First Trax

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We get caught up in numbers around here, but regardless of which way we look at our statistics for this past season – we set some records. That’s pretty much the same thing that we’re hearing from several of the ski resort management teams. Unless they are reporting on their influence on the local economies, ski areas tend to be VERY tight-lipped on releasing exact skier numbers but from every source who we have spoken with – the 2008-2009 season was one for the record books. We have heard "best year ever" from Appalachian and Sugar Mountain, and most all of the others are relating this past season as a "top three-to-five" season.

We track every unique visitor to this website and according to Urchin we saw a little over 10,000,000 visitors this past season. After filtering out the automated bots, and other international SPAM influences, we think somewhere closer to 5.4 Million visitors hit the website this season. According to an independent reporting firm, that traffic came from about one million people – meaning that most of you hit the website at least 5.4 times during the season. Another reporting service claims we had 500,000 visitors during the season, with many people revisiting the website as many as 100 times this past season! We know a lot of you hit the page daily, but we think that figure’s pretty high. That would constitute more than 50,000,000 visits this past season.

A third service reports that we had perhaps 280,000 individual, unique visitors, with most being regular or repeat visitors.

Regardless, trying to come up with an exact number reminds me of the old saying, "There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies, and statistics". Too often, people use the persuasive power of numbers, the use of statistics, to bolster weak arguments. Regardless of which of the above numbers is correct or accurate – there are a LOT of you guys out there and we’re thankful for EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU!

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for making this website a daily "stop over" within your day. We pledge to do better next year!


We’ve always archived every story that is posted on the site so it would be easy for someone (if they had a lot of time on their hands) to go day by day through season’s posts and see the rise and fall of base depths, the fluctuations of cold and thaw periods and other notes of interest. We don’t have that kind of time, but we thought we’d kind of do a rewind and fast play of what the season went like. Here we go:

07/22/2008: Hawksnest Ski Resort NO LONGER OFFERS SKIING AND SNOWBOARDING – The former ski and snowboarding favorite announced that they would offer tubing only for the future.

10/14/2008: A Great Friend to Our SkiNC / SkiSoutheast Family (Jon Jolly) Passed Away – Jon was a ski instructor at Ski Beech for over 20 years and was active on the Ski North Carolina messageboard.

10/20/2008: Kelly the Woolly Worm Predicts a Great Winter Ahead!

10/27/2008: Cataloochee Ski Area began making snow and OPENED 10/28/2008! They opened with 2 slopes – Beginners Easy Way and Rabbit Hill with a base of 8 -12 inches.

10/29/2008: SNOWSHOE MOUNTAIN RECEIVED 5" of SNOW. OTHER REPORTS OF 9" CAME IN. – Snowshoe ended up with 189" of snow on the season.

10/31/2008: We put SkiSoutheast.com/SkiNC.com on a new server – Our first post on it was the fact that Cataloochee Ski Area was offering HALLOWEEN SKIING!

11/10/2009: WINTER? NOT JUST YET. – After a fast start, most of the ski areas chose play the waiting game. Sugar and Snowshoe were making some snow, but Snowshoe announced that they would not be opening until November 26th.

11/16/2008: 2-4" of SNOW FELL – Resorts cranked up the snow guns in earnest and Sugar Mountain opened the followingn day (November 17th) with 2 trails and a base of 10-20"

11/18/2008: SNOWSHOE ANNOUNCES AN EARLIER OPEN DATE – Contrary to the news above, Snowshoe got some great, early snow and snowmaking and decided to open on Friday, November 21st.

11/19/2008: MA NATURE DUMPS 23" OF SNOW INTO WV! – As if to reward Snowshoe’s decision to open early, they received 23" of snow in a 24 hour period and by November 19th had already seen 39.5" of snow on the season!

11/21/2008: APPALACHIAN and SNOWSHOE OPENED for the season!

11/22/2008: 6-7" of SNOW HITS WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA – 3-4" into WV

11/26/2008: 16" of SNOW HITS WV SKI AREAS! – Canaan Valley (not even open yet) has seen 54.7" of snow on the season! WOLF RIDGE OPENS! THANKSGIVING SKIING WAS SWEET!


11/30/2008: The last day of November was a rainy one…and we received news "why" as Doctor Tom Brigham passed away. The founder of Sugar, Beech and snowshoe Mountain died at the age of 83. He was known by many as the "father of southern skiing".

12/2/2008: MORE SNOW FELL and we shared the snowfall up to that point in the season. As you can see, there was already a wide variance of where the snow was falling this season.

