Snowmaking Ops Extraordinaire!

Over the last 24 hours we’ve fielded a fair number of emails asking whether or not Cataloochee and/or Sugar would "make it" to be able to stay open through this weekend for skiing and snowmaking. I have to admit when I saw the long range forecast this past Monday morning I wondered if either would "make it" to today, much less Saturday or Sunday.

(From this morning at 8am at the base of Sugar)

However, one look at the photos on this page – one that was taken at 8am this morning at the base of Sugar and one that was captured from Cat’s live webcam will attest to the fact that both ski areas have plenty of snow on the ground. So yes, I think they’ll make it. I think there will be skiing and snowboarding happenin’ at both ski areas this weekend.

Cataloochee this morning via their live webcam!

Past that? That’s anyone’s guess…but the forecast isn’t looking great right now and it doesn’t look like any other resort will make snow until around the 18th or 19th of November. That’s eight or nine days from now, so logical thinking is that we’ll see Cat and Sugar have to shut down ski ops for a few days after this weekend until they and all of the rest of the ski areas can crank of the snowguns in earnest and get the season going in full swing.

Bear in mind that Sugar is open today and has been each day since opening this past Saturday, November 6th, 2010. That opening date was just ONE DAY SHORT of Sugar’s earliest opening day EVER which was on November 5th back in 1976. That will probably come as a surprise to some.

I have to tell you that Sugar, Cataloochee and all of our ski areas in the Southeast and Mid Atlantic can make snow like no other ski areas in the nation. I was up at Sugar this past Friday afternoon at around 5pm and even though I knew that Gunther and his team can lay down a ton of snow in very little time – I had my doubts as to whether they would open Saturday…much less Saturday morning. However they did and of course they made snow right through Sunday and all reports posted attest to very nice conditions from their 3/4 station down.

Cataloochee opened with rave reviews and operated Saturday and Sunday before closing for the week. That’s their normal early season operating schedule and things look to be holding up rather well for them to be able to reopen for weekend day sessions.

That’s a real testament to just how much of an investment in snowmaking equipment that our resorts have implemented over the years.

So don’t fret too much over the weather right now. If you have the Joneses for some snow head to Cat or Sugar this weekend and enjoy some early turns on the mountain. So what if things go south for a few days post that. The weather will turn cold again and with some prolonged cold temps we will see all of the resorts coated in white soon enough. Okay, not soon enough…but soon.


Here’s the forecast for the region for the next few days…

North Carolina Mountains

Wednesday – Hi: 64° Lo: 31° – Sunny

Thursday – Hi: 61° Lo: 30° – Sunny

Friday – Hi: 61° Lo: 30° – Sunny

Saturday – Hi: 59° Lo: 34° – Mostly Sunny

Sunday – Hi: 55° Lo: 39° – Cloudy

West Virginia + Wisp

Wednesday – Hi: 52° Lo: 33° – Sunny

Thursday – Hi: 58° Lo: 33° – Sunny

Friday – Hi: 58° Lo: 33° – Sunny

Saturday – Hi: 50° Lo: 38° – Mostly Sunny

Sunday – Hi: 47° Lo: 36° – Chance of rain


We enjoy handling the tons of emails that come in through our skiMail system. We get a lot of generic ones that we try to answer in a timely manner. Occasionally we get the crazy "where do they put all the snow over the summer" kind of questions. Then we also get opportunities to assist people who we can tell have never been to the mountains or seen snow, etc. We get both sides of craziest. One email will relate that they’ve seen our snow reports of 100" of base at Appalachian but wonder if there will be any snow left after a two day thaw. The very next email will be from someone wondering if the resorts will still be open in June. We have fun educating people as best we can and we have some fun with it from time to time.

We received 114 emails yesterday and most were related to the question (in one form or another), "Do you think all the ski resorts will be open with all of their slopes by Christmas?"

Man I hope so!

Here’s one email we received yesterday that kind of sums up some that we get…

Akiyoshi M. of Charlotte, NC wrote: "Can we go with a normal tire until going from Charlotte to that? Is the tire chain necessary?"

Answer: Akiyoshi, if you’re asking about TODAY or right now…then you can get here from Charlotte with bald tires. No chains are necessary unless you plan on attempting to drive out on the slopes at Sugar or Cataloochee. I’m thinking that Gunther or Chris might have something to say about that, so keep those tires on the pavement and you’ll be fine. If you’re asking about inclement weather driving conditions, then YES chains are often required even to get to some of the rental cabins, etc. Our road conditions reporting and our daily "First TRacks" column will always inform our readers of travel conditions so just keep reading.

He sent a second email:

"Please teach me the schedule 2010-2011 of the NASTAR Race in Sugar Mountain."

First of all for those who don’t know what NASTAR is. NASTAR is a public racing program that is sponsored by Nature Valley that provides recreational racers with an opportunity to compare their ski or racing abilities to friends and others as well as to the fastest member of the US Ski Team (USST).

Since the program’s beginning in 1968, more than 6 million NASTAR racer days have been recorded.It has been available at more than 119 ski resorts in North America. Many U.S. Ski Team stars got their start ski racing in NASTAR programs.

I was speaking with Len Bauer from Sugar the other day and I know he mentioned that they had built a new starting shed and were excited to be able to offer an even more fun NASTAR experience.

The NASTAR races are held at Sugar Mountain on Saturday and Sunday each week at 12 noon. Pre-registration is located in the Ski/Snowboard School until 10:45 am Saturday and Sunday. On mountain registration starts at 11:00 am and ends at 11:50 am prior to the 12 noon start. All races are subject to weather and slope conditions. Lift ticket/slope pass or a season pass required to participate. Prices are $5 per person for adults, $4 per minor and $2 per each rerun.

That’s all for today people! THINK COLD! THINK SNOW!

Be sure to check back often for more photos being posted as well as our video blog. If you have not yet visited our Ski Messageboard Forum you should do so.

We’ll be sharing TONS more input about our plans for this season, but for a little sneak peek visit:

Send your comments, photos, videos and trip reports to: [email protected]

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Mike Doble
Mike is the Editor and founder of, and 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.