Five days are too few…and 26 days may be stretching it, but that is the talk at ONE ski area. Read on and find out which resort is making that kind of "noise".
With the mild temps of late and some prospects for a bit of rain and only light wintry mix being mentioned in the long range forecasts – our skiMail INBOX has been flooded with emails asking varied questions – ALL related to when our Southeast and Mid Atlantic ski resorts will be closing for the 2008-2009 season. We spent all day on the phone Tuesday speaking to varied contacts at the ski resorts and we’ve included that information in today’s post.
The long and shot of it is that for a few ski resorts – there are only five days of skiing or snowboarding left in the season. Those closing up this Sunday are Wolf Ridge Resort in North Carolina, Ober Gatlinburg in Tennessee, and Bryce Resort & The Homestead Resort in Virginia.
Most of the resorts are looking at March 29th as a closing date, but there are those that are backing off of that date and hesitantly stating March 22nd as a potential closing date. Ski Beech in North Carolina is looking to close March 22nd, but they COULD back up and close up this Sunday, March 15th – depending on skier traffic and the weather prospects into next week. Massanutten Resort in Virginia has announced March 22nd as their last day of the 2008-2009 season. Wintergreen is also closing March 22nd.
In West Virginia – Canaan Valley will cease ski and snowboarding ops on Sunday, March 22nd and Winterplace Resort seems to be leaning towards March 22nd as their closing date as well. (Winterplace may extend their season for one more week until March 29th, but that looks somewhat less likely to happen.)
Resorts most likely to make it through until Sunday, March 29th are Wisp Resort in Maryland (more about them in a moment), Appalachian Ski Mountain, Cataloochee Ski Area and Sugar Mountain in North Carolina, and Snowshoe Mountain and Timberline Resort in West Virginia. All of those ski areas are saying that they will operate until March 29th.
Timberline Resort in West Virginia has announced that they WILL ski until April 5th, but that could change depending on the weather. Wisp Resort in Maryland has announced March 29th as a tentative closing date for skiing and snowboarding, but Bob Yaste hinted that they’ve been talking about skiing for a "couple of weekends" into April. A "couple of weekends" would mean that they MIGHT go until April 11th! We have to say that the weather doesn’t look supportive of that, but we’ll see. Wisp IS planning to make snow perhaps as early as tonight as is Snowshoe Mountain and Appalachian Ski Mountain. Sugar Mountain, which plans to stay open until March 29th, has stated within their management team that they will not be making anymore snow the rest of the way. They certainly seem to have enough snow to ski and ride for 19 more days without it…but things could get "dicey" towards the last few days.
Of course that is the case for several of the region’s ski areas as many are looking pretty "spring-like" right now on March 11th. Typically this time of year we see some wild weather and temperature swings that can make for some substantial snowfalls, and even though there is some mention of snow/mix in the forecast for Thursday and into Saturday morning, there doesn’t seem to be anything "substantial" in the way of accumulation to this system. Additionally there is some "under-developed" snow (rain) in the forecast and that won’t do any favors for the ski area marketing strategies which are trying to promote as many skier visits from the last vestiges of diehard and borderline ski and snowboarding enthusiasts.
It is a little early for us to hear the level of commentary that we are already hearing from normal diehard skiers and riders who are emailing us that they’ve had a great season, got in a lot of trips and will probably get one more trip in and call it quits until next year. I’m sure the early start to a great season has a lot to do with that – as well as the fast, thaw and near, early summer-like weather we’re experiencing right now.
One MAJOR STORM and dump of snow could make those sentiments to a 180° turn, but according to our weather guru buddies, there’s nothing looking like that in the forecast. At least not right now. So our suggestion would be to hit the good snow right now, hit it where the forecast is a bit more snowier for this weekend, hit it after the snowmaking ops of the next few nights…and then let’s have a look at what things look like next week.
To answer all of the inquiries as to resort closing dates, we have compiled the data below. Check the SLOPE REPORT page for more details, but here’s that information:
MARYLAND SKI RESORT REPORT:
Wisp Resort is actually reporting a pretty thin base of 6-38" of snow right now and 23 trails open. However, I spoke with Bob Yaste, Wisp’s vice president of planning and development, and he said that they were bringing in their snowmaking crew Wednesday evening and hoped to make snow if the temps allow. He also said that they would make snow Thursday and Friday nights as well, and that they are actually making some noise about skiing right through the "first couple of weekends in April". He hesitantly mentioned March 29th as a tentative closing date for ski and snowboarding ops, but quickly added, "We have a lot of snow and some major whales on the mountain. We’ll look a lot better once we plow under and turn some of the snow and push it around, etc. We’re thinking of skiing and snowboarding a weekend or two into April."
