WEIRDEST SEASON I’VE SEEN…is still a successful one…

Someone asked me the other day – how many days that I’d made it on the snow this season? Sixteen. That’s it – so far. I’m going to try to hit up a mountain at least once or twice more before it all shuts down in a week or two. But only sixteen days. Admittedly that’s pretty lame for a guy who writes about it all the time.

I was actually on pace to "get in a pretty good number" until winter-like weather pretty much went south around the first of February. Everyone that I’ve had conversations with about the season have all summarized things pretty much in the same manner. We had record cold and for most of the ski areas – record snows happening until Groundhog day and even though there’s been some snowfall since…it was as if a switch was flipped and Spring started well before it was meant to. Spring was NOT SUPPOSED to arrive until the official date of March 20th – next Sunday. However, tell that to Ma Nature.

I remember some weather gurus making comments back in late January that a "mild up" was on the way – but after one of the coldest Decembers and Januarys on record it would take something crazy for this not to go down as one of the coldest winters on record.

I’m not certain how it will all average out…but "something crazy" happened and keeping great conditions was a challenge for ski areas from Wisp to Sapphire and everywhere in between. Someone wrote me the other day asking why it was that none of the ski areas were reporting bare spots and thin coverage over the second half of the season when it was (they wrote) "so obvious that every resort has them".

You know I have to admit, I don’t think I’ve seen Kenny mention them, and I don’t think any ski area has to date… Hmmmm…

I guess it’s because first of all NOT EVERY ski resort has had them. Appalachian Ski Mountain for one…is still covered in deep snow across all trails. Not much in the way of any discolored snow either. So it isn’t happening everywhere. I was looking at Sugar several times over the last week or so and while I KNOW that there has to be some thin coverage here and there (trail merges, etc) you can’t see them from the road and nobody ELSE has reported them on trip reports, etc.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it…

Regardless, I have skied some thin coverage and dodged a bare area or two in the last month. However there is so much snow and good coverage on the slopes STILL TO THIS DAY…that I guess it’s just not that big a deal to most of us that there are some thin places here and there. Most TRUE snowlovers and ski/snowboard enthusiasts are so damn pleased to see just how well the resorts of our area have kept us in good snow even with what has HAD to have been some crazy, challenging conditions…that we just don’t give a flip about having to ski or ride around some areas that aren’t perfect.

I mentioned this to a friend the other day and he replied, "You know I don’t think anyone is going to gripe at the way our ski resorts have been able to manage the snow this season from February forward." He added, "As for myself I’m only going to bitch when I know a resort could’ve done better with great weather. When it’s as warm as it has been, what are you going to argue…that they should have made snow at 50°!?!"

Good point. I know I have not received ONE COMPLAINT email since mid February. (I got a fair amount about two ski areas this season in particular prior to that when it was perceived that even a 10 year old could have kept great snow on the mountain.)


Once this season is in the books, I’ll have a conversation or two with a handful of managers and owners. I quit promising an "End of Season Report" years ago when I figured out that these guys don’t share what kind of season it really was. To hear them say it – every season is better than the prior one and that season was a record setter. I don’t think that 2010-2011 will be a record setter for ANY ski area. I didn’t say that last season. Last season, despite the crazy economy, was a record setter for several ski areas of the region. Most all had a great season last season. Not so much this season. I’m going ahead and saying that the 2010-2011 season will go down as a VERY GOOD season for most ski areas and an O-K-A-Y season for several others. I’ll bet my 2011 income that not one ski area in the region will set any record for skier visits or revenue. NOT ONE.


The GOOD NEWS is that all of the ski areas had good visits for ALL of the important dates. The Christmas to New Year period was good across the board. MLK Weekend was good, despite some challenging weather at the tail end of that weekend into Monday.

At times…we had TOO MUCH snow early on. When areas OFF THE MOUNTAIN get as much snow as they did this winter it adversely affects travel and skier visits to the mountains. That happened on several weekends this season. While traffic was brisk…it was not the "overflow parking lot kind of season most every weekend" like we saw during the 2009-2010 season.

When Winter went on Spring Break back in early February that pretty much shut off the skier visit faucet to a mere slow flow.

President’s Day weekend was pretty good in some locations and not so good at others. Tim Prather, general manager/COO at Wisp Resort in Maryland was quoted as saying, "…rain was predicted which may have kept some guests away."

Business was brisk here and there and at most of the ski areas over the President’s Day weekend but with record snowfall coming down during LAST SEASON’S President’s Day period…numbers were going to be "off" comparatively. Prather reported a 20% DROP in ticket sales, ski school and rentals for this year’s President’s Day weekend compared to last. Interestingly he also reported that food and beverage sales were even with last year and snow tubing and the mountain coaster business was UP 33%.

Go figure…

That said – let no other reporting service fool you. This was a good season, with decent fiscal results…but there were no record skier visit numbers seen at ANY of the ski areas. One friend of mine (who I HAVE to keep incognito – sorry, I KNOW how that sounds!) told me that while every OTHER ski area in the region was seeing a decline in business and particularly with their ski schools etc – HIS ski area was ahead of last season’s numbers.

Oh brother! It’s going to another one of those kinds of seasons…


That said, it was still a good one that COULD HAVE BEEN A GREAT ONE. Hopefully they all made decent profits. The cost of running a ski area has done nothing but go up year after year. So let’s hope that YOUR FAVORITE ski area made some good profits this season.

Recently I read several indicators that finally put some fiscal results with what I kind of figured HAD to be a good season LAST SEASON…

According to the NSAA there was a strong 4.2% increase in skier and rider visits in the 2009/10 season, U.S. ski areas experienced an increase in gross revenue, according to the NSAA Economic Analysis of U.S. Ski Areas. Last season, average gross revenue rose by 3.0% to $23.4 million per resort from $22.7 million in 2008/09.

Average gross revenue was flat or up in all regions of the country. Average gross revenue was flat in the Northeast at $18.9 million per ski area and up by only 0.2% in the Rocky Mountain region to $37.0 million.

Larger increases were in the Southeast, up 5.2% to $21.8 million and in the Midwest up 6.1% to $7.7million. The Pacific West region had a big increase of 11.4% to $20.1 million per ski area.

For a more complete analysis, segmented into various size and regional categories, a full copy of the Economic Analysis may be ordered online at

That’s it for now…enjoy these closing days of the season and feel free to drop me an email at [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.