T-Minus THREE DAYS and counting!

Sorry for the late SkiSoutheast.com update today. We have been swamped!

According to all of the forecasters, snowmaking crews at all of the Southeast resorts will begin making snow sometime on Friday. The temperatures will remain close to 20 degrees milder than normal through Thursday and then Friday Old Man Winter FINALLY returns to the mountains. We’ve all been watching as the West gets bombed with snow and wondered, "what about us?" This morning there are forecasts saying that Telluride will get six-to-seven FEET of snow! Amazing! Trust me, we don’t want that…but a foot or two at a time would be sweet for a change.

Right now the forecast is for light rain to be in the picture overnight Thursday night and Friday morning and it is possible that the colder air could catch up with the rain before it ends possibly changing the rain to snow showers mainly at higher elevations.

MUCH COLDER air will invade the mountains for this Martin Luther King weekend. Right now, it is a good estimate that resorts will kick on the snowguns sometime early on Friday and then you can count on the fact that they will be firing in FULL FORCE every moment that the temps allow…which right now appears to be 24/7 through the 18th and then we even have a chance of snow showers around the 18th or 19th. Snowmaking temps are in the forecast through the end of the long range forecast (Jan 20th) so that is GREAT NEWS for all snow lovers everywhere.

MLK Weekend Plans – Again that was the question of the day on Monday, so I won’t rehash the details (you can read them by clicking on the "ARCHIVED ARTICLES PAGE" link at the bottom of this column. Suffice to say that the resorts that are open today will be skiing Friday…and throughout the weekend. Those that are closed, such as Hawksnest, Sapphire Valley, The Homestead and Ober Gatlinburg will MORE LIKELY reopen a day or so later, but we will keep you posted with up-to-the-minute data.

Ski Beech has surprised most everyone by remaining open, albeit with only their (3) Beginner slopes open but as Gil Adams of Ski Beech said, "This week we have been only skiing on beginner terrain, and it has been good for learning skiers since there has been no crowd and forgiving snow conditions. It won’t be too much longer and we will have to roll down our sleeves and add a couple more layers as an artic blast heads our way. We are looking forward to great conditions again."

Wintergreen Resort in Virginia’s chief snowman, Jay Roberts, says, "Snow will survive better if you leave it alone." With that in mind, Wintergreen is reducing their hours of operation midweek this week until they can resume snowmaking on Thursday. Several resorts are saying much the same thing.

Less Terrain — Cheaper Rates? – One of our On-Snow Reporters was at Sugar Mountain yesterday and they were met with what they termed as "some of the worst conditions I’ve seen in years" and he asked about any discounts on lift tickets since there was so many fewer trails open and what he later termed as, "some slopes had more grass than snow on them…" He asked about discounts as was told that there were none. We have not made it a point to call around and see what all of the other resorts were doing, but we CAN tell you that Canaan Valley in West Virginia is offering 50% Off Daily Lift Tickets through Friday, January 14, 2005 (No coupon required). Ski Beech is basically doing the same thing today with "Buy One Get One Free" and on Wednesday they gave a $15.00 Lift ticket rate. We’ll try to look into the others (if you guys read this and want to email us…please do at [email protected]) but we have to say that charging $35 for a full day lift ticket when things are as bad as they are over at Sugar sure seems a bit high. Could be that’s what prompted Blue Ridge Outdoors to tag them as The Most Overrated Ski Resort. They wrote, "We’re not saying that Sugar Mountain is a bad resort. It’s gt 1,200 feet of vertical drop-the most in North Carolina. It has 20 slopes scattered around 115 acres-the biggest in North Carolina. And it’s got Whoopdedoo-the steepest and toughest slope in North Carolina. But it’s also got the biggest crowds in North Carolina and one of the worst skier bottlenecks on any mountain in the Southeast. And $53 for a weekend lift ticket? That’s about what it costs to ski Vail or Breckenridge."

Snowshoe Resort – The resort, through their "Snow News is Good News" update yesterday said, "The recent mild temperatures have taken a toll on the slopes. The majority of the trails remain open and all the lifts are operating, but only a couple of trails have tree-line to tree-line coverage. Thin areas and bare spots are going to be with us until the pattern changes Thursday night. By the time the snowmakers and groomers are done with the slopes when the temperatures return to normal for this year, no one will recognize the Resort. When the cold temperatures hit, Mountain Operations is planning to close a group of core trails on Friday to aggressively make snow on the trails. When the snowmakers are aggressively making snow on trails, the guns are placed in the middle of the trails, which covers the slopes more effectively. So, the trails have to be closed for the guns to be in the middle of the slopes. These core trails will be reopened for the holiday weekend."

Timberline Resort – Hats off to Timberline, who took our statements to heart and not only faxed us a report update early, but also had their website updated this morning BEFORE us! Timberline is day skiing only today on 16 trails with 2 lifts in operation. The snow looks pretty good up there.