Great Snow — and a Great Time at Sugar last night! –

Today may be the prettiest and best day of skiing of the season thus far. We may see some occasional blustery conditions, but there will be lots of blue skies, and lots of snowy photo opportunities no matter where you ski or ride today through this weekend. With these great photo ops, please email us at:

Snow totals from the Thursday snowfall range anywhere from a dusting around the eastern portions of the High Country, to 1" at Appalachian Ski Mountain, to 3" at Hawksnest, to 4" at Ski Beech…and Sugar is reporting 6" of new snow. Contrary to our normal rebuttal of Sugar’s data, we skied up there last night and the truth is Sugar probably DID get a good 6" or more of snowfall during the day yesterday through this morning. A few of us took some measurements of our own and found 4" snow depths actually on the ground…but there’s no doubt that 6" or more of snow probably fell. However, the wind blew a lot of the snow around to God only knows where…and several times yesterday it would snow for a bit, quit, the sun would pop out for a few minutes and then cloud up and snow again. During the night session at Sugar last night, it snowed a consistent downpour of snow and was still snowing when we left at about 9pm.

The Weather – Conditions will be phenomenal from a temperature and snow standpoint for this weekend with highs in the 20s Friday and 30’s on Saturday…then close to 40° on Sunday. Skies will be clear and overnight lows will be in near 11° tonight, 12° Saturday night and then in the mid 20s Sunday night. That will make for perfect snowmaking temperatures.

The GOOD, the BAD and the UGLY – First…the ugly. After a few mild days earlier in the week and some rain mixed in up through Wednesday of this week, the temps nosedived and the winds blew furiously around portions of the High Country on Thursday. That mixture of weather ingredients will make for nasty, icy conditions almost anywhere. So what I am getting ready to state is NOT a statement of how bad Hawksnest’s grooming or snowmaking is…but much more…HOW GREAT SUGAR’S IS!

Don’t faint out there in SkiNC land…but a couple of our crew decided to make a few turns yesterday evening and we knew that we’d be much better off waiting until today or this weekend with the snow and renewed snowmaking efforts. However, we wanted to ski and ride…so we loaded up and drove up to Hawksnest and made ONE run. The winds were howling and if a hawk was flying up there it was taking its life in its talons! As bad as the wind was…the conditions were worse. Only two words are needed to describe the conditions there – refrigerator ice.

Now before I offend all of you fans of Hawksnest, I LOVE Hawksnest…and we just caught them on a horrible night. With the snows that fell last night and tons of snowmaking ops…conditions will be much improved today and this weekend should be great at Hawksnest. I have a couple of our staff headed up there to ski this evening.

Now the GOOD! – After making our one ride down Hawksnest, we jumped back in the truck and had intended on driving up to Ski Beech. About half way up Hwy 105, we changed our minds and decided to pull in at Sugar Mountain. There was a fair crowd at Sugar as the 6-10pm session was just starting. We paid our $21 each and rode the lift up to the top. Conditions up top were windy…however, not nearly as windy as at Hawksnest, and even though they were assaulting the slopes with every snowgun they probably have…the ride down was as different as night and day from our experience at Hawksnest. Sure – there WAS plenty of icy areas at Sugar. However, there was also PLENTY of packed powder and frozen granular surface to ski on as well. After the first test run you could easily avoid the icy areas and the snow along the left side coming down Northridge, Switchback and onto Upper Flying Mile was great. Once you got onto Upper Flying Mile…the rest of the way down (if you stayed out of the goggle-packing snowguns) was great. Really great. Which leads me to say something that we have said numerous times in the past…that Sugar knows how to run a mountain. When we first hit the mountain, they had a couple of IMPs pulling hoses around as they were redirecting snowmaking efforts as the night session kicked in. While it would have been great not to have had to dodge the snowguns last night…the fact is Sugar managed to provide a pretty sweet surface over 85% of the mountain despite the mild-wet-to frozen conditions that confronted them from earlier in the week through Thursday. TAKE A HUGE BOW SUGAR…you deserve it.

Now the BAD. – You guys probably are going to think, "SkiNC just can’t say nice things about Sugar without trashing them"…but that is not the case. However, much has been written on the messageboard this season about Sugar’s Lift Tickets falling off and getting lost. As I purchased three tickets last night I couldn’t help but notice the comment on the slope conditions report at the ticket window that said, "Make sure that your lift ticket is fixed properly on your clothing…" and it alluded to the fact that they would not replace a lost ticket. As the three of us were leaving the locker rooms, I even told the other couple of guys who were with me, "Guys, you know Sugar has had some issues with tickets sticking this season so make sure that it’s stuck good."

Wouldn’t you know it…about 8:30pm or so as two of us were loading on the chair to go to the top, the lift attendant stopped the guy with me and after looking around for a minute…we realized that he had indeed lost his ticket! What is the odds of that happening? We knew the consequences…so he headed to the lodge to hang out for a bit while we made another couple of runs and then headed home. We had a great time at Sugar last night and again — hats off to Sugar for preparing a great surface for all of us last night…despite adverse weather.

Because Adam lost his ticket, I looked back at messageboard comments and at Sugar’s website just to see their comments again…because too many people have lost tickets this season for this NOT to be an issue. I’m wondering if the issue is with the manafacturer of the ticket…or perhaps with the wicket. We did notice that the metal used on the wicket there…seems to be more of a paper-clip and gray colored material and perhaps THAT is what is causing an inordinate number of lost passes this season at Sugar. Even Sugar is acknowledging a problem, to whatever degree, by adding this disclaimer on their website:

"A helpful hint: when purchasing your lift ticket, be sure to read the directions on the back of the ticket to ensure the ticket is fixed properly on your clothing. Do not place a new ticket over an old ticket. Use a new, unused wicket. When precipitation is falling go inside where it is dry to ensure the ticket adheres properly."

This article is NOT to claim that Sugar is the problem…but more that there MAY BE an issue with Sugar’s lift tickets this season. With that in mind…BE SURE to secure those things before heading out. Maybe take a little duct tape with you…

If any of you have had issues with lift passes at Sugar this season…drop us an email…and let us know if the ticket came loose or if the complete ticket AND wicket disappeared.

Get out and have a great time skiing or riding today and this weekend…and send us some reports and photos. We haven’t received any the last two days!

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Mike Doble
Mike is the Editor and founder of, and 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.