I was listening to one of the local radio stations this morning and John Huffman from up at Fred’s General Mercantile was LIVE on the air from atop Beech Mountain and he was sharing the fact that they were showing 32° this morning at 7:30am. I was looking at the external temperature gauge in my truck and seeing 44°. The guy at the radio station said, "Um, John, we have a conflict here because I’m looking at Ski Beech’s weather station and it says that it is 44°. John handled the statement well, but I was thinking to myself that he HAD to be sharing some "Fred’s Marketing spiel". I’ve known John for about 20 years and he sells Beech Mountain as good or better than most and he was going on and on about how great the coming weekend was looking and that local vacation rental companies were about 80% and so on.
But I was doubting his credibility on the weather, etc.
HOWEVER — He was right! It IS 32° atop Beech Mountain at Fred’s! However, just 200 yards up the slopes at Ski Beech it is 44.8° at 7:30am! We’re seeing some crazy temperature variances within a short distance from each other this morning, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a 12° difference within the distance of a couple of football fields or within the length of a ski slope!
9:40am Update! The weather station atop Ski Beech was not operating correctly! It was 32° there as well, so while there were some huge temperature variances from the top down to Banner Elk…there were NOT the huge differences right on the mountain! Whew!
The winds were crazy (as forecasted) last night and they are forecasted to remain that way today with sustained winds at 20-30 mph and gusts up to 60 mph today. It should be sunny today and Friday. It is also cooler today than it has been, but the temperatures are still above the needed snowmaking temps. It doesn’t look like we’re going to get snowmaking temperatures around the North Carolina Mountains for yet another couple of days. It will (AGAIN) be borderline tonight, but there’s a strong chance that we won’t see snowmaking temperatures until Saturday night AND THOSE will be borderline-close at 30°.
WHEN CAN WE COUNT ON COLD ENOUGH TEMPS TO MAKE SNOW?
Sunday night the temperatures are forecasted to drop to 25° with some natural snow in the mix as well! Monday looks terrific with highs in the mid 30s and lows in the 20° range (more snowmaking!). There’s some more wintry weather forecasted for the middle of next week with continuing colder temperatures. According to all of our meteorological friends, after the mid-week cold and a little snow…things will get snowier and even colder for next Thursday into Friday of next week.
So we’re going to have to deal with what we have in the way of snow and conditions right now for another couple of days.
<Appalachian Ski Mountain looks in GREAT SHAPE!
They are perfectly groomed this morning and 100% open with near perfect conditions! Look for some soft snow but simply great conditions despite the weather of late.
If you have a trip planned to App for this President’s Day weekend you are in for a treat.
Cataloochee at 8am this morning>
Cataloochee Ski Area looks VERY NICE as well this morning! They have all 14 trails open and they will be in very nice shape going into the Holiday weekend.
Those traveling to Maggie Valley and Cataloochee will be pleasantly surprised as to how nice things are there.
They bottomed out at 36° this morning and they are hoping to make snow Thursday night but it will be close. They are in very nice shape though.
<Sugar looks sweet as usual
Sugar Mountain Ski Resort is the largest ski area in the state with 115 acres of skiable terrain (20 acres more than the closest competitor). Despite the mild weather of late they are simply in VERY, VERY NICE shape with no bare spots and only a spot or two of thin coverage. They simply look m-a-r-v-e-l-o-u-s this morning. They are 100% open with all 20 trails and one look at the LIVE cam will tell you that you want to go hit this mountain. Travelers will be well pleased with conditions for this weekend. Tubing’s open, skating is open. They look really, really nice. Expect soft snow, loose gran – but very nice coverage.
Wolf’s groomers were pushing a lot of snow around this morning!>
Wolf Ridge Resort is still holding on with 10 trails and calling it "wet granular" conditions. We watched the snow groomers pushing A LOT of soft snow around this morning and Wolf looks fine for this weekend. They have some thinning areas, but there’s PLENTY of snow to push around and they will have a nice product for the weekend. The sides are really creeping in along the trails, but there’s plenty of good terrain and no bare areas. They are reporting "excellent conditions" but it’s not excellent. It is GOOD THOUGH!
So four of the "big five" ski areas look really quite nice.
What about Ski Beech?
Look, this is where we don’t like our job here. However our job is to report what the conditions are really like. Yesterday, we received a few emails from a couple of people who were heading up for this weekend and probably the craziest email came from Jeff S of Atlanta, who wrote, "I see from this morning’s news that you posted some good pictures of some of the ski slopes but when you put pictures up for Beech Mountain you used a bad one. Why would you do that? Beech is probably in as good a shape as Sugar. Sign me ‘disappointed in your reporting’."
