Good morning on this beautiful St. Patrick’s Day! We’re talking the weather today! After we share the forecast for the next few days (which looks great) we will share just how much natural snow fell at each of the region’s ski resorts this winter. We had already planned to provide a summary before the end of the season and had a request for that information yesterday – so we figured we’d do that today.
First to the weather forecast…
Happy St. Paddy’s Day Everyone! After a string of rainy, gloomy days we’ll see some gorgeous blue skies and perhaps some "green" today (grass is growing)! High pressure takes control of the forecast for the next couple of days and temperatures will be mild. The next front will pass through the region late on Thursday bringing with it a chance for a shower or two. It will turn cooler for Friday and the weekend looks dry and cool, but not cold. Sunday will be another mild day and several ski areas will call it quits on what should be a nice weather day.
Here’s the weather summaries for each of the regions:
The North Carolina Mountains will see:
Tuesday and Wednesday: Hi 60 Low 40 – Sunny Skies
Thursday: Hi 56 Low 31 – increasing clouds with late showers
Friday and Saturday: Sunny and cooler with highs in the mid 40s and lows in the mid 20s. The ski resorts COULD make some snow if they choose to.
Sunday and Monday: Scattered clouds and milder with highs in the mid to upper 50s and lows in the low to mid 30s.
The Virginia Mountains: Simply add about 8 degrees to the temps for Wednesday and a degree or two milder for the rest of the days. Otherwise the forecast is much the same.
West Virginia and Western Maryland:
Today: Cloudy through mid morning, then gradual clearing, with a high near 50. North wind between 5 and 10 mph. Tonight: Mostly clear, with a low around 39. Calm wind becoming west between 5 and 8 mph.
Wednesday: Sunny through mid morning, then becoming partly sunny, with a high near 57. Calm wind becoming southwest between 5 and 8 mph. Wednesday Night: A chance of showers, mainly after 3am. Increasing clouds, with a low around 39. West wind between 10 and 15 mph, with gusts as high as 26 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.
Thursday: Showers likely, mainly before noon. Cloudy, with a high near 46. Northwest wind between 9 and 11 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible. Thursday Night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 20.
Friday: Partly sunny, with a high near 37. Friday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 21.
Saturday: Sunny, with a high near 47. Saturday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 33.
Sunday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 51. Sunday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 38.
Monday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 50.
IT HAS BEEN A GREAT SEASON…BUT HOW MUCH SNOW FELL!
Yesterday we were talking "numbers" with a few of our ski area managers and in terms of the numbers that are important to them, the 2008-2009 ski season has been a successful one. Even if this season was framed outside of the economic problems that plague many would be travelers this would be considered a great one. Most ski resort operators have shared that this season will go in the books as a top three-to-five season in terms of skier visits and the revenue associated with those vacationers. When you package this kind of great skier-visit season within the framework of a year when the economy is playing havoc with many people’s ability to make money – then the 2008-2009 season’s success is all the more impressive. Of course there are those that actually feel that one of the reasons that it has been a successful season in the southeast is BECAUSE the resorts are located in the southeast and people simply "travelled closer to home" to save money over potentially more expensive travels out west. Regardless it has been a good one.
It’s funny though – when people outside of the ski resort industry judge a season they tend to rate it on how much snow fell and what kind of conditions did they find when they arrived on their trips to the resorts. If someone visited one of our ski areas during a "thaw" then their perception is probably tainted somewhat. Before we share the details on just how much snow fell during the 2008-2009 ski season, understand that the ski area management teams really could care less about natural snowfall – as that isn’t really what we all ski on. We ski on a combination of nature’s DNA (real snow), sleet, rain, freezing rain, more snow – and a mixture that is probably made up of perhaps as much as 98% MANMADE SNOW. Some of that manmade snow is almost as sweet as the real powder that God drops from the sky; some of it is certainly far more granular and some of it has a bacterial protein additive "Snowmax" that is used as a "nucleator" to make the snow form quicker and last longer than other manmade snow …or natural snow.
So the resorts keep us skiing around these parts with some amazing snowmaking and maintenance that is second to none in the entire United States – if not the world. That sounds like an exaggeration but it isn’t!
So NATURAL SNOW serves more to excite the masses and get people fired up to head to the mountains and play (and ski or ride) in the snow. When we receive a few inches of natural snow it certainly makes for an amazing day on the slopes and that four or five times each season that we’re blessed with deeper powder is truly awesome.
So HOW MUCH SNOW FELL THIS SEASON?
Nature was a little fickle with the real stuff this season. Before the season even started, forecasters were already predicting that the resorts in West Virginia, Maryland and northward would get more than their share. They also forecasted that some of the ski areas in the Southern Appalachians would see somewhat less snow than normal. Dr. Ray Russell, of local weather guru fame, was about the only forecaster predicting that the North Carolina mountains would see "90% of the long-term average and 135% higher than the 10-year average."
