SkiSoutheast.com Produces the 1st Annual Winter Forecast for the 2009 thru 2010 Ski and Snowboarding Season!

We were reading something the other day that alluded to the fact that most forecasters don’t get all that detailed about long range forecasts. We’re not sure if that’s the case, because we’ve already read several long term forecasts (including Meteorologist Joe Bastardi’s) that are pretty darn detailed.

We’re still waiting on our official (and Chief) Meteorologist Brad Panovich’s winter forecast and this update certainly shouldn’t supercede anything that he is producing for us. We should provide you guys that video forecast sometime in the next week. Brad’s been traveling and will get that to us soon enough.

We shared Accuweather’s Chief Meteorologist Joe Bastardi’s forecast for the Southeast and Mid Atlantic region last week and that was a GOOD ONE! If you want to view that video, click over to the video page and click on the October 16th Accuweather video. In short, Joe Bastardi was the first meteorologist to speak about a "fading El Niño" and the first to forecast the core of winter to be settled over the Mid Atlantic and Southeast region. He is forecasting that our area will see colder and snowier conditions than normal with temps some 3° below normal for this winter and snowfall totals that are 110% of their long term averages and 150% of the region’s short term numbers.

Shortly after getting his professional opinion we heard from "Wilbur" the woolly worm last weekend and his opinion only kinda-sorta supports Bastardi’s. He predicts moderate snow fall and temperatures that are about normal. There’s a mention of some light snow and flurries along the way, but then again you have to consider that a worm has a brain that is about the size of a gnat! (Yes, worm’s have brains!)

This past week Ray Russell of RaysWeather released his "fearless winter forecast" and it pretty much dead-on, dittos Bastardi’s forecast. His Chief Meteorologist Eric Anderson must be "reading the data" exactly the same as Accuweather’s. He mentions the same 3° below average temperatures and snows that will be 155% of the last ten year averages.

After deciding to produce our own, hopefully informative views on the subject (and knowing that you guys depend on us for accurate information) we consider this a test of sorts. After cramming all night for the last two nights for this test I think we’re ready. (Okay, it was actually only ten minutes, but once you start reading some of that techno babble that is on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website your eyes GLAZE OVER!)

The crazy thing is that we’ve been blessed to have a ton of weather guru input on this site over the years from people like Jim Cantore and Paul Goodloe of THE WEATHER CHANNEL (who are both excellent skiers by the way), Herb Stevens (the skiing weatherman), Matthew East of Carolina News 14, Eric Thomas of WBTV in Charlotte and of course our own Meteorologist Brad Panovich of News Channel 36 (NBC). I know that I’m leaving out countless others like Baker Perry of the Department of Geography and Planning who shared his Cocorahs (official snow reporting service) and Greg Dobson of the Appalachian Weather (blogspot). Those and many others have provided us with so many resources that we have come to realize that you can get a p-r-e-t-t-y good idea of what the weather’s going to do by simply "reading THEIR data". (Also it is a lot less mind-numbing!)

We’ll leave the REAL FORECASTING to the pros, but we’re noticing a trend so far this season wherein the confidence level for this winter’s forecast is much stronger than normal and much more agreed upon by weather experts across the board. Most of the time these guys and gals tend to favor one or two computer models over another and their forecasts tend to reflect the differences. This time around (again so far) it seems that more are in agreement. Of course we’re waiting with bated breath on Brad Panovich’s forecast and hopefully he’ll be in huge agreement with Bastardi’s and only provide his unique take on things!

That said, here’s our SkiSoutheast.com forecast for the 2009-2010 Ski and Snowboarding Season!

We will see temperatures that are 2.99999991° colder than normal. (We didn’t want to copy other forecasters prediction EXACTLY!)

We will see snowfall totals that are 150% of the last 5-10 season totals or about 110% more than normal for the last few decades. (We admit that this is p-r-e-c-i-s-e-l-y what the other experts are forecasting but we can’t help it if great minds think alike!)

…and then there’s that little fact that we only took ten minutes to do our research thing!

Here’s where we are going ONE STEP FURTHER and forecasting snowfall totals for each ski area for the season! We are the only resource that has documented the snowfall totals for each ski area over the last five seasons. Armed with that information, we’re making the following forecast for winter snows: (Actually ALL we’ve done is do the math for you! We used our data and combined it with the long-term averages and did some cypherin’ or our "oughts times oughts" ala the Beverly Hillbillies Jethro Bodine!)

