“Heaven Is a Place on Earth” is a song recorded by Belinda Carlisle, the lead singer of The Go-Go’s back in the 80s and that song sums up what it’s like to live in the mountains. No matter WHICH mountain that YOU call your favorite, there’s really no place like it for each of us who are blessed to visit or (even more so) to live and do business in the mountains.
For ME – I chose the High Country of Western North Carolina as my particular “home base” and it’s close enough for me to be able to routinely visit and play at the mountains from Wisp Resort in Maryland to Snowshoe Mountain in Pocahontas County, West Virginia to Beech Mountain Resort in Beech Mountain, North Carolina and most points in between.
All of our Southeast and mid-Atlantic ski areas are also close enough to YOU, who are reading this “mountain blog” to visit as well.
THE WEATHER AHEAD…
If, like the rest of us, you’ve been “waiting on winter to hit” then this next week is probably going to be VERY WELCOME for you. Some of the COLDEST AIR of this winter is in the forecast for the week ahead. I glanced at the forecast details for Davis, West Virginia (home to Canaan Valley and Timberline resorts) and by Sunday night things drop to 20° and then it will be in the single digits, teens and low 20s from then and into next weekend. Some light snow is forecasted as well.
(The weather graphic above shows the forecast for Beech Mountain for the week ahead. Cold enough for you?)
THOSE kind of conditions will open more terrain. NEXT WEEKEND’S forecast is for a little snow and near perfect temperatures of highs in the low 30s and lows in the low to mid 20s. So PLAN YOUR TRIP and MAKE RESERVATIONS to be at YOUR FAVORITE ski area NOW!
I’ll get back to more news of the Southeast’s and mid-Atlantic in a bit, but the super-stoked-snow-purist in me HAS to share some comments about my just-finished ski trip to Vail.
I’D BE AN IDIOT NOT TO SHARE…
During this past week I have been reporting on the news of my home resorts and I’ve “held back” on reporting on the conditions in Colorado. I did so partially because this website is about “all things Southeast and mid-Atlantic and partially because I didn’t want to “rub it in” about how incredible the snow and weather is out west.
However, the snow-lover and purist in me simply HAS to share with YOU, my fellow snow lovers and ski & snowboarding enthusiasts, just how incredible my trip was.
To sum it up in and nut shell, I skied more than 60 miles of terrain, dropped more than 50K of vertical and burned more than 6700 calories in skiing varying conditions from groomed to groomed slopes that had perhaps 3-4″ of new snow to un-groomed terrain through bowls and glades that were more than FOUR FEET DEEP in powder and packed powder.
I downloaded the TRACE SNOW APP and although I’m KIND OF a fan, that APP has a LOT of work to do to make it worth a flip. It lost two full days of data. After skiing all day and tracking my path, etc…and after “SENDING” the data at the end of the day, it LOST that content TWICE. Others in our group did the same – with the same result – and some skied the same terrain and got differing results…which was a bit of a let-down.
However the APP is cool to be able to look back on each of the slopes you rode, etc.
Vail Resort’s EPIC MIX APP (pictured to the left) is FAR MORE reliable and accurate, but it doesn’t provide you with as much data as the TRACE SNOW APP. However, EPIC MIX does provide you with ski conditions and a guide for where to ride, etc. The TRACE SNOW APP is cool because you can see your TOP SPEED, SUSTAINED SPEED, VERTICAL as well as your time on the slopes compared to time on the lifts.
I WISH there was a way to combine the best of TRACE SNOW with the best of (and the reliability of) EPIC MIX. I also wish that there was some way that our resorts of the Southeast and mid-Atlantic could deliver the functionality and delivery of those kinds of products. I spent a bit of time trying to think of how SKISOUTHEAST.COM could deliver that, and we’ll probably try to do some kind of scaled version of that kind of content…but it would take the participation and investment of the ski areas of our region to do it.
If you haven’t skied out west, with the EPIC PASS you never have to search for or reach for your ski pass when you’re being scanned to get on a lift. The sensors that the lift ops have there can scan your pass anywhere you have it (even under your coat) and instantly tell you your name and have you on your way to the chair. That VASTLY speeds up lift lines which are nearly non-existent anyway.
The great thing about the Epic Pass is that it includes RF technology that tracks your every move on the mountain. You can instantly see every lift you’ve been on and every slope you skied. The Epic Pass also provides you a GUIDE and allows you to ski Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge or Keystone in Colorado, Canyons in Park City, Utah, or Heavenly, Northstar or Kirkwood in Lake Tahoe.
