Skier Visits of a Virtual Kind! – Read Below The Morning Notes

MLK Weekend Visitors have been rewarded to two very nice days of skiing on both Friday and Saturday. Not one drop of rain fell across the resorts of the High Country. We don’t have any reports as yet as per resorts further north (regarding rainfall). From what we can tell the weather has been rather kind across the region for the first half of the Holiday weekend. We did get one email from Sam Elliott (probably not the actor!) who skied at Wisp Resort on Saturday and he did mention hit and miss raindrops, but nothing day-killing.

As of this post (8:41am) we’re seeing rather nice skies here in the High Country of Western North Carolina so early skiing should be fine today. There IS a 20-30% chance of rain today, but mostly in the afternoon. Rain chances increase tonight across the southern Appalachians. We are already seeing some rain up at Wisp this morning, though only sporadic drops here and there. There is a 70% chance of rain up that way and across Snowshoe, Timberline, Canaan Valley and Winterplace areas. It looks like the further south you go today – the rain chances dwindle a bit. Massanutten in Virginia is looking at a 40% chance.

So if you made the trek for the MLK weekend, it looks like things are not too bad all in all as we’ll get 2.5 days of the 4 day holiday weekend with decent weather. Rain is expected this afternoon and Monday. We’re still looking at SNOW chances on the back side of this rain Monday evening and Tuesday…so if you’re here for the week ahead you’re going to have some cold and snowmaking weather.

Temperatures beginning Tuesday and running all the way through Saturday look WONDERFUL! How’s highs in the 20s and 30s and lows in the teens and 20s all throughout the period sound? Sounds GREAT to us! Snowguns will be blasting and MORE slopes will be opening! The real ski season may FINALLY be here!

Yesterday was awefully quite on the photo submissions.  Send us some of your day on the slopes from this weekend.

Some Thin Coverage Areas May Be Surface –

We’re seeing some thin coverage at several of the ski resorts this morning though only Ski Beech, Snowshoe, and Ober Gatlinburg are nice enough to report them. Repeat SEVERAL resorts have thin coverage today. Don’t get us wrong – the conditions are QUITE NICE with PLENTY of snow to be ridden and with the cold returning Tuesday look for the best conditions of the season by mid-week everywhere…but the point is that you should expect some thin coverage and a few bare spots at areas that are not reporting them as well. We’ll give them a chance to self report after reading this and the ones that don’t – we’ll call them out on Monday. So expect decent, loose granular conditions at most places today – with a very few thin coverage areas.

Now HERE’S THE REST OF THE STORY…

We’re going to borrow a lead in that Paul Harvey (“good day”) uses to introduce a new columnist for SkiSoutheast and SkiNC.com. His name is Rob Story. Rob contacted us a short time ago and we began to pay attention to his writing and photo skills and inquired as to his interest in writing for SkiSoutheast.com and he is now on board. Rob’s fresh take on things will certainly bring a nice addition to our content. Rob is a senior at Virginia Tech majoring in Ocean Engineering and plans to attend grad school there as well. He’s has a self-professed obsession with skiing and will be delivering some more reporting from resorts further north, particularly Snowshoe and Winterplace; however he will also be contributing with some opinion pieces. We think that you’ll enjoy his writing as much as we have. He debuts today on the middle column of the front page. Welcome Rob!


Skier Visits of the Virtual Kind

Last week we did a report of skier visits across the southeast at various ski resorts. (You can read the complete story in the archives.) The main gist of the story was that skier traffic is up over the last few years in the region. Of course this season’s weather through late November and December…as well as the first half of January will make it tough for the resorts to rebound with numbers that surpass last season’s totals. We’re all hoping that the weather for the remainder of January, and then February and March will be cold and snowy. With great weather, all of the resorts will certainly finish with good skier visit numbers.

One of our readers prompted this story with her question, “I read on your website where skier visits during the Christmas Holiday week were down about 20-25% across most of the region. I know my husband and I normally make two trips a season and because of the weather, we’ll only get one trip in this season. However, we are on your website nearly 2-3 times a week. That got my husband to ask about your website visits. Can you share?” – Tamara and John Seabrook of Baltimore, Maryland.

Another reader, Rob Blevins of Raleigh, NC asked, “I know you guys mentioned some numbers in terms of Holiday week average days for skier visits, but about how many skiers visit resorts on a non-Holiday day?”

Those are both good questions and we’ll try to answer both. We have been so busy this winter that we have not taken the opportunity to run our Urchin stats on the site until now (to be able to answer this question.)

