Hello Everyone –
As I sit down to put this week’s column together, I look out my front door in Scott Depot, West Virginia and see some very nice flowers blooming and the grass almost at a length that I know means the first cutting is right around the corner. That would be great if the calendar said April, instead of the first of March. Unfortunately, as much as I complain about shoveling the snow off our driveway, I know if we are getting snow, the ski resorts in the region are getting even more of the white stuff.
However, not only have the metro areas throughout the region not received much, if any, natural snow, but the natural snow totals at the region’s ski resorts are way off this season. As I have written before, it’s tough to make people realize that despite no snow outside your front door, there is a pretty good chance there is still snow on the slopes at all of the resorts from Tennessee to Maryland. This season that fact is even more true and you can point to one main reason why skiers and snowboarders are still being able to enjoy having fun on the slopes this season. If you already know the reason, you can stop here, if not please read on.
I have been in this industry since 1985 and have sat in my fair share of capital investment meetings as summer approaches and plans are made to improve the various resorts. It seemed like the first option to spending money was always on how to improve the resort’s snowmaking capacity. Most of the time, whatever Mountain Operations want, they got, of course within reason. That was because at the end of the day, if there is no snow on the slopes, there are no skiers, snowboarders or snowtubers buying lift tickets. I think you see the picture I am painting this week.
In my 30-plus years in the snow sports industry I can’t remember a season where snowmaking and grooming were more important. If you think any of the resorts could’ve survived more than a week with the amount of natural snow that has fallen this year, you’ve have been living under a rock this season. Mike will tell you that I am the first to say that you only need about four inches to a foot of snow under your skies or snowboards to have fun on the slopes. But it seems, every time the region received a nice amount of natural snow this season, temperatures rose shortly thereafter, melting most of the natural stuff. So yes, there would’ve be about a week of snow based on the stuff from the heavens.
But to the rescue this season have been the snowmakers who have taken advantage of every second of subfreezing temperatures to make snow this season. In fact, as I write this column I know the snowguns are going in North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. Usually around this time of the season, all the snowguns (other than the tower guns) have been packed away for the next season. That without a doubt is the not case this season as it looks like some of the resorts will be making snow through the first week of March. Needless to say, I don’t want to hear any complaints from anyone, who isn’t use to having snow made on them when skiing or snowboarding in March.
Let me be the first to tell you right now, right here in this week’s column, that is costing any resort still making snow a chunk of change. You probably don’t realize but there are some resorts that have an electric bill that stretches out seven figures, not counting the decimal point. Can you imagine getting that type of bill in your mailbox once a month during the winter. I don’t know about you but our family budget couldn’t handle that expense. I really don’t think many skiers or snowboarders, unless they have a connection to the industry, truly understand just what it means to a resort’s operating budget to make snow in March.
Taking that huge expense into account, every skier, snowboarder and snowtuber out there who is still wanting to play outside this winter (and not cut grass) should appreciate every manmade snowflake that has been falling since late last week. If you were able to play on the snow this past weekend or if you are going to make one more trip to your favorite resort in the days to come, I hope you understand it is because of the work of you friendly snowmaker and the resort management that bit the bullet and kept making snow.
I have been talking a lot about the snowmakers and what they have been doing to provide a product on the slopes this year, without much help from Mother Nature, but it’s really a team effort. That other snowmaking component I haven’t mentioned yet are the groomers at every resort in the southeast region. If you skied or snowboarded in late January or February you probably saw piles of snow, in some cases that I saw, over 20-feet high. That snow was piled to be used when the temperatures rose and the snowmaking guns had to be turned off. When the snowguns weren’t operating and the temperatures were rising, the groomers would cut into those piles of snow and push the snow to wherever it was needed to cover the slopes and make it fun for everyone. There were times that the edges of the slopes were a little rough, but there was plenty of snow down the middle of the slope.
So the math this year was still, timely freezing temperatures plus snowmakers plus groomers and another season is just about in the books and thanks to them we are having fun in March and minus them I would probably just be cutting my grass. So from yours truly, here is a huge thank you for every snowmaker and groomer out there in the southeast for allowing me to have fun once again on the slopes this season.
That’s it for this week and here’s hoping that you get a couple more turns in this season. Just remember whether it be cold or whether it be hot, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather will be. Think about it! See you on the slopes.