I ALWAYS LOVE COMING HOME…BUT…
I’ll admit that I could have spent a lot more days in Vail and been a VERY HAPPY man. I always like coming home after vacations and to be honest that old Shakespeare saying of “Can one desire too much of a good thing?” came to mind on the flight home. A variation of that saying is, “Too much of a good thing can make you sick”, but honestly I think maybe that applies to things OTHER THAN SNOW!
I’ve been blessed to take extended ski vacations more than I deserve over the last couple of decades and towards the end of those getaways I’m usually “ready” to return home.
(Carrigan celebrating the views near Blue Sky Basin)
Not THIS TIME. This time I could have hung out in Colorado a few more days and although Colorado itself is awesome – I think that the SNOW that I and my group experienced this past week made it SPECIAL and if you could have taken that snow and moved it to North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee or Maryland – it would have been equally as special.
I spoke with numerous long-time residents this past week who told me that they always get great snow there every season, but that these past couple of weeks have been pretty EPIC even for the place that markets themselves as, “Like nothing on earth(TM)“
As Kenny shared my text yesterday, Vail had over 30″ of powder the couple of days prior to and then during my trip and those already famous back bowls became even more special.
Vail’s Back Bowls defy explanation. Until seen in person, it’s impossible to explain just how MASSIVE they truly are. At 3,017 acres, the bowls are just slightly smaller than ALL of Keystone Ski Resort, and more than three times as big as Killington in Vermont. When the Vail marketing peeps came up with the resort’s slogan, they were probably thinking of those back bowls.
My first day on the mountain was Saturday the 27th of December after another 6″ of new snow had fallen on top of the 22″ or so that had fallen the couple of days before. That was an awesome day of skiing. We got in around 10 miles of skiing and 12,000 feet of vertical on that first day and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
…that is until Monday, the 29th after 10-12″ MORE snow had fallen and we finally “found” those “back bowls”. Oh, we had already skied around there but on that day we did 15-17 miles and over 20K vertical playing in the un-groomed stuff in the trees and off the sides of those bowls in snow that was so deep that it took everything you have physically to get yourself UP after you’ve fallen. Like someone famous said, “If you don’t fall at least ten times, then you’re probably not skiing hard enough.”
While I didn’t fall but about 3-4 times that day, I WAS skiing hard enough that I wasn’t entirely POSITIVE that my heart or my body could take it. The elevations up top are over 11,500 feet and they DO affect you. While I’m used to 4-5K in elevation, many in our groups were not and all of us felt the effects of less oxygen in the air. My youngest daughter (15) had some pretty harsh moments when we hung out too long at the top.
BACK TO THE 29th…
My brother-in-law, my two 20-something year old nephews, and I worked ourselves to the Back Bowls early on the the morning of December 29th and we skied down the un-groomed glades and bowls as long as my body could stand it. Skiing powder (deep snow not yet skied on) THAT DEEP is the highlight in the life of a skier or snowboarder and the deeper the better. It can surprise even an experienced skier or rider.
That experience is exhilarating and nothing short of EPIC. Once experienced it will continue to draw you back again and again.
Blue Sky Basin….
I’m certain that I will enjoy ski vacations and trips to any and every ski resort that I am blessed to visit in the future; but I am ALSO convinced that it’s quite possible that I will not see THOSE kinds of conditions again in my lifetime. THAT snow on THOSE SLOPES…man it was awesome.
Even though most of the runs out back are designated as single or double-black diamonds, there’s plenty of runs within the reach of strong intermediates. This is especially true given the grooming effort Vail puts forth as it’s not uncommon to see a fleet of 20+ groomers working together in the Back Bowls, laying down a lane of corduroy the width of a five-lane highway. Before you purists cry foul, remember that each bowl is roughly the size of most Eastern U.S. ski resorts!
The great thing about the grooming out back is that it allows the whole family to ski and ride together. The more adventurous can charge down the un-groomed stuff while the tired or inexperienced skiers and snowboarders can ride the groomed and less steep slopes. It’s an awesome thing for snow purists who don’t believe in grooming AND for those who prefer more corduroy with their snow.
For my entire ski getaway I never saw temps higher than 15° and numerous mornings were below 5°. On Thursday it was forecasted to reach 25° but that day’s high was 11°. On the trek from Vail to the airport in Denver on Friday morning I witnessed MINUS 9° in Copper and then 50° at Charlotte Douglas International Airport just a few hours later.
A FUNNY SHARE…
During our seven days in Colorado, I was fortunate to be able to visit Edwards, Colorado for an amazing sleigh ride and bonfire (in heavy falling snow) and a dinner in a 110 year old cabin. The dinner and cabin was s-w-e-e-t. If you have an opportunity to visit Vail soon, check out Bearcat Stables.
