We Need to be more Critical?

I was reading some content about the recent National Signing Day for high school seniors that just took place on Wednesday. The top recruit in the country hasn’t announced his decision as yet and university football programs were not allowed to speak with him any further from Tuesday through Thursday of this week as that period was labeled "the dead period" – meaning ZERO conversation.

Today begins a "quiet period" for college football recruiters. That’s sort of the way I feel about the period we’re in right now for skiing and snowboarding. All of the snow went north and south of us from this past major winter storm. Portions of TEXAS received 6" of snow on Wednesday and of course way north of us they saw two feet of snow. Thankfully we didn’t see the yuck, rain, and wintry mix that they were forecasting for us…nor have we experienced rain…so the ski areas are in great shape heading into the weekend.

The not-so-great news is that we’re looking at a 70-100% chance of rain across much of our area of coverage for later today with the highest chances being in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia for today. The entire region is looking at the possibility of freezing rain and yuck tonight and into much of the first part of the day on Saturday before possibly changing over to snow later in the day or Saturday night.

Sunday looks like the best day for riding the snow with clear skies and a high in the low 30s across the West Virginia mountains and into the upper 30s and low 40s for the North Carolina ski areas.

I haven’t heard any of our meteorologists really talking about any kind of real change in patterns, but the last couple of weeks have looked a lot more borderline like the forecasts that were presented to us back in September and October for the entire winter. Many of those preseason forecasts talked about a challenging winter with borderline snowmaking, borderline wet snows, etc. Hopefully this won’t be a longterm trend for the rest of the season.

The ski resorts should be able to make snow Saturday afternoon and night. Ditto that for Monday night and then from Tuesday around the clock through Thursday as the forecast for next week looks VERY COLD and snowy. Nobody’s talking longterm yet but next Tuesday’s snow looks light, but behind that we’re seeing some prospects of some significant snows into Thursday just prior to next weekend.

Of course there are TONS of deep snow and base depths on all of the slopes of all of our resorts so they’re in great shape right now. Surface conditions will be wet, icy, slush, etc for tonight into Saturday but with some fast snow maintenance (grooming) things should be AWESOME for Sunday this weekend and then all next week and for at least the short term weather forecasting period.

WE NEED TO GRIPE MORE?!?!

This weekend looks like yet another busy, busy weekend for the ski resorts. Saturday could "dampen" the crowds a little. As I mentioned above, we’re kind of in a "quiet period" here as we’re between great weather. I was looking back over some of our reader submitted emails and I guess I was reading some of the emails over the last month with blinders on because I received a dozen or so emails from you guys who pretty much said the same thing. I don’t have time to share them all, but here are a couple and they sum up the sentiment of those of you who have written on this subject.

Arian writes, "I’m going to take a risk and perhaps turn you on me – which is huge since I would love to move back to North Carolina and work for you one day! (I actually interviewed with you last year and my wife and I chatted with you at last year’s Snowshoe summit.)

I’ve noticed that as Appnet’s skiing sites have become more prominent your willingness to exact a critical eye has essentially disappeared. Where before I viewed you, your staff and the site as ambassadors of the skiing public, I now view you more as ambassadors of the resorts and their respective operators and owners.

This is not a good or bad thing. Your service to the snow lovers has not changed – you still provide amazing information and commentary that is not available so readily as you are able to package it. The site is beautiful and you continue to innovate and grow. But in so far as having an ability to act as a journalist and ask hard questions that matter, well, this is something I really wish your sites would take on like back in the old days. The industry in the south, the North Carolina resorts especially, has so much potential but sometimes could really use a push."

Here’s another…

Brenda H wrote, "Is it just me or have you become more of a mouth for the ski areas than a reporter for the people? Seems that you used to bitch more about how some ski areas needed to report more honestly, quit fabicating reports or do a better job. Now it seems that you’re just being Mr. Nice Guy."

Those best sum on the other reader’s thoughts. Here’s my take on things.

