The big news for Sunday would have to be the fact that MORE TERRAIN is open at many of the region’s ski areas. Two mornings ago we reported that there were 150 of 355 trails open at the 17 ski areas located in the Southeast. Just 48 hours later there are now 187 trails open!
Conditions could not have been much better for skiers and snowboarders on Saturday as most of the emails that we received raved on conditions across the board. Surprisingly many wrote that the crowds were not that bad and lift lines were minimal. Packed powder and groomed conditions will get you those kinds of reviews.
Many of the resorts this morning are reporting more "variable conditions" for Sunday as some light, "underdeveloped snow" has entered the forecast but as Carolina News 14 Meteorologist Matthew East shared with us, "Sunday and Monday will offer some sprinkles here and there but nothing that should keep you from going and enjoying Sunday on your favorite ski mountain."
Our meteorologists are snow lovers and skiers as well and yesterday Matthew was using words such as "excellent" and "fantastic" when describing the conditions at our Southeast and Mid Atlantic ski mountains. Matthew sent in his latest skier’s forecast for the week ahead and unfortunately it also includes some words such as "warmer" and "appreciable rain" and you can check out his latest weather video, valid from Saturday through Thursday by clicking here.
You guys and gals should know that the weather for the week ahead poses NO THREAT to the conditions at our resorts. Most rain will be light Tuesday night going into Wednesday. Matthew says that there could be a bit more than light showers in some areas, but then things get cooler and we have some snowmaking temps reentering the forecast for Wednesday night (maybe Thursday night) just in time for a great weekend next weekend that may even include some wintry weather.
So base depths will be unaffected and the cycle seems to be providing weekends of enjoyment.
WE SAW OUR HIGHEST SINGLE DAY VISIT TOTAL — see more on some numbers thus far this season…
Base depths and trail openings are not the only numbers climbing over the last few days. The slow start to this ski season has been affecting skier numbers at resorts as well and although most of the ski resorts are a bit "bashful" about sharing their reduced numbers, we can tell you that OUR numbers on the ski network of SkiSoutheast.com has been off a bit this season as well. How much? Read on…
Before the season even began we were seeing numbers of unique daily visitors that were more than double that of years past which hinted at snow skiers and boarders chomping at the bit for skiable terrain to play on. After all the 2006-2007 ski season was sub par with last season’s Holiday period (Christmas to New Year’s) being off as much as 25-40% depending on the ski area. Conditions got off to a snail-pace start last season and once the 2006-2007 season was in the books…natural snowfall was off at almost every resort with the lone exception of Wisp Resort in Garrett County, Maryland which had 24% MORE snow than normal. They received 124" and they normally get 100" so the math was easy!
However across the Southeast and Mid Atlantic ski areas natural snowfall was off by nearly 20-35% and if all of the ski areas were forthcoming with their skier visits, we’d bet that would come close to estimating how much skier traffic was off. The weather pattern for last season was not cooperative with providing great conditions for the Holiday period or MLK weekend. While President’s Day weekend was better…it wasn’t the pristine conditions that attract record-breaking crowds. At the end of last season resort management officials were reporting a 2006-2007 season that was "okay", "good", "darn good but not record setting" etc. A few reported that the 2006-2007 season was one of the top ten in terms of skier visits but not numero uno for certain.
Our web presence of ski, webcams and weather websites saw record numbers of visits per day, but frankly those of us on the operational side of the websites questioned whether of lot of the repeat traffic came from people checking the website even more regularly than they might have if conditions would have been pristine all winter. In other words, people WANTED to go ski, but hit the site more regularly trying to find a "best window of opportunity" to hit their favorite mountain. Who knows, but traffic was up.
Fast forward to August 2007 and we were seeing 11,000 visitors per day on a ski website – in summer. Anticipation was high. Emailers were blasting us with hopes for a great season.
Move on ahead to where we are currently. Here we sit, January 6th, 2008 and we’ve YET to see one ski area offer 100% of their terrain. Don’t get me wrong, our ski areas have done what is probably their BEST job EVER in terms of snowmaking, grooming and maintaining decent to very nice conditions for us. However, some ski areas have been open for two full months now and not one has been able to offer 100% of their terrain to ski and ride.
