Surface Conditions Vary from Groomed to Loose Granular – Slopes are in GREAT Shape!!

Hello, world. Yesterday’s snow report looks much like today’s. No natural OR man made to speak of this morning at ANY ski area in North Carolina. Morning temperatures are looking MILD to say the least, and I’m using that word with conviction considering the lowest temperature this morning is at Appalachian Ski Mountain and it’s 35° there at 8:00am.

Here’s a look at the 8:00am temperatures for our North Carolina Ski Areas:

Appalachian Ski Mountain 35°
Beech Mountain Resort 36°
Cataloochee 40°
Sapphire Valley 37°
Sugar Mountain 38°
Wolf Ridge Resort 39°

These are WARM temperatures. We’re in the middle of a few days of thaw, and some base depths are reflecting a few inches of change. Appalachian Ski Mountain was at 79 inches (minimum) on Sunday, and today they’re reporting 77 inches. Cataloochee was at a 55 inch minimum Sunday and they’re reporting 51 inches today. Sugar reported a 51 inch minimum base two days ago and their report reflects a 5 inch difference today at 46 inches. And Wolf Ridge is also reflecting a 5 inch decrease from 80 inches to 75. High skier traffic mixed with sunshine and increased temperatures will no doubt cause snow depths to decrease, but there’s nothing to worry about! Bases are still over 100 inches in some areas so ski areas are in great shape.

Surface conditions are also changing as a result of these above freezing temperatures and tons of visitors. What we were seeing was a consistent "packed powder" which is ideal for great skiing conditions. Now that we’ve seen some consecutive days with warmer temperatures ski areas are reporting conditions like "wet granular," "loose granular," and "frozen granular." For those of you out there who are experienced skiers and snowboarders, please feel free to stop reading, as I’m about to give a lesson on just what these types of snow are. To all the first time visitors or people who have no idea what these differentiations mean or are just curious about what I’m going to say next – READ ON!

Packed Powder – Dry natural or man-made snow that has been packed down by skiing
or grooming. This snow isn’t fluffy, but it’s also not hard like ice. It’s…wonderful.

Loose Granular – Small, loose pellets of snow that is created by the grooming of wet or icy snow. Snow thaws and then refreezes as granules that do not cling together. This snow might resemble something you’d seen in a snow cone.

Wet Granular – Very wet snow, often found in spring/rainy conditions much like the conditions we are experiencing now where temperatures are rising into the 40’s and beyond. This snow will pack easily and is on the heavy side.

Frozen Granular – Frozen snow that is of a finer consistency than loose granular. This snow often looks/feels like granulated sugar. This can be regroomed without forming excessive ice.

You’ll encounter all of these conditions throughout the course of the season. We all know and love packed powder conditions. Packed powder surfaces are easiest to ski on (in my humble opinion) and they regroom beautifully, giving us the perfect set of corduroy to enjoy. But, we have to be chameleons and learn to change as the conditions do. There’s no perfect science to predicting how the snow will be. As we all know conditions on top of a mountain can chance from one second to the next!

Well, that’s about all for today, because like I mentioned before not much has changed since yesterday. For specific details check out our Snow Reports Page. To give you a quick summary, all of our North Carolina Ski Areas are 100% open with the exception of Wolf Ridge Resort, and they’re operating at 15 of 23 slopes and trails.

Conditions are still excellent across the board. So get out there and enjoy yourselves. Just a reminder to….THINK COLD!! THINK SNOW!!

Contact me directly with questions, comments, photos…or whatever else you may feel compelled to send my way… [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.