First a small lesson in Stats 101

For those unaware, Urchin is one of many software programs that will dig through the daily, text log files that every server creates for each and every piece of activity that happens when anyone visits a website. Some website operators like to use misleading statistics such as hits or page views to inflate or make it appear that their website gets more visitors than they actually do. For example, if a website is running any kind of java programming that updates a page for weather information, or banners, etc… then page views would skyrocket – even if only a few people visited the page. For this reason, while page views are nice to be able to see roughly how many pages are looked at, the more accurate means of reporting a website’s real success is by looking at sessions (or unique visitors). As an illustration of the inaccurate relating of page views, SkiNC.com and SkiSoutheast.com registered over 2.1 MILLION page views on Tuesday when it snowed. While I’d love to say that every visitor that came to our sites looked at 24 pages, it’s not likely. The equal of this in the real world would be akin to a ski resort counting a skier visit as someone who first buys a lift pass and then goes to the cafeteria at lunch and then count him again when he hits another slope or trail.

So let’s talk sessions or unique visits.

Most of the ski resorts see huge numbers of visitors during the Christmas, MLK and President’s Day weekends. Some sources suggest that as much as 25-30% of their skier visits will take place during those busy periods. Last week we wrote about skier visits at the individual resorts, as well as state based. (Read that story by clicking here!)

Using a little math, you can come up with some decent estimates of normal traffic (non-Holiday). Let’s first use Snowshoe Mountain which annually has about 450,000 skier visits (tops in the region). We know that approximately 9,000-10,000 skiers hit that mountain on high-traffic, Holiday days. Rounding it to 9,000 per day for seven days of Christmas to New Years; and adding four days for MLK and four more for President’s Day – that will mean that some 135,000 people visit during those three peak periods. Subtract that away from the 450,000 and we’re left with 315,000 +/- skier visits for the rest of the season. Snowshoe skis about 135 days each season and if we take away the 15 Holiday days we’re left with 120 days of skiing. 315,000 skier visits divided by 120 days gives us about 2625 skiers per day.

Of course weekends are far busier days than weekdays, but my brain is humming so I won’t attempt to break it down further! Suffice to say that you will RARELY have a lift line during the week at any of the resorts. If there is one, it won’t be long enough to readjust your boots. That is why we always HIGHLY recommend skiing during the week. That is also why many resorts and lodging establishments offer mid-week specials and discounts.

I know I will be asked about this same kind of math for other resorts. (Do your own math!) However, most of the larger resorts in the region will average about 1200-1500 skiers a day outside of the Holiday period and some of the smaller ones around 700 skiers a day. Again less during the week – more on the weekend.

Now to the Virtual Skier Visit

I think that I MAY have just invented that phrase, but there is no question that the growth of and useful nature of the internet has made for a different kind of visit to the mountains. We receive so many emails from people all year long on www.HighCountryWebCams.com, www.HighCountryWeather.com, www.SkiNC.com and www.SkiSoutheast.com. Last July we were preparing our data for advertising banners and we were amazed to see that nearly 3000 unique visitors a day were visiting the ski site – in the midst of Summer! We receive some 10-20 emails a week from people commenting on the “mental vacation” that they get from spending a few minutes each day looking at the 27 or so live cameras that we have posted around most of the Western North Carolina area. (We have three more sitting in my office waiting to go up and we’re getting more inquiries about other areas of Virginia and West Virginia.)

Those of us who are blessed to LIVE in a area that so many people love to visit KNOW the draw of these mountains. There is something here that simply gets its hooks into you. Whether it’s the high elevations, the air, awe-inspiring views at every turn – who knows. …and people want to get a “taste” of it in whatever way they can. For many that now seems to be the internet.

This past Tuesday was the first significant snowfall of 2007 and that snow (combined with the attraction of these higher elevations) created 92,008 unique visitors to our website! To put those in some kind of comparative terms, that is as many “skier visits” as many of the physical ski resorts located in the Southeast receive in a full season. It’s nearly one-fourth of the “skier visits” that Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia sees in one season.

Most of the region’s individual ski resort websites also receive quite a lot of traffic, so “virtual visits” are not something exclusive to SkiNC.com and SkiSoutheast.com – although our sister websites receives more traffic than any other ski website on the East coast. We’re certain that www.SnowshoeMtn.com, www.Winterplace.com, www.WintergreenResort.com, www.SkiBeech.com and SkiSugar.com are the most visited of the individual resort websites and SkiSoutheast.com and SkiNC.com are among the top referrer of traffic to most of the resorts of the region (and in some cases the number one referrer). We cannot tell you exact traffic figures for most of the websites shown above, however we can tell you as an example, that www.SkiBeech.com received 14,724 unique visitors on Tuesday. That is probably close to, if not more “skier visits” than the mountain will see for the entire MLK weekend. So the internet has become a place to get information about your favorite ski areas, however it’s obviously become much more than just that.

SkiSoutheast and SkiNC.com will end up receiving nearly 9.7 MILLION +/- “skier visits” during the 2006-2007 season, which will show an average of nearly 72,000 unique visitors a day. (More if we have a lot of snow!) How many of those visits translate into actual, physical skier visits is impossible to say. What IS obvious is that there are a LOT of people out there who love the high elevations of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic.

Email your comments and photos to [email protected]  

Until Next Time…

THINK COLD AND SNOW!!!

Send comments and emails to: [email protected]  

For more information about the ski resorts of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic visit www.SkiSoutheast.com  

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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.