Right now MainStreet looks good; Squirrel Cage looks nice, but they do have a lot of thin coverage areas on some trails. However with 2-3 days of snowmaking temps coming up AND Wisp’s plans to make snow…they should look pretty good this weekend.
WEST VIRGINIA SKI RESORT REPORT:
Snowshoe Mountain is skiing and snowboarding through March 29th and they will close out the season with their "Last Hurrah Weekend" of fun. The region’s largest ski resort is in pretty good shape with some good coverage on a lot of their 56 trails that are open. They are self-reporting "Spring conditions with variable conditions and some thin spots" and that is an accurate assessment as there are a number of trails with bare areas. All in all though the conditions are pretty decent. They ARE planning on making snow perhaps as early as tonight and with some snowmaking ops AND some natural snow, they could have a pretty nice product for this weekend.
Laura Parquette posts, "This weekend we celebrate Spring Break, with great live performances in the Connection Nightclub and Happy Hour specials across the mountain. Also this weekend, you can take advantage of Value Seaosn and join us starting at just $149 per person for two nights lodging nad two days of lift tickets. That offer is just too good to pass up, so get in your car and get up here! But first, call 877-441-4FUN to make your reservations. Think Snow!"
If you’re thinking about heading up for their Last Hurrah Weekend, March 28th and 29th, here are those details:
Celebrate the end of the winter season with our annual Last Hurrah Weekend with the 7th Annual Sink or Skim Pond Skimming Contest. DJ Judd will bring in spring with your favorite beach tunes and on-slope games.
Saturday, March 28th, 2009
10am- 2pm – Bring in the Spring- Last Hurrah Event
10:30am – 1:00pm: Registration on Shaver’s Centre Deck
2:00pm: Beachwear contest – no thongs or speedos allowed.
2:30pm: Pond Skim Competition (Open to 30 competitors)
3:45pm: Tutti Fruitti competition
Award for the following categories
-King and Queen of the Pond- $100 Gift card, medal and season pass for 2009/2010 ski season
-Best costume – $25, medal and lift ticket for next season
-Sorriest Skimmer- $25, medal, ski lesson for next year
Canaan Valley is planning to ski and ride until March 22nd and then close down their ski and snowboarding ops for the season. They have not made snow in quite a while with all of the natural snow that they received in January and February. They are reporting 19 trails open today and wet, spring conditions with some light rain. With a 6-24" base you can expect a lot of thin coverage and some bare spots.
Timberline Resort looks like they are poised to go until April 5th. We KNEW somebody would do it! They have their live webcam turned off which not a good sign, but they posted, "Timberline’s NEW schedule begins March 23rd when the slopes will be closed Monday, 23rd – Thursday 27th to reopen on the 27th. Closed again on the 29th to reopen for the last ski weekend, April 3, 2009! We have plenty of snow, come join us for the remaining weeks of East Coast Ski season!!!"
Winterplace Resort is the only ski area in West Virginia or Virginia that is 100% open. They offer pretty good snow right now with minimal thin coverage areas and bare spots. They have tentatively set March 29th as their last day of skiing and snowboarding for the season, but there is a good chance that they may back that up and cease snow operating on March 22nd.
VIRGINIA SKI RESORT REPORT:
Wintergreen Resort is aiming at March 22nd as their last day of skiing and snowboarding for the season. They dropped another trail today and are offering 18 slopes and trails. Tubing should reopen Friday according to Anne Marie and she posted this note, "Our final Slide and Splash Bash the weekend of March 21st, will include the last skiing and riding, Terrain Park features the length of Dobie, great music, contests, prizes and the very popular Pond Skim Contest! Come up for the fun!"
Massanutten Resort is done with snowmaking for the season. According to Lydia they are planning to day ski during the week, run both sessions (night skiing as well) this weekend and then do the same schedule next week and close down their snow ops on March 22nd. They dropped one slope from their open terrain and now offer 13 of 14 trails and 5 lanes of tubing.