Here we go!

Wisp Resort: 135" of snow!
Wisp averages 100" of snow annually. They received 112" last season and 563.5" over the last five seasons for an average of 112.7" per season, which means that they have exceeded their annual average regularly over the last few years. So it is a safe bet that Wisp could see from 115" to 170" of snowfall. If we go by the 110% of the long term snowfall, then Wisp would see another season with 110-115". We’re going to project 135" of snow this season.

Canaan Valley & Timberline Resorts: 190" of snow!
These guys are one ridge apart and annually see near identical snowfall totals. Last season they received 174" of snow and the average is 150", so they were well over their long term average. The Tucker County, WV resorts saw 725.6" of snow in the last five seasons or 145.1" of snow per season. If they get 150% of their short term average, they’ll see 220" of snow. 110% of their long term is 165". That’s a big range so we’ll go with 190" of snow this season.

Snowshoe Mountain: 210" of snow!
As their name implies, these guys get more than their share of snow annually with an average of 180". Last season they received 189". That was the first season in four years though that they surpassed their long term average. (A lot of their snow came in short periods though, so there were some deep snowfalls!) They’ve received 804.7" of snow in the last five seasons for a short term average of 160.9 or 89% of their average. With that in mind we could go with 198" of snow to 240" (the spread from 110% of their long range to 150% of their short range total). Snowshoe HOGS the snow, so we’re going with 210" of snowfall this season.

Winterplace Resort: 118" of snow!
The Ghent, WV resort averages 100" of snow per season however snow has been tough to come by over the last three seasons as 77" fell last year, 63" in 2007-2008 and 82" the year prior. They’ve seen 423" in the last five seasons for a short term average of 84.6" or 84.6% of their long term average. We’ve monitored every resort’s snowfall for the last five seasons and the weather around Winterplace has been kind of crazy for the last couple of seasons, providing decent snows north and south of them, but kind of skipping Winterplace and the Virginia ski areas. (Skipping is a relative term since even 82" of snow is more than most of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic ski areas receive.) That said, we’re a little afraid of forecasting 150% of their average short term. That would mean 126" of snow. 110% of their long term would be 110" of snow. We’ll err on the low side and hope for more. 118" is our call.

Wintergreen Resort: 57" of snow!
As mentioned the weather patterns of the last few years have been such that the ski areas north and south of Virginia have simply gotten more cold and snow that those in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Wintergreen averages 34" of snow annually. Last season they received 25" after only 7" the season before. They HAVE averaged 33" for the last five years (or 165" of snow in that span) so we’re confident that they should receive 110% of their long term snowfall – or 37.5" of snow, but we think they’ll see more like the 150% of their short term figure or closer to 49". We forecast 57" of snowfall to match their 2004-2005 season.

Massanutten Resort: 40" of snow!
113" of snow has fallen at Mass in the last five seasons for an average of 22.6", which is considerably off their long term average of 35" annually. In fact, 27" back in 2006-2007 was their biggest snow season in the last five seasons. If we take 150% of their short term snowfall we could forecast 33" of snow for Mass, and that would still be less than their long term average. So we’ll go with 110% of the long term snowfall and forecast 40".

Note: Some will probably write us that Mass and Wintergreen both average 34-35" of snow and wonder why we forecasted 17" difference. Back in 2004-2005 when Wintergreen saw 57", Massanutten received 22". Massanutten would be happy with 40" this season and we’ll hope for MUCH MORE!

Bryce Resort: 35" of snow!
They have received 84" of snow in the last five seasons for an average of 16.8" or 56% of their annual long term average. Last season saw only TEN INCHES of natural snow after only 8" the season before. They average 30" so we think that they’ll receive close to 35" of snow.

Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area: 39" of snow!
Ober has seen 129.5" of snow in the last five years for a short term average of 25.9" of snow or 74% of their long term average of 35". Last season saw 21.5" of snow after 17.5" the year prior. 150% of their short term would put them at 36". We’ll err on the 100% side of their long term and go with 39" of snow and hope for more!

Appalachian Ski Mountain: 60" of snow!
They had 42" last season and 156" in the last five years for an average of 31.2" or only 62% of their average snowfall of 50". Staying consistent with our calulation techniques we call go with 110% of the long term average or 55" or we could go with 150% of the short terms or 47". Either way it looks like Appalachian is in store for a pretty good season that should be about normal for them. We’ll err on the 60" side of things and with App’s phenomenal snowmaking system, this will be a stellar season with tons of snow everywhere!

