Man DAMN, This is Getting Tough!

All I see is pretty colors...anyone see a pattern change? Keep reading!

Every damn day my phone vibrates and in comes yet another powder alert from Colorado where they’ve gotten another round of snow. It’s seemingly every other day. This morning they are reporting yet another 4″ at Vail and 2″ and Keystone. To be honest, sure I’m jealous. However it goes much deeper than that because any snow lover would admit to being very happy for those souls out west who are getting the December of a lifetime. I was at Vail this time last Christmas to New Year and it snowed a couple of feet while we were there and that was on top of a huge December of snow for them last season. It’s an epic adventure to say the least.

Appalachian Ski Mountain is actually showing good, side-to-side coverage right now on many slopes.
Appalachian Ski Mountain is actually showing good, side-to-side coverage right now on many slopes.

This November-December pattern has just been something like “beating a guy while he’s down” in terms of how it has been for ski areas from Wisp Resort in Maryland to Sapphire Valley in southwestern North Carolina. There have only been a handful of days or nights where even the “favored” ski areas could make snow and while a few have been able to be open more days than not – it certainly hasn’t been pretty even for them. Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley and Sugar Mountain Resort in Sugar Mountain/Banner Elk have been open more days than any of the resorts in the region and like all of the rest who are open TODAY – they are fighting the fight not JUST to STAY open for the upcoming Christmas weekend and week ahead – but they are fighting to be able to deliver something resembling a fun product for their guests.

Borderline snowmaking opportunities have made it nearly impossible to create and maintain a decent “product on the hill” – and it needs to be mentioned here that SOME ski areas have just not caught a break at all and been able to do anything other than dust their mountains a time or two with manmade snow.

Sapphire Valley and Omni Homestead have yet to crank their snowguns up. Ober Gatlinburg has only had the snowguns running on the ski slopes a couple of times; Massanutten Resort and Bryce Resort have made snow a few times only to see it melt away and only Massanutten was able to open and THAT was for one day – yesterday. They have suspended ski and snow ops. Wintergreen Resort has made snow a bit more often, but they too are barely hanging on and now advising guests that may be headed their way to “have a look before going”.

After getting some around-the-clock snowmaking opportunities over this past weekend…every skier, snowboarder and ski resort executive has had their eyes on this week’s forecast of mild temps and rain. Yesterday’s forecast was meant to be a bit lighter rain than what happened for many of the mountaintop resorts.

Snowshoe Mountain this morning at 9:30am up top
Snowshoe Mountain this morning at 9:30am up top

About one-third of an inch of rain fell last night and overnight at Sugar Mountain and several of our staff came past Sugar on their way to work this morning and reported that “things looked pretty rough”.  According to NOAA’s station at Snowshoe – THEY saw one-half an inch of rain in the last 24 hours.

We’ve mentioned this a few times already in December, but as tough as things have been – it SEEMS to have been SOMEWHAT more favorable snowmaking opporunities at the higher elevations of the North Carolina mountains as Appalachian and Cataloochee Ski Area look decent right now and even Beech Mountain Resort seems to be holding on to their base a bit better than some of the ski areas further north.

Cataloochee Ski Area this morning at 9:45am
Cataloochee Ski Area this morning at 9:45am

A bit more rain fell on Monday at numerous locations than what some weather peeps were expecting. That has forced Massanutten Resort to close after being open on Monday. Wintergreen Resort is already “advising” guests to have a look before heading their way.

It has GOT to be hard for everyone who has invested hundreds and thousands of dollars on a ski getaway – to look at the forecast for this week and stick with them. Imagine that multiplied by tens of thousands of times and you’ll still not understand the worry and concern that our ski area executives are experiencing right now.

 

…and Here Comes ANOTHER KICK IN THE GUT!

So things are looking pretty challenging out there. We have some lingering showers in the forecast for Tuesday. Now have a look at tomorrow’s forecast (taken from the NWS at Snowshoe Mountain).

Wednesday
Rain before 3pm, then showers likely between 3pm and 4pm, then showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm after 4pm. High near 58. South wind 11 to 17 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.
Wednesday Night
Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm before 10pm, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms between 10pm and 1am, then a chance of showers after 1am. Cloudy, with a low around 54. Breezy, with a south wind 17 to 21 mph, with gusts as high as 31 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.
As if the rains aren’t enough, we getting weather gurus throwing words at us like “Pineapple Express”, “Blowtorch” and others to describe the record “heat” that we’re meant to have hit us on Christmas Day. Temperatures could reach well into the mid-to-upper 50s and some areas will see mid SIXTIES on Friday.

What Are Ski Resorts to Do? I’ll Tell You What They’re Doing; Everything Possible.

Bear in mind that some of our ski resorts offer MANY more activities than just skiing, snowboarding and tubing. Discounting those scenarios, and for those who ONLY care about getting out on some snow and making some turns…we think that there WILL BE SOME turns made over the Christmas to New Year’s week. Unfortunately NOT at every ski resort in the region.
As of RIGHT NOW, here are the resorts that WILL NOT be operating for skiing or snowboarding:
Massanutten Resort
Bryce Resort
The Omni Homestead
Sapphire Valley Resort
Wisp ResortThese are resorts that are open NOW, or Questionable to OPEN or REMAIN OPEN for the Week Ahead:
Winterplace Resort
Wolf Ridge Resort
Wintergreen Resort
Ober Gatlinburg
Beech Mountain Resort
Sugar Mountain Resort
Timberline Resort

WILL/SHOULD be Open:
Cataloochee Ski Area
Appalachian Ski Mountain
Snowshoe Mountain
Canaan Valley Resort
All 12 of the ski areas in the “Will be open or Questionable” list are fighting the fight to offer a decent product for travelers for the upcoming week ahead. The trail openings will be limited and with the forecasted warmth and rains to come today and Wednesday – there will PROBABLY be some trail closings and perhaps a resort or two more to suspend ops.

