Everyone is already talking about Spring Skiing…THE SEQUEL

After posting Tuesday’s story I received a bunch of emails from readers asking things such as:

"Since the rest of February and March will be warm, should we be thinking of scheduling our trip up to Winterplace for a week or two earlier?"

"The forecast is for an early Spring. Since that’s the case when would be the last week that we should plan our trip to the mountains."

There were many others like those, but you get the drift. To answer those questions I simply redirect you guys RIGHT BACK to Tuesday’s story that seemed to prompt those very questions. There’s so much snow on the slopes of our region’s ski areas right now that those that want to could ski into April. If the forecast for an early Spring holds true then there will probably be some "real" Spring conditions this season as we get into mid March. I use the quotes around "real" because last season we didn’t really HAVE Spring skiing. Conditions were great right up to closing at several ski areas.

Here in SkiSoutheast-land we stopped reporting the maximum side of base depths because we kind of think it is impossible to have an AVERAGE base of two sets of numbers. Not to attempt to be a math wiz, but there can only be an average base of one number across the slopes. For example, if a resort says there’s from 32-52" of average base depth…then it’s an average of 42" period. A few ski areas in our area have adopted that system much to our liking. However, the reason I bring up base depths this morning is that for maximum effect I want to talk about just how much snow is out there and WHY you guys really don’t need to be fretting over "when’s the last week you can ski or ride this season".

For this morning, we’re sharing the actual AVERAGE base depths being reported at various resorts. While much has been written and reported here and within various national news media outlets about how "stretched" or exaggerated base depth reporting is…there IS a lot of snow on the slopes of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic. That said, let’s examine some averages:

Appalachian Ski Mountain – 89.5" (Their maximum reported depths are 108")
Cataloochee Ski Area – 76"
Beech Mountain – 61"
Snowshoe Mountain – 60"
Winterplace Resort – 58"
Ober Gatlinburg – 56.5"
Wintergreen Resort – 55"
Wisp Resort – 42"

As you can see for yourself, we have resorts with anywhere from 3.5 FEET to 7.5 FEET of snow as an AVERAGE base depth. There’s as much as NINE FEET of snow on some trails of the region as most ski areas have huge mounds of snow laying around here and there.

It will take more than a little stretch of mild temps to see that kind of snow melt away!

We’ll be investigating and reporting the anticipated closing dates for our ski areas, but as we posted on Tuesday I think that there will be a few that will ski and ride through April 3rd if not longer – weather permitting. So simply stay tuned to this website and we’ll keep you informed as to where and when you can ride and where the best snow is as we get closer to the end of the season.

…AND JUST BECAUSE SOME MODELS SAY IT’S GOING TO BE A MILD FINISH DOESN’T MEAN WE’RE NOT GOING TO SEE ANY SURPRISE COLD SNAPS AND SNOW!!!

Case in point. Let me post an exact quote from back in September of what the forecast would be for our region for December, January and February.

"What is being called the strongest La Nina since 1955 (see NOAA briefing)is predicted to bring wetter conditions in the northern part of the country but drier and warmer ones in southern areas."

The detailed forecast was for a cold start to December (we had that) and then a fast transition to a very warm, and "challenging" January such that ski areas of our region would be challenged to keep snow on the slopes because of consistent thaw periods.

That didn’t happen. At this point in the season we really have not had a prolonged stretch of mild weather that created the usual thin coverage or bare spots kind of scenario that we typically see every winter. Some of the resorts got open very early and that snow disappeared but once the season really began in earnest at the first of December – it has been a full bore winter all season long with consistently cold temps and MORE THAN AVERAGE SNOWFALL for most of the ski areas of the region. Beech was forecasted to see only 75" of snow on the season according to Dr. Ray of Ray’s Weather. He and others predicted 38" for Banner Elk. Most preseason prognosticators said that most of our ski areas would only see about 90% of their average seasonal snowfall totals. As of Tuesday’s snow, Beech has now seen THIRTY-SEVEN INCHES more than their average of 80" per season. That’s more than 40% MORE SNOW THAN NORMAL. Wisp has seen 36" over their average seasonal snowfall.

SO WHY SHOULD WE PUT A WHOLE LOT OF STOCK IN THE CURRENT FORECAST FOR A MILD FINISH?

As I drove in this morning I couldn’t help but shiver at the 15° temperatures. I also couldn’t help but play a little Nostradamus for what everyone will be talking about over the next week or so. Right now there are some areas around the central U.S. that are experiencing temperatures that are 30-40° BELOW AVERAGE! By all accounts this has been one of the coldest winters on record for most locations of the country. This after preseason forecasts predicted temps a degree or so above normal. Of course IF WE DO have a mild finish it will tweak up the current status of just how much below normal this season has been temp-wise, but even with an extremely mild wrap up, temps will unquestionably finish below average. The only thing we’re waiting for is to see HOW MUCH below normal. 

The talk as we get to the next week or so will be how it was 15° back on February 9th and perhaps near 60° within a week or so.

So the message I’m trying to send is – get out and enjoy the great conditions right now and enjoy today and these next few days for what they are. Things are about as good as it gets right now no matter which mountain you choose to head to. Whether or not we see a consistently mild stretch for the rest of the winter…things will be decent. We’ll update you guys along the way, but don’t expect to hear us reporting thin coverage or bare areas anytime soon.

Not with NINE FEET OF SNOW OUT THERE…

Drop me an email with your comments, questions, gripes, photos, videos…you name it! Email me at [email protected]

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Mike Doble
Mike is the Editor and founder of SkiSoutheast.com, SkiNC.com and ResortCams.com. Since September 1996 he has posted more than 13,000 posts, articles, photos and videos promoting all of the ski areas of North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.Mike is the father of four daughters, is an avid skier and enjoys golf, tennis, kayaking and hiking in the mountains. Winter snowsports and Summer boating on Watauga Lake are among his favorite pastimes.