Cataloochee Ski Area: 63" of snow!
With 211" of snow in the last five years, Cataloochee is the only North Carolina resort that has averaged MORE than their long term average snowfall of 40" seasonally. Last season they were 10% over average and they received 67" back in 2005-2006. We think that trend will continue. 110% of their long term would put them at 44" again this season. 150% of their short term would be 63" which would approach their 2005-2006 season. There’s a lot of great vibe happening at the Cat over the last few years and we think the "snow karma" is good again this season. We’ll stretch a bit a say they’ll get 63" of snow.

Ski Beech: 95" of snow!
Beech Mountain’s 5505′ elevation makes for more snow than any other location south of West Virginia annually. Their long term snowfall average is 80" but they’ve only hit that mark once in the last five seasons and that was back in 2004-2005 (five seasons ago) when they received 84" of snowfall. 77" of snow fell last year but 7" of that was after the ski area closed. Several reporting services in the area report that Ski Beech only averages 70" of snow but they’re wrong, so let’s move on. With 295.8" of snowfall in the last five seasons (an average of 59.2") they have only seen 75% of their long term average snowfall. With that in mind 110% of the long term would produce 88" of snow. 150% of their short term snowfall would provide 90" of snow. Since both formulas produce nearly the same results, we’re going with 95". I know that’s more than either formula provides but the truth is if the forecaster’s figures come to fruition and give us temps that are 3° colder than normal, then Beech COULD see a season like that of 1996 when 120" of snow fell. We’ll stay with 95" and hope for more.

Sugar Mountain: 87" of snow!
Like Canaan Valley and Timberline – Beech & Sugar are literally one ridge away and elevations are similar. Sugar’s is 5300′ at the summit and Beech’s is about 200′ higher. Hence whatever snowfall comes down atop Beech is usually pretty close to what Sugar will see. Sugar averages 78" of snow annually. They received 264" of snow in the last five seasons for a short term average of 52.8". That is only 68% of their long term average. Last season saw just 60" of snowfall. Using the short term (150%) formula, Sugar could see 78" of snowfall. Using the 110% of long term figure, they’d see 86". Since Beech picked up 10" more than Sugar last year, we’ll tweak our Sugar forecast using Beech’s. Our call: 87" and we’ll hope for more!

Wolf Ridge Resort: 63" of snow!
Just to set the record straight – we’ve been speaking with a lot of residents and business owners from around Asheville to Mars Hill (home to Wolf) and there are still a BUNCH of people who don’t believe us when we tell them that Wolf Laurel Ski Area is NOT Wolf Laurel Ski Area anymore. They changed their name a few seasons ago. Don’t believe us? Go to www.SkiWolfLaurel.com and you’ll open Wolf Ridge Ski Resort’s website. Hopefully that will settle that issue (probably won’t). Anyway Wolf WHATEVER Ski Resort averages 65" of snow per season but that haven’t hit that figure in five seasons. Some global warming / climate change peeps will argue that it’s all the building going on over there. Not so, say we. However, their 221" of snow in the last five years gives them 44.2" per season of late. That’s only 68% of their long term average. Using the 110% of long term formula would produce 72" of snow. Using the 150% formula produces 66" of snow. We’ll go 63" and we’re not sure why!

Here’s a quick glance recap in order of forecasted snowfall:

210"- Snowshoe Mountain
190"- Canaan Valley
190"- Timberline
135"- Wisp Resort
118"- Winterplace
95" – Ski Beech
87" – Sugar Mountain
63" – Wolf Ridge
63" – Cataloochee
60" – Appalachian
57" – Wintergreen
40" – Massanutten
39" – Ober Gatlinburg
35" – Bryce Resort

Now we’ll just sit back and sweat it out from now through November as the same forecasters who are all pretty much in agreement that we’ll see a colder and snowier winter than normal here around the Southeast and Mid Atlantic are ALSO saying that we won’t start seeing that colder winter…until December (which is actually when winter begins – December 21st). Some are even saying that we shouldn’t expect much cold air in November. We’ll see I guess, but the long range forecast at least through November 5th doesn’t show any signs of cold enough temps to make snow.

So we wait…but NOT MUCH LONGER!

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