First, even most of you and I could provide great conditions for us to ride on with the weather that our ski areas have enjoyed last season and thus far this season. Resorts have had to make less snow and work less to maintain it than in most seasons prior. Translation: Snow quality and maintenance efforts are at a higher premium when the weather is more challenging. With the weather we’ve had in the last season and a half my dog could keep good snow on the slopes.

Second, let’s see.

So far this season I have repeatedly been outspoken that Wolf Ridge Ski Resort has over-reported their natural snow totals. We have repeatedly brought up the fact that they are reporting 109" on the season when we know it to be closer to 91". That’s 18" being over-reported.

We have reported several times that Sapphire, The Homestead, and Timberline didn’t even provide updated reports. We reported that any ski area that doesn’t keep their reports up-to-date is missing the boat.

We reported early and often that Winterplace was reporting 27 trails on the report when they showed 28 on the snow conditions pages. Through our joint efforts we got that straigtened out.

Twice this season we reported how Wisp was UNDER reporting natural snow totals and then over-reported them later. (They are dead-on right now.)

Though they’ve been amazingly accurate over the last three seasons, we reported twice this season when Sugar over-reported natural snowfalls. While they’re accurate on their seasonal snow totals, they’ve been off reporting twice for the previous 24 hours, etc.

By my count that’s seven of the 17 ski areas that we’ve potentially ticked off this season alone. We’re still getting some heat from Dave Snow’s story a couple of seasons ago about Beech. Even though they replaced their GM citing all that we wrote about as reasons for making the change to a "new day at the Beech" – we still hear about it.

What a lot of you guys are not aware of is that we have a "mostly love" but sometimes a "we’re a pain in the neck" relationship with most all of the ski resorts. Even those which pay us handsomely to promote them know and expect us to "tell it like it is". What our readers should also know is that probably 96% of the time – even in the most challenging of seasons – our ski areas are in great, near-pristine shape. When things are great we’re here just to inform and hopefully entertain fellow ski and snowboarding enthusiasts. When we need to bring some information, lack of information (or misinformation) to our readers we think we do that better than any other reporting service around.

Bill Rock, Snowshoe’s x-top boss, shared more than a couple of times how he liked the fact that we were out here keeping resorts kind of on their toes. Other GMs, Marketing Gurus and staffers have shared an appreciation for our zeal in covering the region. Even greater is their appreciation for our audience. All but one ski area management crew have come to recognize the power of our readership.

That said, even though some of the ski areas would never admit it, we KNOW that we have influenced resorts in many positive ways. Prior to us reporting such – most ski areas never reported thin coverage or bare spots on their own reports. Several always over-reported snowfall totals, base depths, etc. We know we’ve influenced a couple of resorts to go to our recommended "one number base depth reporting".

OUR "POWER" IS IN YOU…

There are other ski-related websites that have attempted to provide photos and videos of the local ski scene. We’ve seen three or four some and go. One website based in our nation’s capital has seen its following dip significantly over the past year from a lack of updates, while our network of skiing, weather and webcam websites has steadily enjoyed growth in viewership. 

We’re very fortunate because without YOU GUYS (our readers) we’d be just another web blog. The fact that an active bunch of fellow ski, snowboarding and snow enthusiasts have rallied around and behind us has never gone unappreciated by us. If we were here only to chat up seventeen entities we’d grow bored pretty quickly. So while we do a promotional service FOR the ski areas, trust me when I say that I think we’ll always fare better in attempting to entertain and inform the more than FOUR MILLION readers that we get in front of each season.

So in closing…we’ll keep doing our thing and hope that you guys keep telling your friends and families about us.  When and if we ever fall short, we hope that YOU GUYS will keep us on our toes. The way to do that is TELL US. Email us. You report, we’ll share it.

Have a great day, sweet weekend and we might see you on the slopes Sunday.

Drop me an email with your comments, questions, gripes, photos, videos…you name it! Email me at [email protected]

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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.