Telling it Like It Is – Some Resorts are Faring Better than others

After Saturday’s morning update we received a few emails from people that seemed to have some issues with the fact that we were putting a positive spin on the fact that we DO have some decent terrain to ski and ride on across the region. One young person with the obvious IQ that matched the single digit finger image that accompanied his email wrote, “You guys are trying to mislead your readers by telling them that the conditions are pretty nice, when I know better. I was at Ski Beech yesterday and I’m here to tell you that conditions were the pits!”

(Editor’s Note: Okay we cleaned up young Bart Simpson’s email because he couldn’t spell and of course he sprinkled in some much needed profanity.)

Now for our rebuttal – Bart WHERE THE HECK HAVE YOU BEEN FOR THESE PAST ELEVEN SEASONS? Whew, sorry, but I needed to yell! We realize that low IQ people seem to have a knack for pulling a word or two out of entire paragraphs and coming up with support for their own agenda, but it is within these kinds of sparse snow conditions that SkiNC and SkiSoutheast has earned its reputation of “Telling it like it is”.

For example, while only THREE of the seventeen resorts that make up the southeast ski region are reporting thin coverage, we told you guys yesterday to expect thin coverage at ALL resorts, and that most also had some bare spots to boot. That is the facts. However, in our eleven seasons of providing content for YOU, the visitor, we have also come to know that there is a mistaken perception that when things are as mild as they have been of late – that a fairly large percentage of flatlanders think that ALL of the snow is gone, and we need to present the facts to make people aware that that is not the case as well. One of our long time friends of SkiNC, David Harrison of Orlando, Florida wrote us yesterday that is was 86° in "O-Town" the other day.

Another point to make about detailing slope conditions across each of the 19 snow sports areas that we cover is that we can’t take up enough room to detail every resort in a lengthy manner every day. That would take too long and most people would not read it anyway. Additionally, we report the accurate conditions each day; we’re THE ONLY reporting service that does the kind of daily reporting/writing that you are reading right now; AND we are the only service that provides DAILY photos and LIVE CAMERAS of the number of resorts that we do. Anyone with an IQ greater than young Bart’s should be able to look at the slope conditions page, read our morning updates, look at the images that we post on the Photo Galleries, tour some of the live cameras and make an educated decision on whether the conditions warrant YOUR hard earned dollars. Where ELSE can you get this kind of data? Uhmmmm, we’re thinking NOWHERE ELSE.

More Reality Checks…

Having vented with the above commentary, it should be said that there are some ski areas that are in far better shape than others. We’d love to be able to tell you to take your pick and you’ll find equal conditions no matter where you go. That is simply not the case. Case in point, Ski Beech looks terrible today. They know it…and the cameras support it. Is there skiable terrain there? Yes. If you happen to already have lodging for the week and you WANT to ski somewhere…Beech is offering some skiable terrain. Are the images that you’ll find there worthy of a Currier and Ives postcard? Not a chance. But there IS snow to be ridden.

Other ski areas are already reporting that we should expect some schedule changes for the upcoming week, hinting that there may be some closures or altering of sessions…such as no night skiing, etc. The weather forecast for today and Monday is for perhaps an inch or more of rain for much of our coverage area from Western North Carolina up through West Virginia and into Maryland. That rain WILL probably spell some resort closures by Tuesday if not sooner in a case or two. We can also expect that some resorts will need to close down a slope or two by Monday or Tuesday.

Some Good Terrain and Decent Snow CAN BE FOUND…

Now HERE is where we evidently confuse people such as young, intelligent Bart. While ALL of the above is factual commentary – it also has to be said that there are some resorts with 95% of their open slopes that are covered in VERY NICE SNOW and wonderful ski conditions. Not NORMAL, mid-winter-like conditions…but nonetheless VERY NICE snow. Some resorts have had better fortunes than others. Some have had slightly colder night time temps than others that have allowed for SOME snow making opportunities.

While all of the Virginia resorts and Ober have had to suffer through more than a week of no snowmaking, others have made some snow, such as Cataloochee a time or two…and others. In fact, Snowshoe Mountain has actually been able to make snow on NINE of the last TWELVE nights. That will make for better conditions than you’ll find elsewhere right now. However, even with a 9 of 12 snow making effort even Snowshoe is fighting the fight of thin coverage and bare areas that are popping out. Probably 25% of their 33 trails have some portions where high traffic is creating some discolored snow and a bare area or two. However, before a mistaken perception is concluded we need to say that Snowshoe looks very nice right now. While slopes like Moonshine has some worn spots close to the top, other steeps like Skip Jack look GREAT.