We actually received three emails within the last 24 hours that sort of related to that one. I want to quickly add though that we are in pretty constant contact with the guys up at Ski Beech this season and to their credit, THEY are dealing with what they have right now – the best that they can – but THEY are not complaining about our reporting. Here’s is what we posted on Wednesday for Ski Beech:
"Beech is hurting a bit. This AM shot of where Upper and Lower Shawneehaw merge looks pretty worn and in need of some snow making temps. Unfortunately Ski Beech is looking the worst of the bunch right now. While Appalachian, Cataloochee, Sugar and Wolf Ridge all get "8’s to 10’s" on our Base Scale right now, we’re grading Beech’s out to a "7". You can check the SLOPE REPORT page for how we grade all surfaces, but a "7" is good terrain, good coverage, but definately some thin coverage areas and more than a few bare spots. We watched live as Beech was grooming Upper Shawneehaw this morning and they will no doubt make things better for the first half day or so. Beech still looks pretty good, but they need the snowmaking temps to return a bit moreso than the others."
We added, "If you’re headed to Ski Beech, keep your plans in tact. There’s plenty of skiable terrain. Most of Upper and Lower Shawneehaw looks fine; the base of the mountain is in good shape; Robbins Run and White Lightning look pretty good, and while there are some widespread bare areas and thinning coverage…you don’t ski those anyway. Go have fun."
In another post we have alluded that Ski Beech had problems with limited snowmaking capacity due to the loss of a third compressor or pump. They got that remedied, but at the tail end of the last cold outbreak. So they only had a couple of days to make the kind of snow they wanted. They did a great job of getting Southern Star and White Lightning open with that additional pump, but it was not enough to really carry them through this last week and change of milder temps. If they had it to do over again, they probably would have made four feet of snow on the Shawneehaw trails. However to tell you the way it is right now – had they done that people would have been griping about Beech only having five trails open.
Having said all the above we have to add a couple of comments: First, ALL we do here is report what the conditions ARE at all of the resorts. We don’t show favorites (although we have them) and we tell you guys what to expect so that YOU can make informed decisions. For the most part we don’t talk "marketing-speak". We report to our readers JUST WHAT WE’D WANT TO KNOW before we would head up to the mountains. With that in mind, we didn’t pick GOOD PHOTOS of other mountains and find the worst one we could for Ski Beech. We posted photos showing what you’ll see when you get to each. Unfortunately right now Beech isn’t looking pretty. I’m a fan of Beech and I like the direction that the "new regime" is taking. Trust me, they are making noise and headed in a good direction. They need a little good luck to go their way, but they are doing a decent job with what they have. (They had some additional bad fortune earlier this week that could set them back, but we don’t need to go there.)
Watch the LIVE CAMS and when this next cold burst of weather hits Sunday night you will see some massive clouds of snowmaking at Ski Beech. Sure, they could use some more snowmaking guns and machinery, but they will do fine with what they have right now. By Tuesday of next week Beech will look great.
<The bottom of the mountain looks fine and they were doing some grooming early.
Right now – headed into this weekend, they are not in great shape. They will get by and they DO have some decent terrain to hit. The bottom of the mountain looks pretty good. They were grooming some of the thin areas there and the bottom is in fine shape.
Here is a shot from the middle of the mountain and things still look pretty good.>
The middle of Lower Shawneehaw looks a little thin, but really pretty good and as you can see Robbins Run looks pretty good. Ditto the bottom of Southern Star and White Lightning.
<Here is a distant photo showing the mountain looking pretty darn nice and we’ve purposely not shown the "worn areas".
Now if we were into "marketing speak" we could simply post of the image here and tell you guys something like this, "Great Weekend! The entire front of the mountain is open this week! We’ve got some great weather today with plenty of sunshine. Come on up, the mountain is in great shape!"
This is what the conditions look like this AM from the bottom of Upper Shawneehaw and up>
We could also post up a ski report with no mention of thin coverage or bare spots. However, the hoards of people that visit this website every day tell us that they want the facts. The FACTS are that Ski Beech has plenty of good, skiable terrain on which to ride right now and they have 12 trails open.
However it is also a fact that they have quite a fair amount of thin coverage areas and bare spots.
<Things are pretty sketchy at the beginning of Lower Shawneehaw
Our recommendation to all coming this weekend? Come on up. You will enjoy yourself. There’s lots of good terrain to hit and you’ll have some fun on the slopes. For the few of you who want to get your ski report from other sources that are touting base depths from 30-60" and 12 trails open at Beech with no mention of thin coverage or bare spots – go for it. You’re STILL going to have to dodge a few when you get here. Just because some resources don’t mention them – doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
Go enjoy your day on the slopes today! Thankfully COLD is headed our way. The President’s Day weekend is looking pretty good and next week looks great!
Check out the conditions at all of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic Ski areas over on www.SkiSoutheast.com .
Send your comments, photos, videos and trip reports to: [email protected]