Admittedly we have been very busy and have not yet spoken officially to all of the owners and managers directly about skier numbers, however I have had private conversations with a few of them and suffice to say that business is off. It may be "somewhat off". It may be "pretty good to very good" if you add the word "considering" to the mix…but skier traffic is down a bit.
So the all important MLK and President’s Day weekends will be huge to the financial success for the 2007-2008 season.
In watching our own website stats it is OBVIOUS that anticipation is HIGH. On January 2nd we saw the coldest air of the season and some decent snows across the entire region and that set off enough traffic to temporarily shut our servers down for a couple of hours! Even WITH the down time we saw OUR SINGLE DAY RECORD FOR UNIQUE VISITORS IN A DAY, with 272,313 visitors viewing the website on January 2, 2008! ONE MILLION, SIX HUNDRED AND SEVENTY TWO THOUSAND, FIVE HUNDRED AND THIRTY PAGES WERE VIEWED! (That’s 1,672,530!)
Thus far our season totals are only somewhat higher than at this point last season with an average of nearly 90,000 unique visitors per day and about 600,000 pageviews.
The webcams saw 52,935 visitors on January 2, 2008 and 434,865 pageviews.
…all of this with two hours of down time!
What this all tells us is that you guys are as hungry as we are for some great conditions and what we normally are able to call "mid season conditions". While it is no longer EARLY in the season, it is still too early to go off the deep end but we would really use just a LITTLE of that dumping of snow that has been happening out west this season.
WHAT THE EXPERTS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE WEATHER…
We’ll have to see if we can get some updates as to what the rest of January, February and March will brings us from Brad Panovich, Matthew East and Mike Stinneford (our resident Weather Gurus) but there is still hope for a GREAT SEASON if you listen to the Herb Stevens, the Skiing Weatherman.
Often it is late January, February and early March that brings our region it’s best snowfalls and while there are not any long range forecasters ready to boost our morale to high-elevation levels…there IS some hope. Herb Stevens, who has long been called the Skiing Weatheman posts a weekly missive that updates skiers and snowboarders from all over the country with what he expects to happen for each area. While MOST of his comments are for the snow-favored areas out West, he DOES usually include a sentence or two about the Southeast and Mid Atlantic. Herb used to do his own "Skiing Weatherman" website but this year has moved over exclusively to SnoCountry. Some of our messageboard crew will post his missives for all to read and we try to keep up with his updates, but honestly I tend to get so darn jealous seeing snow measured in FEET hitting out west, that I just can’t make myself read it all of the time.
If I was a Shaun White, plane-hopping snowbird I’d be on his content daily! However, like most of you I am a nose-to-the-grindstone-I-get-to-ski-30-days-a-season kind of guy and heck unless I’m moving my family to utah or Colorado…I just can’t stand to see all that snow that we’re not getting. By the way, I know a lot of marketing and ski resort managers and marketing staffers around here that feel the same way I do!
Darn, how did I get so far off subject!?! Back to it. In Herb’s latest missive he writes, "Much of Canada is still warmer than normal, and it will stay that way for the next week, at least. The air on the backside of the low will be of Pacific origin, and that limits just how cold it can get. I believe that the period from the 10th through the 15th will be above normal by 4 to 8 degrees in the mid Atlantic, which pretty much rules out meaningful snow in that region."
However Herb further states, "Longer range, I think that temperatures will continue to cool slightly as the second half of January progresses. This still strikes me as a season that will have a strong final third, and I am looking forward to some fine sliding in late February and March. In the short term, the January thaw will be taking center stage, but thanks to a great job by the snowmakers and Mother Nature in recent weeks, the snow will be able to fight off the warmth pretty well…keep the faith! (Or grab your skis and a snorkel, jump a jet, and head west)!
Damn! He HAD to throw in the reference to out West, didn’t he!?! 😉
As Herb said, keep the faith. THINK COLD. THINK SNOW.
Enjoy your day…
Until Next time…
Be sure to visit www.SkiSoutheast.com for more news from the rest of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic ski areas!
Send your snow photos, videos, comments or emails to: [email protected]