A HEAVYWEIGHT MATCH UP THIS SEASON

FeaturedSnow News is Good News

By Joe Stevens

Hello everyone –

To start off this week, may I just say I am extremely relieved that both the Major League Baseball owners and the Players Association came to their senses and came to agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement. I personally as a baseball fan, hold both groups responsible for the season not starting on time. At least, Jackie Robinson Day on April 15 will go on as scheduled. Okay I am stepping out of the batter’s box and back on the ski slope.

Last week I wrote about the challenges tossed at the industry this season by Mother Nature and well, that situation continued in earnest this past week. Fast forward to Friday, at my home in Scott Depot, West Virginia the sun was out, and the temperature got up to 65 degrees. Then overnight the temperature dropped into the upper 20s and when I woke up at daybreak there was 8.5 inches of snow in my front yard.

Now the real strange thing about that is, while we are located about 600 feet above sea level, the mountains of West Virginia at that time had “only” received a reported three inches of snow. Another one of those cases of “if you don’t like the weather, hang around for a little bit because it is sure to change.”

The good news about those three inches of snow (more fell in the mountains as the day progressed) is that it covered up the challenges 60-degree temperature in March bring to ski resorts. As one resort official told me, it made everything “pretty” for the late season visitors.

For a couple of resorts here in West Virginia, this is the final weekend of skiing, snowboarding and snowtubing and, with the natural snow, there were plenty of smiles on faces to go around. Both Canaan Valley and Winterplace will call it a season Sunday afternoon.

It looks like a handful of resorts in the region will be making it another week or two as I saw snowmaking taking place across the region when the temperatures dropped into the single digits Saturday night into Sunday morning. As Mike Doble mentioned in his First Trax column on Sunday, you really wanted to play on the slopes Saturday afternoon when the winds picked up on the ridges. Looks like Sunday was a good day to go out on for Canaan Valley and Winterplace.

This is the type of situation that makes me proud to be part of this industry. Looking back at the season, it sort of reminded me of a heavy weight boxing match between Mother Nature (the weather) and the ski resort operators. This was a classic 12-round match with both boxers getting their licks in throughout the season.

Every time the snowmakers got the majority of the terrain covered side to side with a strong amount of snow, they got hit in the chin with milder than normal temperatures or rainfall or both at the same time. After picking themselves up off the canvas, when temperatures again allowed, they started all over again covering the slopes with real manmade snow. (Yep, you are right I am going to continue to hammer home that point about manmade snow. I am still sore over that one.)

Just when things were just about 100 percent open, operators took another one, this time to the gut and well I don’t know if you understand what three inches of rain can do to snow, but it isn’t pretty, I am here to tell you.

This time instead of throwing in the towel and calling it quits and stopping the fight, out come the groomers to the rescue. While the temperatures weren’t low enough for snowmaking purposes, the temperatures did allow the snow to harden overnight, allowing the groomers to do their magic and push a little here and a lot there and the season survived another round.

I know, a few resorts resorted to calling a couple of timeouts during the match (suspending on-slope operations), but that was to save what snow they had on the hill for upcoming weekend traffic. When that happened, the resorts were able to come back and provide some fun on the slopes.

As I have written many times in the past (I think Mike actually agrees with me now) just how much snow do you really need under your skis or snowboards to have fun on the slopes. I ask the question; can you have as much fun on say 12 inches of snow that you can have on say a reported 60 inches of snow. I still contend that’s just egos talking, but any faithful reader knows how I feel about that matter so no need to dwell on the subject this week. Come to think about it now, I haven’t talked about base averages all season. I guess I am losing my touch.

As the season continues to wind down, you can take it to the bank there is going to be plenty of snow on the trails to play on through the end of the month. I know once again, as been the case for every season I have been involved in the ski industry, it’s not because the amount of snow the season comes to an end, but the lack of visitors to the resorts. I also know that the money spent of making the snow on the hill to get through the season, the power companies will not be refunding any of the money that was used to make the snow that will be on the hill into the month of April.

Well, the 12-round bout is just about over with, and I say the industry has come out the winner again this season, because resorts in the region hosted thousands upon thousands of skiers and snowboarders and a lot of great memories were made.

That’s it for this week, thanks for joining me for my weekly turns on the laptop. Just remember whether it be cold or whether it be warm, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather will be. Hope everyone has had a chance to make a few turns. .

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