Sunny and Mild for the Next Three Days!

I fielded a fair number of phone calls yesterday from ski industry friends and there were two subjects on their minds. One was the obvious delight that we’re getting ready to see an amazing three straight days of sunny skies and wonderful temperatures today through Saturday. Even Sunday should be pretty nice for most of the day before changing to some rain/snow/whatever mix.

Vernal (Spring) Equinox begins on Saturday, March 20, 2010 at 1:32 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Many off-mountain locations around the nine or ten Southeast and mid Atlantic states that provide most of our skier visits will experience temperatures that will be approaching 80°!

In case you’re still half awake/half asleep – that was 80° (EIGHTY)!!!

That is a tough "battle" to win for marketing teams at our mountain locations. Highs are forecasted to be around 60° here in Banner Elk when Spring officially arrives just after lunchtime on Saturday. Massanutten Resort in Virginia is forecasted to see highs Saturday near 68°. Ober Gatlinburg in the Smokies is expected to reach the mid to upper 60s. Even the traditionally, much-cooler West Virginia mountains are expecting the mercury to rise to 63°.

While Snowshoe’s 4848′ elevations are looking at slightly cooler temps in the 56° range…they too will have to rely on websites like ours to "educate" as many as possible that there are some GREAT Spring conditions at all of the resorts in the region.

The battle to educate becomes impossible when even popular websites like this one, DCSki and others see our daily visitation traffic dwindle sharply. During the peak portion of this current ski and snowboarding season we saw our daily traffic peak at as many 105,000 unique visitors in one day. Average traffic for the last two months was in the 40,000 per day range. We’ve seen our own traffic dwindle to "just" 36,000 unique visitors in the last six days…total…not daily.

When the temperatures soar off the mountain, interests in skiing and riding wane, and that’s where we are. So for the 6000 or so of you who may be reading this today – you should know that during TYPICAL mid-March to April seasons we are talking about "Spring Conditions" on the slopes and those conditions usually include diminishing trail counts and bare spots and thin coverage. During typical Spring seasons I’ve had to fight to be clear to you guys that while there were yucky areas at the resorts…that there was plenty of skiable terrain.

NOT THIS SEASON. Spring Conditions this season mean something entirely different. Spring season this season simply means that there are Spring temperatures and no lift lines. However the SNOW and the slope coverage on the mountains of our region is remarkable. One look at www.HighCountryWebCams.com  will show you that our ski resorts have as much snow on the slopes and trails as most MID SEASONS. There are NO bare spots or thin coverage areas to speak of. Those that do surface late in the day after skier/boarder traffic are quickly "erased" by the talented grooming crews of the region.

HERE’S A SUGGESTION. If the 6000 or so of you who might read this today want a super treat this weekend – head to the mountains of your choice on Friday or Saturday and you’ll be treated to an experience that you won’t soon forget. You’ll get to ride great snow; do so in a light jacket or even a tee shirt and you’ll never wait more than a minute or two in a lift line. If you REALLY want to share that news with a snow-loving friend or two do so…or just keep the secret to yourself and you can thank me later.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be awesome at the ski areas. Go take advantage of it!

THE SECOND SUBJECT ON THE MINDS OF MANY???

If you ever want to get people talking, do what I did on Wednesday. Without mentioning names I vented a few frustrating, negative marketing conversations that I’ve had to listen to this season. Those who called me were all of the same opinion that all of our ski areas have had a good year this season. Whether one resort or another is slightly down from their best year ever or another resort set records doesn’t matter. All of the ski areas of our region ALL have had great seasons this season. All made money and ALL are wrapping up what is probably anywhere from a top five to top ten skier visit and income generating season.

That is good for so many reasons but chief among them is the fact that profits fuel reinvestment in their product. Profits fuel growth, new infrastructure tweaks and all of the things that make your NEXT trips to the resorts even better.

HERE’S SOME NOTABLES…

Tammy Brown of Cataloochee was in a great mood on Wednesday as she shared the fact that while some ski areas are tweaking the closing schedules to close a bit sooner than expected – Cataloochee is extending theirs.

Here’s the official announcement:

Cataloochee Ski Area Extends 2009/2010 Season!

Maggie Valley, NC – Cataloochee Ski Area has decided that winter is far from over and will be extending its 2009/2010 season for two additional weekends. Beginning March 27, skiers and riders will enjoy weekday rates for day skiing sessions only on March 27 and 28 as well as April 3 and 4. Session times on those dates will be 9am until 4:30pm.

Cataloochee will not operate during the week Monday through Friday, March 22-26 or Monday through Friday, March 29 through April 2.

“We have decided to remain open these additional days because of the amount of snow base we continue to have as well as our continued skier interest,” said Chris Bates, Cataloochee Vice President and General Manager. “We feel there is a level of enthusiasm to ski and ride as we move into spring and we will remain open to help folks enjoy the last days of the season.”

Cataloochee Ski Area, located in heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, continues to be one of the first resorts to open in the East. The oldest winter area in North Carolina continues to make significant improvements to its snowmaking capabilities allowing them to remain aggressive in helping skiers and snowboarders enjoy one of the longest skiing seasons in the Southeast.

For an up-to-date snow report and hours of operation for the rest of the 2009/2010 season and more information about the 2010/2011 season go to www.cataloochee.com  

GREG DOBSON SHARES SOME SNOWY NEWS..

"Mike,

In this recent period of not so great winter weather at most resorts, and locations below, say 4000’, I am surprised you haven’t proclaimed the fact that it has at least been snowing, in NC, in the high elevations. In fact, Mt. Mitchell has reported snowfall for the last 5 days in a row, for a total of 8”; Beech for 4 days in a row for a total of 3.5”; and Mt. LeConte in the Smokies for 3 days in a row, though they haven’t reported today yet, for a total of at least 12”. This all according to NWS COOP reports, which are even more official than CoCoRaHS. Yeah, even though the forecasts have been gloomy, and spring is on everyone’s mind, including yours(!), this should give us at least some hope that winter is not over yet. Oh, don’t forget that the NC snowfall record for a single storm was set in APRIL of 1987, 60 inches at Newfound Gap (5500’) in the Smokies!! And Mt. Pisgah down here south of Asheville had over 40” in May 1992!"

Canaan Valley has downsized a bit from Wednesday. They are offering 35 of 39 trails today.

Snowshoe Mountain is offering some goodies: "Bring your season pass from any other mountain and you’ll get $20 lift tickets! Plus, buy your 10-11 Snowshoe season pass now, and you’ll save up to 25% and ski FREE for the remainder of this season! Call 877-441-4386 for complete details and to plan your Snowshoe escape!"

WINTERPLACE RESORT is not closing this Sunday as I mistakenly reported on Wednesday. Their wording was bit confusing, but they are actually staying open through the 28th.

We’re on day 112 and there are 25 more days of opportunities to enjoy the snow for the 2009-2010 ski and snowboarding season!

Go enjoy the snow! Check out the Snow Report at http://www.skisoutheast.com/skireports.php  and please send us your favorite ski photos, ski videos, trip reports and comments to [email protected]