

Admittedly a little confused, I asked him if that meant that they would only be TESTING their snowmaking mechanism today or if they would continue to make snow. The answer I received still has me wondering as Gil shared only that they were going to be more agressive this season and to just "Watch that machine…"

Okay, we’re watching. Nothing just yet (at 9:34am Monday morning).

SNOWSHOE MOUNTAIN IS MAKING SNOW!

We’re sharing Communications Guru, Laura Parquette’s full press release within the middle "Business Spotlight" column today, however here’s the gist of it.

Snowshoe, W.V.— With Snowshoe Mountain’s expert snowmakers planning a 9am Monday start for the season’s snowmaking efforts, they were greeted by a sign from Mother Nature that it is indeed time for the white stuff to fly. The first natural flakes of the season began falling very early Monday morning, with consistent flurries leaving the edges of parking lots and many trees and bushes covered.

With temperatures expected to drop into the teens overnight this week, snowmaking should continue throughout the week, giving Snowshoe an important head start on the resort’s 35th season. More natural snow is also in the forecast for the Pocahontas County resort, with some meteorologists suggesting measurable totals on the ground by Wednesday morning.

Snowshoe is the largest winter destination in the Southeast and the Mid-Atlantic, and this year the resort was the first in the region to fire up the snowmaking equipment. With a planned Opening Day of November 26, a cold November could mean some of the best early season conditions in recent memory. Last season Snowshoe began making snow on November 2 with Opening Day on November 21.

Here’s THE REST OF THE STORY… (Paul Harvey allowed me to borrow that lead-in!)

I had my story already written this morning, so I’ll share the portions that are still valid with you.

We’re already getting a bunch of emails asking about that very special, four-letter-word in our forecast for Monday night and Tuesday. Yes, SNOW is in the forecast. A lot of people are also asking us as to when the first ski areas will crank up the snowguns. Let’s address the snowmaking ops part of the questions first. I have to admit that I am as excited as I have ever been about an approaching ski and snowboarding season. I was playing golf with Len Bauer at Elk River Country Club last week. Len is Sugar Mountain Ski Resort’s Ski and Snowboard School Director and has served in that position for 17 years. (He’s taught at Sugar for 23 years.) Anyway, Len and I talked as much about the upcoming season as we did about our mutually horrible golf game. He was going on and on about the heavy acorn crop, fogs in August, etc, etc. He also advised me that Sugar’s President, Gunther Jochl had called in his snowmaking crew to start making snow as soon as possible.

All of that talk got my juices flowing and I got caught up in looking at the forecast and thinking to myself that you might see some snowmaking machines running as early as Monday night (boy was I wrong!?!?)

There’s an "angry" bunch of snow clouds out this morning! The calendar says that its October 27th, but the thermometer is looking a lot more like mid January. Highs today are expected to be right about what they are at 8am this morning. We’re seeing the following temps right now:

39° and light snow at Wisp Resort in Maryland. They are expecting as much as maybe an inch or so through Tuesday. (Looks more like 1-2" to us.)

28° and flurries are flying at Snowshoe in West Virginia! They are expecting 2-3" of snow through Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

33° at Wintergreen in Virginia. They are expecting perhaps an inch of snow with cold temps through Thursday.

27° at Beech Mountain, 31° at Sugar and 38° in Focoe (Western North Carolina) and they are expecting a nice dusting to maybe an inch of snow through Tuesday.

We’ll have our new team making contact with all of the ski resorts this week and we’ll share that information with you as we get it. If you get a chance to make it over to Cataloochee for the FIRST day of the 2008-2009 ski season, be sure to send us a trail report and some photos and video!

Send your photos, videos and comments to: [email protected]