We’d advise those of you who are planning a getaway to keep an eye on the updates that we’re providing and if your destination IS OPEN for skiing and snowboarding to get our early each day and enjoy it as much as possible.

We ARE still “eyeing” some colder, snowmaking temps and even a possibility of an inch or two of natural snow coming our way New Year’s Eve and the day or so afterwards. So if you have a ski trip planned to the mountains…there is a shot at getting some turns in on the snow for the first part of the trip and some improving conditions and natural snow for the latter part of your trip.

As of TODAY – Our Best Bets:

Appalachian Ski Mountain
Beech Mountain Resort
Canaan Valley Resort
Cataloochee Ski Area
Snowshoe Mountain Resort
Winterplace Resort

 

On a positive note – I was reading some Joe Bastardi notes from WeatherBell and he posted an update that he calls, “The Dam is About to Break” regarding a forecasted pattern change that looks to be delivering more colder air in January. We’ll see how that goes…

His post summary read,

The legendary winter of 1965-66 was reviewed in the Weatherwise magazine in 1966 and there was a specific reference to International Falls that went from one of its warmest 30 day periods in December to what was a legendary stretch in January. While it seems “sudden” in many cases such things, if you look at all these samples, are simply the dam breaking. It’s like you were looking at a dam and not seeing the water behind it, then all of a sudden the dam breaks. Well the water was building up behind it and when, not if, the dam broke, it would come crashing down.

We’ll hope for something like that…

 

Here Was Our Tuesday Morning Observations:

46° – Snowshoe Mountain Resort – They have 42 acres of skiable terrain open with 13 slopes and trails operating with 2 of those slopes open for night sessions on the Silvercreek side. Tubing is open as well. The base is 23″ and groomed.

46° – Canaan Valley Resort – Open for day sessions with the same 6 trails and a base of 8-24″ of wet granular. Our photo of the day from Monday showed a lot of people out on the hill enjoying the conditions. Today they are offering a BOGO free day. Purchase a lift ticket at regular price, receive same for free.

46° – Beech Mountain Resort – Open for day and night sessions with a base of 10-26″ of wet and variable granular with some thin coverage and bare spots on 5 slopes and trails. Did anyone know that their TUBING HILL was OPEN!?!?! Haven’t seen this mentioned, but Beech IS back in the business of snow tubing and it is open along with ice skating today.

47.1° – Sugar Mountain Resort – Sugar is reporting a drop in base over the last 24 hours of 5″! This morning the base is being reported as 5-20″ They are open for day and night sessions with the same 6 slopes and trails and they are reporting thin coverage and bare spots.

48° – Timberline Resort – Today is their first day to be open for the season with 2 slopes for day sessions. They are reporting a base of 24-60″!!! We’re hanging with the 24″ + base and it’s GREAT to see them open.

48° – Wisp Resort – NOT OPEN YET. They may be holding onto the snow they made last Friday and over the weekend to see what they can do about opening. They posted, “Our Mountain Ops Team plans to make as much snow as possible within the next 40 – 50 hours with the plan to lay down a solid base and stock pile snow to endure the milder temps and possible precipitation forecasted for early next week. Wisp’s Mountain Park is open for ice skating, canopy tours, the mountain coaster and more every day from 10am – 4pm so regardless of the weather, come out and play this holiday season!”

49° – Winterplace Resort – They are operating for day sessions with a base of 12-24″ and the same 6 trails with granular conditions. They are posting an advisory message saying, “Friday, 12/25 forward – Rates & Hours – To be determined. With moderate temps in the forecast, please check back for current conditions & updates before visiting Winterplace.”

49° – Cataloochee Ski Area – They haven’t changed their base depth in the last week or so despite the rain and warm temps. They DO have the same 5 slopes open for day sessions today and tubing is open as well.

49° – Appalachian Ski Mountain – They are probably your BEST BET right now in terms of delivering something closest to normal right now with 8 of 12 slopes open and ice skating as well as some terrain park features. The base is being reported as 22-34″.

49° – Wolf Ridge Resort – They are reporting that they are OPEN for day and night sessions with the same 3 slopes and snow tubing park as open. They are reporting a 22″ base but for some reason the LIVE cam is not operating today. Not a good sign.

52° – Massanutten Resort – HAS SUSPENDED SKI, SNOWBOARDING AND TUBING OPERATIONS. They communicated, “Unfortunately we will not be operating the Ski Slopes or Snow Tubing as planned today. We simply lost too much snow overnight. We will continue to make snow when temperatures allow.”

58° – Wintergreen Resort – OPEN for day and night sessions today with the same 2 slopes and a base of 12-24″. They have the terrain park and tubing park open as well. However, they ARE posting a message that seems to indicate that they may not be able to keep the ski and snowboarding ops running. They posted,”

For those of you wanting to visit this week, please look at the Mountain Message Blog BEFORE you head this way.  Operating over the coming week will depend on how warm it gets and how long our snow can hang on.  Please check the Mountain Message Blog before you head our way.

58° – Ober Gatlinburg – Open with a 6-10″ base on 2 slopes. That’s one less than Monday.

Bryce Resort – They made snow over the weekend, but is simply wasn’t enough and the weather hasn’t cooperated since. Their opening is to be determined and likely after the first of the year.

No word from…
The Omni Homestead
Sapphire Valley Resort

 

Until next time…

Enjoy your day and THINK SNOW! THINK COLD! Email me anytime and about anything at: [email protected]

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Mike Doble
Mike is the Editor and founder of SkiSoutheast.com, SkiNC.com and ResortCams.com. 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.