How’s THIS for a start???!!! (Shown most to least)

Resort This season All Last Season Yearly
Snowshoe Mtn 68.5" 134.7" 180"
Canaan Valley 55" 147.6" 150"
Timberline 55" 149" 150"
Wisp Resort 31" 88" 100"
Winterplace 31" 63" 100"
Ski Beech 22" 38" 80"
Sugar Mtn 21" 5" 78"
Appalachian 14" 17" 50"
Cataloochee 14" 26" 40"
Wolf Ridge 14" 32" 65"
Bryce Resort 2" 8" 30"
Ober Gatlinburg 2" 17.5" 35"
Massanutten 0" 11" 35"
Wintergreen 0" 7" 34"



12/08/2008: ALL THIS NATURAL SNOW PROMPTS COMMENTS LIKE "BEST EVER START" – Many ski resorts saw record, early-season skier visits.

12/09/2008: RAIN DAMPENS SPIRITS – But Cataloochee’s Chris Bates commented on the record numbers of early season visitors and the great turnout for their annual "Can-U-Ski" day.


12/16/2008: MILDER WEATHER HITS FOR A FEW DAYS – This kept the resorts from opening as much terrain as we’d like to see by mid December. That prompted some concern for the fast approaching Christmas break.

12/21/2008: COLDER TEMPS AND SNOW HIT THE NORTHERN TIER OF RESORTS – Things looked pretty good for the North Carolina and Virginia resorts, with slightly better conditions into Maryland and West Virginia.

12/23/2008: COLD AIR CAME THROUGH EVERYWHERE! – Cold temps made for PERFECT conditions at all of the ski areas. There were not many ski areas offering a majority of terrain just yet, but Ski Beech got upper Shawneehaw open and Appalachian bragged of making 28" of manmade snow within a 36 hour period.

12/27/2008: MAKING DO WITH WHAT THEY HAVE – Temps in the 50s meant that ski areas played with what they had for the post Christmas couple of days. Conditions were plenty fine, with good terrain. But Sugar, Beech and even the resorts into West Virginia were showing some thin cover and a few bare spots. Snowshoe had 49 of 60 slopes open; Winterplace had 18 of 28. Canaan Valley offered 10 of 39 trails. Ski Beech only had 4 of 15 trails open and only had Lower Shawneehaw open.

1/1/2008: YEA BABY! 60 STRAIGHT HOURS OF SNOWMAKING MAKE THE HOLIDAY SKIING GREAT! – Tons of manmade snow got an assist from 4-6" of natural snow across most of the region and skiing for the New Year’s Day crowds was awesome. (I was at Snowshoe and though pretty sick – the skiing was too!) It is amazing what some powder skiing will do for a bad cold!

1/4/2009: Ma Nature Showing WV and MD More Love — MORE SNOW – Snowshoe had experienced 132 straight hours of snowmaking. – While the WV and MD resorts were in great shape, some thin cover was still seen across Virginia and North carolina ski resorts. More trails are open in the northern resorts – lesser so for the NC and VA ski areas. Sugar still operated with just 12 of 20 trails, Beech had 5 of 15 open and even Appalachian was only able to offer 8 of 10 trails.

1/7/2009: RAIN CONTINUED SOUTH UNTIL FINALLY COLD AND SNOW RETURNED! – Some heavy rains started really making for some bad conditions into Virginia and North carolina and even some of the WV resorts were displaying thin cover and bare spots.

1/9/2009: SNOW, COLD, PRECIOUS SNOW! – 6" hit the NC Mountains, 14" falls into WV. – If you want to see the kind of crazy turnaround that was seen within just two days – click here> 

MLK Weekend and the rest of January was AWESOME. More and more terrain was opening and more and more of you guys hit the slopes!

1/15/2009: 34" of SNOW FELL IN THE PREVIOUS 15 DAYS INTO WV – Canaan and Timberline were looking better than ever. More snow fell for days, making for awesome conditions everywhere in the Southeast and Mid Atlantic. The two week thaw was now a forgotten, bad memory.

1/23/2009: SNOWSHOE MOUNTAIN WENT TO 100% OPEN! Several other resorts are close to 100%!

