It’s been a weird winter so far. We got off to one of the earliest starts ever with Cataloochee opening up on October 28th! Then we had a short, mild spell that had Cat and all of the other ski areas hold off until mid November to open (or reopen). (Sugar Mountain opened November 17th). Then we saw three weeks of cold and snow that would rival any of the best winters on record. Sugar and Beech Mountain both saw 24" of natural snow by December 5th and that got everyone excited about the prospects of one of the best natural snow winters. Skier interest was WAYYYY UP and that was evidenced by good early traffic on this website and at the resorts as well.
Cataloochee, with their great early conditions and 14" of snowfall experienced their best ever Can-U-Ski days. Ski Beech was off to its best start in years and rave reviews were the norm.
Fast forward to today, January 4th and we can now report that the last four weeks have simply been a roller coaster with many periods of rain, and days worth of mild temps. We’ve thankfully seen short bursts of cold enough air for the resorts to make snow and keep the conditions that we now have open. Basically what we’ve seen thus far this winter is a great beginning that got the slopes open with about the very same number of trails that are NOW OPEN TODAY. It is a huge testament to the hard working crews at all of the North Carolina resorts that they have been able to provide us with the terrain that we were able to ski and ride through the Christmas and New Year break.
Regardless of whatever spin some resorts may want to put on the last four weeks, this past month has still been disappointing to say the least. Skier interest is down in the state as we saw MORE traffic in late November and early December than we have seen over the last 2-3 weeks. That is a first for SkiNC.com. Some might offer the economy as a contributor to the lower traffic, but we don’t think so. Late November and early December traffic was way up (both on this website and at the resorts themselves).
While our NC ski areas have had little support by Ma Nature in the last four weeks, resorts further north have simply had more snow and more consistently colder temperatures to work with and that has enabled many of those ski areas to open more and more terrain – even over the last two days. Website traffic to SkiSoutheast.com has surpassed that of SkiNC.com for only the second time in the last six years.
Over the years, we have noticed that your emails and messageboard posts tend to serve as a great barometer as to what’s happening out there in "SkiNC and SkiSoutheast land" and what we’ve noticed based on your emails of the last three weeks is that the number of slopes and trails that are open at any given resort dictates where and when you’re willing to ski and ride. Simply put, you are skiing where the most terrain is open.
I have mentioned (probably too often) numerous times in the past that your emails tend to drive what we write about and after receiving nearly 200 emails within the last two weeks that related to slope openings – it is clear that you guys are simply going where more slopes are open. I suppose that is as it should be, but I don’t remember having to respond to so many inquiries of that nature in our past twelve seasons.
Jamie E. of Aiken, South Carolina provides an example of the kind of questions that you guys have been asking of late. She wrote, "Hi. My husband and I are planning a trip up to N.C. and we’ve come to trust your website’s opinion and we wanted to know which resort will have the most open by Christmas." She adds, "We’ve always like xxxxx resort but we noticed that they only have 4 slopes open and we want more! Thanks for a great site and we hope to hear from you."
I replaced the name of the resort in her question with x’s.
We’ve never seen so many questions of that nature as we’ve received in the last two to three weeks. So we thought we’d wait until we got back from our Holiday ski getaway and see if there was anything to this. Granted this is very unscientific, but yesterday I dug into our stats package and looked at the pages that you guys were viewing AND there is no question that Sugar Mountain’s pages on SkiSoutheast.com are receiving far and away more traffic than any of the other resorts in the state. Sugar has the most open terrain in the state with 12 of 20 trails. Second is Appalachian and they have 8 of 10 trails open. Cataloochee is third and they have the 3rd most open terrain with 8 of 14 trails open today, but 6-7 slopes during most of the last couple of weeks. Those resorts with fewer trails open, are getting fewer visits.
Granted, skier visits have been pretty good across the board as Appalachian, Cataloochee, Ski Beech, Sugar Mountain and Wolf Ridge have all seen pretty good Holiday traffic. However there is no question that Appalachian and Sugar have seen far and away the most skier visits in the state.
We’ll plan on interviewing all of the resort managers this next week and get their take on the numbers so far this season and we’ll share the results of those interviews with you guys.
CONDITIONS TODAY? PRETTY GOOD.
CONDITIONS FOR THE COMING WEEK? A little wet Monday and Tuesday; a wintry mix on Wednesday and SNOW and COLD TEMPS for Thursday. Next weekend looks good!
Here’s the quick glance notes for today!
Appalachian – 47° – down 2" in base but they have 53-79" – 8 of 10 trails open and ice skating.
Cataloochee – 43° – They are day skiing only today with 8 of 14 trails open and tubing as well.
Ski Beech – 43° – Beech is looking slightly worn today and there are a few thin coverage areas here and there. They are skiing and riding on 5 of 15 trails.
Sugar Mountain – 43° – down 7" of base but they still have 21-48". They have 12 of 20 trails open with some thin coverage areas being reported. They have tubing and ice skating open as well. Their tubing hill looked pretty nice on Saturday.
Wolf Ridge Resort – They haven’t changed their base depth in two weeks, but we’ll give them the 20-40" base as they look plenty "snowy" via their live cam. We’ve cracked on Wolf a little this season for not updating their report on a daily basis and we can’t help but bring attention to the fact that they are now reporting conditions for the 5th of January – which isn’t until tomorrow (Monday). So they are now predicting to have 7 slopes open for Monday! They have 7 slopes open for today as well!
As always, be sure to click over to www.SkiSoutheast.com for more news about ALL of the ski resorts of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic including more photos of the day, more snow news, more videos…and just MORE!
Send your comments, photos, videos, and trip reports to: [email protected]