Bryce Resort has dropped a few slopes from their offered terrain and are now skiing on 5 of 8 trails. That have not made snow in about a month and they are looking a little "worn" via the live cams. Regardless, they have good snow right now and will close for the ski and snowboarding season this Sunday, March 15th. It’s been a very nice season for Bryce Resort and their fans.
The Homestead has announced that they will close for skiing and snowboarding ops this Sunday, March 15th. John Carriveau wrote me yesterday to share that they were down to 2 slopes open and an 18" average base with bare spots.
NORTH CAROLINA RESORT REPORT:
Five to Nineteen Days Left in the North Carolina Ski Season!
I was traveling to Asheville on Monday with an employee of one of the Western North Carolina ski areas and she was asking what we’d heard about closing dates from around the region. During our conversation she stated that she heard that this or that ski area would be open one week longer than the other, etc. I am withholding names and resorts simply because even though most ski areas ARE on the friendliest of terms, they ARE competitors and even though most ski area managers talk the talk of being supportive of one another – there is a level of competitiveness that spices up most conversations that I’ve had with many of the region’s management.
For the record – all of the brotherhood of ski areas of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic ARE supportive of each other and they recognize that for one to survive they – in some way – need the "draw" of the region as a whole to be truly productive in selling the region as a viable option for your ski and snowboarding dollars. However, trust me when I say – there are definate competitive juices flowing through the veins of each of the resort’s top brass, marketing departments, etc. Make no mistake about that.
Back to the point of this post – when speaking with one resort staffer or another – all sorts of speculations are presented as to why this or that resort might stay open until May 15th. (Of course, that was an exagerration for those of you who will subsequently email me wondering where you might be able to ski in May – in the Southeast.) In the past, there have always been a handful of resorts that seem to want the honor of saying they were the last to close. Some want the honor of being able to say that they were the first to open AND the last to close.
There’s some marketing value to selling your potential season ticket holders on the fact that your resort provides the longest season (most ski days) compared to some that open in mid December and close up at the first signs of Spring in mid March. Math plays a part when people are deciding where to spend their season pass monies, particularly in areas that are home to more than one ski area as is the High Country of Western North Carolina.
Regardless, Cataloochee scored the marketing coup of being the first ski area to open in the region this year when they opened on October 28th, 2008 at 1pm. As per conversations with Cat, it appears that they at least have a tentative closing date of March 29th in mind to cease ski and snowboarding ops for the season. That would make for a season that spanned 152 days. If memory serves me correctly I think there was a day or two in there that Cataloochee didn’t operate except on the first couple of weekends after the initial opening, but I could be wrong and I wasn’t able to confirm that with Chris Bates or Tammy Brown. Regardless…that fact is
yet another example that the improvements in snowmaking technologies are allowing for longer ski seasons.
Ski Beech made snow earlier than ever this year – on October 27th, but that was for testing purposes only. They opened November 22nd for the season and have skied straight through with only a blip in the radar of sub par conditions early on. They’ve fought the fight much better than in previous years and if they can make it to their tentative date of March 22nd, they will have skied for 121 consecutive days. That is a huge increase from the 87 days that they did last season! (Season pass holders take note!) Ryan Costin of Ski Beech stated, "We’ve got our fan guns and some equipment spread around the mountain so that if we get a window of opportunity to make snow Thursday and Friday we will do so."
Beech HAS moved up a Big Air event that was previously planned for the March 21-22 weekend to THIS WEEKEND but he said that was more to do with being able to build bigger and better setups for the competitors. He added that they have large "whales" of snow to be able to move around when and if needed. They are planning on skiing and riding until March 22nd and they have some closing weekend activities and bands scheduled, so that is the plan – weather permitting. There is an outside chance that they could decide to close after Sunday’s (March 15th) sessions. The deciding factor? Pure and simply economics. They agressively went after skiers with a $20 lift ticket that is good for a full day, and $10 half day and night tickets. By the way, that price is good for this weekend as well! Costin stated, "We’re looking at the numbers and they’ve been okay this week, but we’re looking at when the Lees McRae and App students get back to see if the numbers improve a little and if so, we’ll ski until March 22nd."
So if you’re into riding the snow at Ski Beech – get on up there and make them stay open longer. Unquestionably they will look at those numbers, and have a hard glance at the weather forecast for the week ahead and make the call probably between now and Saturday evening about staying open for another week. So the plan is to go til March 22nd…but that could change.
