This Sunday morning, November 26, 2006, I was rather excited to ski at Sugar. I have been a long time fan of Sugar and Cataloochee and have been skiing there for several years. Early this morning I checked the conditions on the internet and decent snow with some bare spots was reported. But they were making snow last night (as seen on their webcam). Little did I know it would turn out FAR worse than I could imagine. The first sign of trouble was when I was driving up to the slope. There was no sign of people on the slopes and very little snow anyway. As I walked up to the ticket office, they informed me they were open and that there were people on the slopes. I asked the nice ticket lady how the conditions were on the slopes and she said something like, from the road it looks bad and I hear it is not great up there. I’ll tell you what, if you walk up there and you don’t like what you see, bring the ticket back and we’ll give you a refund.
I am a true diehard skier, I have seen some of the worse slope conditions imaginable, I have skied in 75° weather; I’ve skied on April 1st and I’ve skied on a complete ice sheets. Unfortunately, just by eyeballing the slope at 9:30 am, I knew that this day was going to be one those bad days. As I stood in line for the ski lift, I began to talk to a friendly man who worked there. I asked him about the conditions? He said that they were making snow most of last night, but by the time he had arrived that morning it had almost completely melted. He went on to say that since they were slammed over the holiday weekend the snow was already suffering. But they groomed the little they had. I would agree with him, they did some of the best grooming I have seen in a LONG while considering the lack of snow they had.
The snow conditions where spotty at best. It was difficult to navigate many spots from the top to the bottom. Grass was abundant and seriously hindered skiing even in the morning.
Some parts where even dangerous, such as the blind corner connecting Switchback and Northridge. As a mater of fact, later in the day, I witnessed 2 children collide and almost hit the tree line flying off the trail in the attempt to avoid the grass.
Also in the entrance to Upper Flying Mile, there was only about 1 ft wide patch of snow to be able to enter the run. (Between the two patches of grass, center of the picture)
By 1pm the slopes were becoming really dangerous: Rocks started cutting peoples skies (including mine), melting snow in the 65° heat became a factor leaving runs cut off by grass patches, snow was slushy at best and a “Snow Tan” was in full effect. Therefore, I decided to cut my losses and get out with minor scratches on my skies.
On a more positive note, construction/cleaning within the terrain park today were in full effect for the coming (hopefully colder) weeks ahead.
In addition, jumps were easy to spot in the slope and giving many opportunities for great air.
It was skiing–not great skiing–but skiing all the same. Sugar did their very best to keep the runs in working order for as long as they could. So no one can blame them for that. A wonderful busy skiing holiday weekend combined with the unseasonable heat leaves the best resorts in trouble. A Sugar employee said they expect the coming weekend to be colder and will be making snow, weather permitting! However, if I would say, in the coming work week, unless it gets much colder, conditions will be about the same as today.
Have a great, hopefully colder, day and be well.
Editor’s Note: Sugar DID close after Sunday’s session and will reopen as soon as snowmaking weather returns later in the week.