He actually forecasted 41" of snowfall for Banner Elk, 35" for Boone and 72" for Beech Mountain. Let’s see how the forecasters did: The first number is how much snow they had this season and the second number is their 10 year average snowfall. The percentage out beside it it the percentage of normal snowfall that they received this season compared to the 10 year average.
North Carolina Mountains:
Appalachian Ski Mountain – 42" – 50" – 84%
Cataloochee Ski Area – 44" – 40" – 91%
Sapphire Valley – 7" – 30" – 23%
Ski Beech – 67.8" – 80" – 85%
Sugar Mountain – 60" – 78" – 77%
Wolf Ridge Resort – 46" – 65" – 71%
Virginia Ski Resorts:
Bryce Resort – 10" – 30" – 34%
Massanutten Resort – 18" – 35" – 51%
The Homestead – 22" – 50" – 44%
Wintergreen Resort – 25" – 34" – 74%
West Virginia Ski Areas:
Canaan Valley – 174" – 150" – 116%
Snowshoe Mountain – 189" – 180" – 105%
Timberline Resort – 172.6" – 150" – 115%
Winterplace Resort – 77" – 100" – 77%
Ober Gatlinburg – 21" – 35" – 60%
Wisp Resort – 112" – 100" – 112%
As you can see, Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia, which traditionally gets the most snow in the region, did so again this season and their 189" is 9" above their average. Canaan, Timberline and Wisp all saw 12-16% more snow than their average. During January and February those resorts were getting SO MUCH snow that it appeared than some of those resorts would end up exceeding 200" on season. That didn’t happen, but those ski areas from Snowshoe north – all saw more snow than normal which WAS what Brad Panovich, Matthew East and other meteorologists were forecasting before the season began.
They also forecasted that those resorts further south into the Southern Appalachians would see less than average snowfall…although close enough to be better "natural snowfall season" than we’ve seen in the last two to three years. That prediction ALSO came to fruition as resorts in North Carolina all saw anywhere from 42-67" of snowfall. For example, Ski Beech received 67.8" of snow – which was below their ten year average of 80" – but substantially more than the last few season. During the 2007-2008 season Beech saw 38" of snow. 2006-2007 produced 40" of snow. In fact you have to go back to the 2004-2005 season to find the last season that Ski Beech saw 80 or more inches of snow (84"). So the forecasters did a great job of nailing this season. Most forecasted some wild swings of weather and some substantial snow producing storms. We had that.
In fact, you can almost see the "line" that forms south of Snowshoe wherein the resorts north of that all exceeded their average seasonal snow total. From Winterplace down – all of the resorts were under their ten year averages. Winterplace Resort saw 77". As you can see from the snow totals above, the cold temperatures routinely "jumped" from the West Virginia and Maryland ski areas to the North Carolina resorts (where elevations are higher than those in Virginia and even most of WV and MD). Wintergreen Resort led the way of the Virginia ski areas with only 25" of natural snow. Where they are located they never see a ton of snow (averaging 34" each Winter) but they only saw 74% of their average. However, that was substantially higher than most of the Virginia ski resorts which saw from 34-51% of their average snowfall.
OUR WEATHER FRIENDS ALL GET "A’s"!
You have to give credit to all of the meteorologists and weather gurus out there in SkiNC and SkiSoutheast.com land. Every one of them really nailed the season – including all of them that columnist Joe Stevens interviewed preseason. Congratulations on some great forecasting. If you guys don’t mind, we’d like to put in an early order for even MORE natural snow for next season! We’d say that all of the meteorologists that provided us with content (and with whom Joe Stevens interviewed) all get "A’s".
How did Dr. Ray Russell’s "fearless forecast" do? He forecasted that the North Carolina mountains would see about 90% of the long term average and 135% higher than the 10-year average. Ski Beech and Sugar saw 77-85% of their ten year average (which is also close to the long term numbers) Only Cataloochee of the North Carolina ski areas exceeded their average snow total with 44" of snow compared to their average of 40". Ski Beech received the most snow in the state and saw 85% of their 10 year average. Dr. Ray gets a passing grade from us even though he was about fifty percentage points off on the seasonal snow-compared to the ten year average number. They WELL exceeded the snowfall totals from the last three seasons and that would compare pretty favorably with the 135% that he forecasted.
He definatively forecasted 72" for Ski Beech and they saw 67.8" and that in our book makes for a pretty darn good prediction! We think that deserves an "A".
That’s it for today. There’s only a few days left in the 2008-2009 season so go enjoy some pretty good, Spring Conditions and send us some pics if you get a chance!
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