Sugar Mountain began making snow on Saturday, November 15th at 3pm and then opened at 9am on November 17th. They never make an announcement as to a closing date this far out as Gunther and crew are first and foremost skiers themselves. They would love to provide a good product, attract enough visitors to make it financially viable and ski until May. However, it isn’t likely that there would be enough skier interest (no matter the quality of snow) to keep them open longer than March 29th. If they DO make it through March 29th, that would surpass their latest ski date by one day – matching the March 28th closing date during the 2004-2005, 2000- 2001, 1998-1999 and 1997-1998 seasons. The most consecutive days that Sugar has ever skied in one season was 140 days and that was LAST season (although some would argue that they could’ve/should’ve been closed a day or two in the period). Regardless, Sugar knows how to manage and maintain snow base with the best of them.
As we reported on Monday, right this second, Sugar Mountain is pound for pound in the best shape as far as providing a quality snow product than ANY of the other 16 ski areas in the Southeast and Mid Atlantic. Appalachian certainly has more and better snow but when you compare Sugar’s 115 acres to App’s 25 acres….well – enough said.
Sugar (with 115 acres of terrain) has done an impressive job year in and year out for offering the Southeast and Mid Atlantic’s third largest ski area (behind Snowshoe’s 244 acres and Wisp Resort’s 132 acres). They also provide the second highest vertical at 1200′ compared to Snowshoe’s 1500′ and still they are able to keep some surface conditions that are right now comparable to Appalachian’s and perhaps no other ski area in the region (other than App and Cataloochee) has as much or better snow. There are some Sugar-haters out there that will think we’ve lost our mind, but facts are facts…and the facts right now support Gunther Jockl’s team as having the second best conditions across the board in the Southeast and Mid Atlantic region. The word we’re getting is that Sugar WILL NOT make anymore snow for the rest of this season. They are in fine shape to make it through March 22nd or March 29th – weather permitting.
Appalachian Ski Mountain easily wins the top honors as having the best snow in the region since Sugar does have a few thin areas despite their 25-75" reported base. However that base number just won’t stand up to App’s 71-100" reported base! A 71" MINIMUM base doesn’t allow room for a thin coverage area now does it? Therefore the nod for the best snow in the region would HAVE to certainly go to Appalachian. It is no coincidence that their longest season ever on record was also set last season during the 2007-2008 campaign when they skied for 130 consecutive days. If they are able to deliver on their goal of 142 days for the 2009-2010 season – that would be a whopper of a jump in ski days. Frankly App HAS the snow to make it that far THIS SEASON, however by promoting the longer season a year in advance, you can bet the message will have time to get out amongst App fans and it will make it a financially sound move for the Moretz family. There’s no question that Brad Moretz has made hard notes of the fact that their improvements within their snowmaking plant over the last two seasons have made it possible to ski as long as they can put skiers on the slopes. Hence the experiment for next year. App has made the announcement earlier that they will make snow right up til the last couple of days of this season to make for the best snow in the region until the very end. App has announced a closing date of March 29th and that will coincide with their annual Meltdown Games.
As mentioned, App has ALREADY announced back in January that they WILL SKI THROUGH APRIL 11th of 2010, making for a season that will last for 142 days for the 2009-2010 ski season! "We recognize that Easter is an important family holiday and want to accommodate vacationing families throughout the Southeast region, offered General Manager, Brad Moretz. “We believe this will be the longest scheduled ski and snowboard season in the 48 year history of North Carolina skiing.“
Wolf Ridge Resort has already announced that they are CLOSED this week due to the weather and they PLAN on reopening this Saturday and Sunday. However Sunday, March 15th will be the final day of the season. Wolf opened on Friday, December 12th this season and when they close Sunday that will make for a season that spanned 94 days – although not consecutively. Additionally, Wolf was not able to open much of their terrain this season due to some real estate issues over there. Wolf fans are hoping those get resolved and more terrain is able to open for next season.
So for North Carolina ski area fans, you have from 5-19 more days to ski and ride your favorite hill – depending on the ski area. So as we have stated for 13 seasons now – if you want your personal favorite to stay open – it’s simple – GO SKI IT. If there are enough of you to make the math work…they will stay open.
TENNESSEE SKI AREA REPORT:
Ober Gatlinburg is skiing and snowboarding for their last week of the season. They will close ski ops this Sunday. They are offering 6 trails of 8 right now and decent coverage.
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