We also looked at live cams of Timberline and Wisp this morning and they look VERY NICE. Lots of white and wonderful, skiable terrain.

So, in closing, our new found, young friend (Bart) – things ARE pretty decent out there and your favorite resort probably HAS some decent, skiable terrain for you to play on. Take an opportunity and stop by their admin office and THANK THEM for their hard fight against Mother Nature’s cruel game that she has been playing for most of the month of December. If YOUR favorite resort happens to be one of those that are not in very good shape right now, then this is a wonderful time to explore and test out another resort where the snow may be better.

Where’s The BEST Conditions? – That was our most asked question via emails since yesterday. Our picks would be:

In the West Virginia / Maryland Area: Snowshoe since they have been able to make snow 9 of 12 nights, and they do have 33 trails open today. Other decent conditions will be found at Timberline and Wisp for honorable mention.

In Virginia: This is tough because they have had it bad when it comes to snowmaking ops. Reward them with your business if you’re in the area. If you’re traveling, we’d suggest traveling a little further because conditions simply are not that great anywhere in Virginia right now. If we HAVE to pick – Wintergreen.

In North Carolina/Tennessee: Top pick would be Cataloochee, with a very close second going to Appalachian. Both are showing very little in the way of thin coverage and Cat did get to make some snow the other night. Hawksnest isn’t too bad (their live camera is back to working – visit www.HighCountryWebCams.com ) and Sugar isn’t horrible. They do have some pretty large areas of thin coverage and a few bare spots as well, but there is plenty of decent snow to ride.

THE WEATHER – AND ANY SIGNS OF WINTER??!!

That is the other top question of the day. We have tried to cover that as well as possible each of the last few days. We’ve been on a ski vacation ourselves so we haven’t had contact with all of our meteorological friends (maybe a couple will email us their thoughts), but here’s what we KNOW.

We’re getting some rain TODAY, Sunday. Some areas may see an inch or so or more as the day goes on…and into Monday. As of this post, it is ALREADY raining in the High Country area of Western North Carolina. It is also windy…so Sunday won’t be a beautiful day to play on the snow – except for the diehards that simply want to say they did it.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday won’t be too bad. Highs in the 40s and lows that actually MIGHT allow for some snowmaking. Some areas might even see a natural snowflake or two. Snowmaking ops would be great! The close-to-normal-temps of Tuesday and Wednesday won’t stay around long as the next day or so will be milder. Saturday night we may see some more snowmaking ops. That is the way that it’s been thus far this season – a frustrating weather roller coaster.

From what some of the experts are saying…we’re not going to get out of this yuck mode until perhaps the middle of January. Herb Stevens, the skiing weatherman, and others are saying that our weather in the Southeast and Mid Atlantic has been affected from  the winds within the upper levels of the atmosphere across the Northern Hemisphere which dictate our weather patterns. Though we’ve had the moisture, we’ve also had milder temps. Over the last several weeks, our air has come from Pacific origins, which normally is a more mild source of air. What we NEED is for the air currents to change and come from Canadian origins. While we’ve turned wetter, we continue to see the kind of above-normal temperatures.

According to Herb and others, this air flow pattern isn’t changing anytime soon. Stevens’ latest missive seems to hint that he is seeing a pattern change that may begin affecting our weather around mid-month that may provide some hope for skiers and ski resort operators. He and others seem to be saying that if this happens, we should see some more consistent cold weather and more normal snows in late January and into February.

That’s what we’re going to root for.

One source emailed me yesterday that there is a very rare scenario that has happened historically during el Niño influenced winters, wherein if by January 1st an area has only seen about 10% of their normal snowfall to date – that they will NOT see anymore snow for the remainder of the winter. He also wrote that within those rare seasons, that temps rarely dipped below 32°.

This writer WAS a well known meteorologist. Notice we wrote “WAS” because you won’t be seeing him around anymore. Poor fellow never had a chance. We read his email, immediately tracked him down and he served as target practice for my recently sharpened ski poles! If you’re a television station and your top weather guru doesn’t show for work today – we don’t know ANYTHING!

Get Out and Enjoy Some Snow and New Year’s Celebrations…

Check the individual websites for all of the happenings and events that are going down tonight! …and Happy New Year. Things will get better. They HAVE to!

Email your comments and photos to [email protected]  

Until Next Time…

THINK COLD AND SNOW!!!

Send comments and emails to: [email protected]  

For more information about the ski resorts of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic visit www.SkiSoutheast.com  

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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 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.