1/25/2009: WANT A LITTLE ICE WITH THAT?!? – We received more reports about icy conditions than ever before as some rain and frigid temps timed out perfectly to cause some crazy conditions. We also saw one of the craziest temperature variances ever. This morning we’re seeing temperatures ranging from ZERO DEGREES at Snowshoe, to 10° at Canaan Valley, to 23° at Ober Gatlinburg, to 33° atop Hawksnest, to 42° as of 9am at Cataloochee (after a low of 27° overnight)! That is a range of 42 degrees from Snowshoe to Cat! Heck, Ober Gatlinburg is colder than several spots in North Carolina for the first time that I have seen that in my 12 years of reporting on this website. CRAZY differences from that northern flow to the southern one – huh?


2/5/2009: 8" of SNOW FALLS AT WOLF RIDGE RESORT, 12" AT SNOWSHOE – Conditions were great everywhere.

2/12/2009: HIGH WINDS CLOSE SOME LIFTS AFTER A FEW DAYS OF MILD TEMPS – Conditions remained good, and snow and cold was on the way and President’s Day weekend was looking sweet!


2/23/2009: 9" of SNOW HITS WV RESORTS – 2-3" FALLS INTO NC – Conditions looks great! We had 150+ people attend the SkiNC / Ski Beech Summit and we raised $7800 for the Helena Jolly Education Fund.

3/1/2009: MARCH BEGINS LIKE FEBRUARY ENDED – WITH MORE SNOW! – Ski Beech was open with b13 of 15 trails, Cataloochee, App and Sugar were all 100% open, as were most of the ski areas in WV.

3/6/2009: WE TOOK 130-150 PEOPLE TO THE SKISOUTHEAST / SNOWSHOE MOUNTAIN SUMMIT – Despite a forecast that looked a little iffy, we had great turnout and enjoyed some good conditions although this was the start of a fast decline in conditions and weather as Mother Nature pretty much began to shut down for the season.

3/12/2009: A SWITCH FLIPPED and the weather turned mild – Thin cover and bare spots became the talk of the day…although there was plenty of good terrain open.

3/15/2009: RAIN FELL, TEMPS STAYED MILD and resorts began talking of early closings…

3/17/2009: With no more snow in the forecast, we shared season snow tallies:


Nature was a little fickle with the real stuff this season. Before the season even started, forecasters were already predicting that the resorts in West Virginia, Maryland and northward would get more than their share. They also forecasted that some of the ski areas in the Southern Appalachians would see somewhat less snow than normal. Dr. Ray Russell, of local weather guru fame, was about the only forecaster predicting that the North Carolina mountains would see "90% of the long-term average and 135% higher than the 10-year average."

He actually forecasted 41" of snowfall for Banner Elk, 35" for Boone and 72" for Beech Mountain. Let’s see how the forecasters did: The first number is how much snow they had this season and the second number is their 10 year average snowfall. The percentage out beside it it the percentage of normal snowfall that they received this season compared to the 10 year average.

North Carolina Mountains:

Appalachian Ski Mountain – 42" – 50" – 84%
Cataloochee Ski Area – 44" – 40" – 91%
Sapphire Valley – 7" – 30" – 23%
Ski Beech – 67.8" – 80" – 85%
Sugar Mountain – 60" – 78" – 77%
Wolf Ridge Resort – 46" – 65" – 71%

Virginia Ski Resorts:
Bryce Resort – 10" – 30" – 34%
Massanutten Resort – 18" – 35" – 51%
The Homestead – 22" – 50" – 44%
Wintergreen Resort – 25" – 34" – 74%

West Virginia Ski Areas:
Canaan Valley – 174" – 150" – 116%
Snowshoe Mountain – 189" – 180" – 105%
Timberline Resort – 172.6" – 150" – 115%
Winterplace Resort – 77" – 100" – 77%

Ober Gatlinburg – 21" – 35" – 60%
Wisp Resort – 112" – 100" – 112%

3/18/2009: Ober Gatlinburg’s President and CEO, Cy Anders passes away at the age of 57

Early closures and tons of activities planned for closing ceremonies that took place March 21-22nd and again this weekend. Sugar Mountain closed this past Tuesday, March 24th and Appalachian and Wisp Resort skied on this week. Appalachian is playing in the rain on Saturday and will close on Sunday, March 29th. Wisp and Timberline are still talking of skiing the next two weekends, but we’re still wanting to see if that happens. It doesn’t look good from what we’re seeing.

THERE YOU HAVE IT… a fast-forward glance at what was a record season by many ski areas and we want to say thanks to all of you who took the time to visit this website this season. We have learned our lesson over the last couple of years and we are committed to crank up work on the website sometime in July to prepare for what we hope to be our best season ever.

Stay tuned…

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