I also hung out in Frisco, Colorado and drove around Copper and Breck. The Frisco trip was on New Year’s Eve and we visited a very cool brewery called “Backcountry Brewery” on Main Street.
The town of Frisco is worth a visit on it’s own and the brewery was cool as well. The beer there is award winning and the food is darn great.
As I was leaving I spotted some pretty cool coasters that I thought would look good in the bar at my boat, so I told the young lady behind the counter that I wanted four of them. She said, “They’re $7 each so that will be $21.”
I corrected her and said, “Sweetie that would be $28.” She replied, “Oh gosh, I haven’t been in school for a while.”
What makes it funny is that the kid was MAYBE 20 years old AND I guess the additive that COULD be applicable here is that everywhere you go in Colorado, you see POT…or at least the influence of pot in graphics on t-shirts or perhaps within the diminishing brain cells of the people who work there 😉
We were exiting the Vail Village parking garage one evening and at the checkout booth the guy in the little cubicle was holding a guitar. I asked him how much we owed and he said, “Nothing dude. It’s f-r-e-e.” (Picture the dialect of Cheech and Chong…)
I asked him if he was going to play us a song and he quickly started singing and playing an original song that he worked in the words “Bullshit” and “Dope”. (The song AND the guy singing it was pretty good…but you could easily tell that he was under-the-influence or more than the high elevation.)
BACK TO THE HIGH COUNTRY…
Having lived and done business in “the High Country” of Banner Elk and what WE CALL the High Country…it was funny to see all of the “High Country” signs and references to that area of Colorado. I own perhaps 20 domain names and websites that I might sell to those peeps.
Now that I’m down from the mountaintops and back home I can report that I THOUGHT I was going to push Winter Storm Frona with me on my trip back towards the east, but unfortunately the moisture made it, but the needed cold temps did not. It looks wet for our Southeast and mid-Atlantic resorts for the weekend – but those ski areas into Pennsylvania and north into Vermont may get hammered with snow.
COLD AIR IS ON THE WAY and that will make things even better for all of our ski areas in the region. In the meantime, I thought I’d share which resorts had WHAT open. You can check the SNOW REPORT for all of the details.
Snowshoe Mountain – 32° – 44 of 60 trails (expecting mixed precip today)
Winterplace Resort – 37° – 24 of 27 trails
Bryce Resort – 32° – 6 of 8 trails (expecting some frozen precip today)
Appalachian – 36° – 9 of 12 trails
Massanutten – 30° – 10 of 14 trails (expecting some mixed precip)
Beech Mountain – 40° – 10 of 15 trails
Cataloochee – 45° – 11 of 17 trails
Sugar Mountain – 39° – 12 of 21 trails
Wintergreen Resort – 28° – 15 of 26 trails
Timberline Resort – 30° – 15 of 41 trails (expecting light mixed precip)
Wisp Resort – 28° – 16 of 34 trails
Wolf Ridge – 42° – 6 of 15 trails
Canaan Valley – 31° – 11 of 43 trails (expecting mixed precip)
Ober Gatlinburg – 55° – 3 of 9 trails
Omni Homestead – 38° – 2 of 9 trails
Sapphire Valley – 45° – Temporarily CLOSED…again. It’s been tough for this little ski area this season as they’ve only been open for skiing for a VERY few days. Lisa Stargel recently posted, “Feeling like Groundhog Day!!! Sorry to say, we were not able to make snow last night, due to the warm temps.. so the Ski Slopes and Tube Run are closed!!”
She also posted a few days ago that the tubing hill wasn’t pretty but it was fun…and unfortunately a bit more rain has forced them to close…once again. (Cue the Groundhog Day film…)
I REALLY LIKE WINTERGREEN’S MOUNTAIN BLOG…
They posted, “…BIG snowmaking run is headed our way with around the clock snowmaking temps starting Sunday night and lasting into next weekend. Look for additional trail openings, deeper base depths, wider trails and both terrain parks open by next weekend. The ski area is going to get A LOT bigger and better this coming week!”
I’d say that will apply to ALL of the ski areas in the coming week. If you have not made it to YOUR favorite ski mountain yet this season, the timing of this NEXT week looks pretty sweet for really NICE conditions. So make plans to ski or ride NOW.
I’ll be at Snowshoe on January 9th-11th and from what I’m seeing in terms of the forecast – I’m in for another s-w-e-e-t ski getaway.
That will “do it” for me today. Enough already, right?
Tomorrow I’m going to talk a little bit of “Resolutions”.