Talking Open Terrain Today as Skiers and Snowboarders Flock to the Resorts Over the Holiday Period

The photo of the day (for this morning at least) is of a Snowshoe Groomer driven by Ken Gaitor. I JUST missed a young mom handing off her little girl to Ken as he placed her in the passenger seat for a little groomer time. I am assuming that was Ken’s little one. Too cool regardless!

Let’s talk terrain today and talk about the resorts by the amount of open trails (terrain) available.

1. 47 of 60 – Snowshoe Mountain
2. 19 of 47 – Canaan Valley Resort
3. 15 of 27 – Winterplace Resort
4. 14 of 34 – Wisp Resort
5. 13 of 19 – Cataloochee Ski Area
6. 10 of 12 – Appalachian Ski Mountain
7. 10 of 25 – Wintergreen Resort
8. 9 of 17 – Beech Mountain Resort
9. 7 of 8 – Bryce Resort
10. 6 of 14 – Massanutten Resort
11. 6 of 40 – Timberline Resort
12. 4 of 15 – Wolf Ridge Resort
13. 3 of 10 – Ober Gatlinburg
14. 2 of 2 – Sapphire Valley Resort
15. 2 of 9 – Omni Homestead Resort

One short glance at the list of resorts and open trails pretty much tells the story of what kind of weather and/or temperatures that resorts have had to work with for making snow, maintaining snow and getting trails open.

With the exception of Timberline Resort – all of the top ski areas with open terrain right now are West Virginia ski resorts…or further north in the case of Wisp Resort in Maryland.

Those northernmost (and top four ski resorts) have 95 of 168 trails open or 57% of their total terrain.

(Timberline Resort has had issues to address other than weather.)

The next two resorts on that list at number 5. & 6. are Cataloochee and Appalachian with 23 of 31 available trails at 74% open (both North Carolina ski areas).

Wintergreen Resort has the most open terrain in the Commonwealth of Virginia with 10 of 25 for 40% of their available terrain. Beech Mountain is operating with 53% of their slopes and the rest of the ski areas are struggling to get more terrain open.

The breakdown by state is more interesting:

West Virginia resorts are playing on 87 of 174 for exactly 50% of terrain. Take Timberline Resort out of that equation, due to issues other than weather and the WV ski areas are operating on 60% of available terrain.

Wisp Resort is playing on 41% of available slopes with 14 of 34 open.

North Carolina resorts are riding on 51 of 86 trails for 59% of their trails. They lead the region in terms of percentage of terrain open.

Virginia ski areas have 25 of 56 trails for 45% open.

Ober Gatlinburg in Tennessee is operating at 30% with 3 of 10 trails open.

What am I saying? Basically that the ever-so-slightly colder temperatures that have been prevalent in West Virginia have afforded those resorts the opportunity to get more trails open. The WV resorts are simply larger ski areas with more terrain to cover with snowmaking than their smaller brothers in the region. The North Carolina resorts have done a great job with slightly milder temps to have nearly 60% of their trails open.

…and it is really a testament to the new technologies of snowmaking that the Virginia resorts are open at a 45% clip.

All of that data supports that there’s really no denying that ALL of the ski resorts are struggling with slightly less than pristine conditions than we’d all like to see during this important Holiday week.

However, the good news is that skier visits are looking very strong at (nearly) every ski area in the Southeast and mid-Atlantic. There are perhaps four or five exceptions to that assessment across the region and I’ll just leave it at that. There are some reports of literally only a handful or two of skiers and riders at one or two ski areas.

However, traffic has indeed been brisk at most ski areas…which is awesome for the long-term success of the industry in the region.

All of the region’s ski resorts would certainly like to be open with a bit more terrain than they have right now to alleviate the traffic on the lesser open terrain.

Closing Notes

I’ve skied for four straight days now, including a night session on the first day of my getaway here at Snowshoe. Wednesday night at Silvercreek provided really, REALLY nice conditions with some snowmaking ongoing on some unopened terrain. Thursday was about as pristine and surface-perfect as it gets with tons of snow on the trees, and all surfaces (on and off the slopes) covered in snow. The conditions were groomed to perfection and what a day it was to be on the slopes.

Friday first looked like it would be a rain out, but I made 9 runs down, dodging rain drops for the first half of the day. However, the skiing surface was wonderful to carve and the slopes were not busy.

Despite the fact that Jim Cantore and The Weather Channel people were mis-reporting that Snowshoe was going to have to find a way to reopen – they were not only open, but didn’t lose a trail to the 1″ of rain. However, I will say that conditions on Saturday were challenging. While there was plenty of awesome coverage with no thin or bare areas…the surface was crusty, and in some places boilerplate hard early in the day. That quickly transitioned to deep, loose granular/corn and variable conditions that went from perfect to shaved ice to deep granular to perfect…all in a 50-100 yard stretch of slope. When you combined that with HEAVY traffic, it made for a challenge for even experienced skiers and snowboarders.

The truth is there isn’t ANYTHING that ANY ski area ANYWHERE can do about conditions when the timing of rain, cold temps, grooming and more rain and freezing conditions combine to hit at just ‘the wrong’ time and order.

Those conditions did not keep me from playing on the slopes for a good part of the day, despite spending a few hours watching the Virginia Cavaliers demolish my Gamecocks football team.

Four days and four distinctly different days of ski conditions. All great but different.

Sunday promises to be great day here at Snowshoe as they began to make snow up top at around 8pm last night. Some snowmaking and expert grooming will have the trails in sweet shape for some early runs…which I plan on doing once I finish up these last few sentences!

So my message this morning is be flexible; keep and open mind; and a positive attitude and enjoy whatever ma nature and the dance that each ski area does with snowmaking and snow maintenance.

Check the SNOW REPORT for all the deets. This morning the temps were mostly in the low 40s for the North Carolina ski areas and obviously no snowmaking happening.

Canaan Valley Resort and Snowshoe made snow and we are seeing some light flurries here this morning. Again, advantage West Virginia. I heard the groomers out early as well. Things should be awesome for another wonderful, yet unique day on the slopes.

Before I sign off – here was a nice video share from Wintergreen Resort from Saturday.

That’s it for me right now. I will be posting some vids later…so check back. Remember to FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK, or Instagram or Subscribe to our YouTube Channel to win some giveaways that we will be doing this week.
That will do it for today.

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Mike Doble
Mike is the Editor and founder of SkiSoutheast.com, SkiNC.com and ResortCams.com. Since September 1996 he has posted close to 14,000 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.