WOW! That’s all I can say!

Cataloochee Announces Earlier-Than-Expected Closing…

Beech Mountain Will NOT Close this weekend. (Read on people. Read on.)

If I had some extra time I’d love to pay a visit to Punxsutawney, PA and have it out with that furry rodent and his handlers. Ever since he reared his head on that windy, cold and rainy February 2nd morning – things have gone south for the winter.

Since that time we’ve seen mild temps and a fair amount of rain – and diminishing base depths. Obviously the bases over at Wolf Ridge and Cataloochee were diminishing more than we assumed because Wolf closed Sunday and from the look of things it is doubtful that they will reopen for the season. Cataloochee Ski Area only has 8 trails open today and they sprung a surprise announcement that they will now be closing after Sunday, March 6th day sesssions.

Their official announcement reads:

Due to the continued unseasonably warm temperatures, Cataloochee Ski Area will close for the 2010/2011 season after 100 days of skiing and riding at the end of the skiing day on Sunday, March 6. Chris Bates, Cataloochee General Manager states, "Today the decision has been made to close for our 50th season after the day skiing session on Sunday March 6, 2011. This is four months to the day from when we opened on November 6, 2010, and after 100 days of operation. While this decision has been difficult, we have had a successful season and prefer to finish with good conditions. We will be having our annual one day season pass sale on March 6, and season passes will be at their best price of the year. …Thank you for your business this season, we look forward to seeing you in November."

SOME GOOD NEWS…BEECH MOUNTAIN RESORT HAS NO INTENTIONS OF CLOSING THIS WEEKEND

I just got off the phone with Beech Mountain Resort’s Ryan Costin and he says unequivocally, "We have NO intentions of closing this weekend." He went on to say, "In the past we’ve kind of closed at the drop of a hat (and apparent reference to something I wrote earlier this week) but we want to be more consistent than that and give our fans and pass holders more notice. So we’ll take a hard look at things over the next 24 hours or so and come up with a date, but we will not close this weekend."

Costin indicated that they had previously looked at March 13th or 20th as potential closing dates for this season. Obviously things are looking much like a March 13th date, but we’ll keep you posted. Beech is open today with 14 of 15 trails and there’s plenty of snow to push around up there.

SAPPHIRE VALLEY CLOSED LAST WEEKEND…

I buzzed RJ over at Sapphire Valley this morning and was surprised to hear that they are ALREADY CLOSED for the season. He said, "Our base went to nothing this past weekend and we figured it was time."

RJ was surprised to hear that Wolf Ridge had already closed and that Cat was closing this Sunday. He said, "Well we did pretty good then didn’t we?"

I’m speculating a little here…but with the status of the NC ski areas – with only Appalachian, Beech and Sugar open after this weekend – that makes me think that we will probably see some Virginia and Tennessee ski areas follow suit perhaps as early as this weekend as well. Without question all of the Virginia and Tennessee ski areas have had less snow and less consistently cold temps with which to work with for snowmaking. So their bases have to be hurting. Additionally like Ryan Costin of Beech shared with me, "Skier interest is what it’s all about, or lack of it. I’ve had two people call me this week to go play golf over at Winston-Salem. We’re here skiing and most people are thinking about other outdoor activities."

That said, with skier interest taking a nosedive as the temperatures rise…we’ll probably see additional closures announced shortly.

This has been a very strange season. I don’t think I’ve been witness to another season like it in my 16+ years of covering the region. All of our resort communities were rolling along from day one (December 1st that is) with consistent, record breaking cold and more snow than normal for an entire season by mid January. Those cold and snowy conditions continued right on through the end of the month and then about the same time that the groundhog made his announcement – a switch was flipped and we’ve seen nothing but mild temps, little or no snow at most locations of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic – and a nosedive in skier visits.

I was speaking with a young ski instructor who works at Sugar Mountain on Tuesday. According to her she was sent home early on Sunday because of a lack of traffic. She was supposed to be working this weekend but is headed to the SkiSoutheast Summit because of that same lack of business expected with the incoming rain forecasted for the weekend.

Like I said – let me get my hands on that furry, Pennsylvania rodent…

In closing, we ARE seeing some colder temps and perhaps even a little snow in the forecast as we move into next week. I’d highly suggest getting your turns in early and often as there’s no guarantees that YOUR favorite ski hill will be open much longer this season.

TheKENDOG, Kenny Griffin is making some calls for us today to see what the vibe is among the ski area owners, marketing crews, etc. We’ll let you know our findings on Thursday.

Feel free to drop me an email 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.