A Season Like No Other…Continues…

FeaturedFirst Trax

Check the SNOW REPORT today as Sunday is my day to ramble…the photo of the day was from 6:30am or so this morning that shows grooming at Wintergreen Resort.

On Saturday morning we saw morning low temperatures in the upper teens to low (and mid) 20s and all but two or three ski areas were making snow. Then at about the same time that the moisture entered the region – that COULD have delivered some significant snowfall – the temperatures moderated in the mid-to-upper 30s and milder in some areas. By mid afternoon I saw freezing rain falling at many locations like Wisp Resort in Maryland and Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia. There was a mixed bag of snow, sleet and freezing rain falling at times and that even caused Snowshoe to delay/shut down the Ballhooter, Western Territory and Soaring Eagle lifts for the second half of the day on Saturday – as safety is always THE top priority at all of our ski resorts.

That same moisture kept things even more miserable around the rest of the region on Saturday as it was a bit more “under-developed snow” (rain) everywhere else with as much as .72″ of rain at many locations. I drove over to Tennessee on Saturday afternoon and experienced moderate rain the entire trip there and back. It HAD to be a miserable day to be on the slopes as the wind was also whipping the rain around.

However, I checked the ski cams numerous times during the day and evening – and most all of the ski areas looked like they were experiencing a pretty high volume of traffic. Lift lines looked p-r-e-t-t-y heavy at many of the resorts. So there were a lot of brave souls on the slopes despite the raw conditions.

Headed Into The Freezer For a Few Days

A cold front blew through overnight last night bringing wind gusts as high as 50 mph at some mountaintops and those winds are clearing out the moisture and we are CURRENTLY experiencing the high temperatures for Sunday – this morning. We can expect the temperatures to nosedive through today.

As of 6:30am this morning, only THREE ski resorts were making snow – Beech Mountain, Snowshoe Mountain and Wisp Resort. (Sugar MIGHT have been making snow up top, but it was too dark to see and Canaan Valley might have been as well, but their webcam is down.) Those were also the only resorts where the temperatures were in the 20s.)

As you can see via the phone capture above (from Beech Mountain), the temps are expected to drop and drop and drop throughout the day to the single digits and low teens across most of the region.

In the time that it will take me to wrap up this morning’s Firstrax reporting, I halfway expect MANY other resorts to crank up the snow guns to blast the slopes with snow. I have already mentioned that we have already seen our high temperatures for the day and it is turning VERY COLD as the day passes.

Beech Mountain Resort is already reporting 21°, with a wind-chill of 14° and the low tonight is expected to be around 8°. This will be the coldest air of the season and we should now see AROUND-THE-CLOCK snowmaking from every resort in the region until sometime on Wednesday, mid afternoon. We should see nearly 80 hours of snowmaking happening! EIGHTY HOURS PEOPLE! (Yes, I am yelling it to the rooftops!)

Can you imagine the conditions as we get to Tuesday and Wednesday?!?! We should see closer to normal temperatures for the next several days past Wednesday and there is an interesting system developing that could bring more wintry precip as we get closer to Friday, however, we’ll let meteorologist, Brad Panovich talk about that as we get closer.

Next weekend is the Blowing Rock Winterfest and I know that Brad Panovich is supposed to be at Beech Mountain Resort on Friday to talk about how resorts make snow.

Photo compliments of the Blowing Rock Chamber and Winterfest!

Then he will be in Blowing Rock for the weekend to take in more winter fun, the Polar Plunge and more. I’m planning to hang with him Friday and some over the weekend.

A WILD AND NARLY WINTER THUS FAR…

As everyone knows, we had a prolonged thaw from the 10th of January through the 16th and from 2.40″ to 4″ of rain during that period that really did a number on the slope base depths. Those forced slope closures and some ski areas also temporarily shut down skiing and snowboarding ops. (A few ski areas are still closed.) Then we saw cold temperatures come back in on Thursday night, Friday morning and Friday nights where the ski areas really blasted the slopes and did a huge slope reparation project, getting a lot more slopes open. Then the mixed precip and rain hit on Saturday and now with a DEEP FREEZE hitting our resorts (and all the wind), we can expect some challenging surface conditions just about everywhere.

Our snow grooming crews will be challenged to deliver good conditions as things will go from wet, to variable, to groomed, to crusty and frozen – all within a few hours today. Skier traffic (and it should be VERY busy today) will contribute to some interesting conditions. Things should improve as the snowmaking systems bomb the slopes with more manmade powder and by Monday AM, we could see some of the best conditions of the season-to-date. The high temperatures Monday will be in the TEENS and low 20s so bundle up. These MLK Holiday, newbie skiers won’t know what hit them!

MIA…MISSING PERSONS…WHAT HAPPENED?

You guys are the best really and nothing gets past you for too long. I started getting emails on Saturday about two pretty popular mountain staffers. Both have gone missing from reporting on their respective mountains. Justin Harris of Canaan Valley Resort, who definitely created a following with his reporting on all things Canaan Valley, is no longer reporting on the mountain. So for those of you who have emailed me wondering if he was sick, gone, etc. – I can report that Justin is no longer handling those duties for Canaan. Justin definitely did a great job of creating a cool vibe to the videos and snow reporting, however he has moved on to other things.

Some of our long time readers will get a kick out of this photo that included Tammy from the past. All you guys look so young!

The other, long time Cataloochee marketing sweetheart, and very popular gal – Tammy Brown – seems to have departed from Cataloochee. Over the years, I have grown accustomed to getting emails from Tammy every morning and those stopped the other day. I’ve never reported on rumors on this website, so I’ll not start now, but I did hear from two sources yesterday – that Tammy Brown is no longer at Cataloochee. Those who shared an email and text with me were both shocked and reported that everyone there at the ski area was “in shock” and didn’t know what happened. I did reach out to Chris Bates on Saturday, but it IS MLK Weekend; Chris is always swamped this time of year and I have not heard back. (Understandable.)

 

TECHNOLOGY AND GROWTH AND MORE…

Yes, we used one just like this!

As many of you guys know, we were among the first firms nationally to provide LIVE webcams from resort and mountain locations back in October of 2000 via HighCountryWebcams.com.

My first “LIVE” cam was one of those old, shoulder-held RCA camcorders that I wrapped in a garbage bag and ran through a PC and out to the world. (Duck tape was my friend.)

Those first cameras could only FTP an image every 30 seconds or so and they’d ‘crap out’ regularly. We had several of those running a various locations and were even featured on TheTravelChannel, Discovery and more. (Hard to believe that was 20 years ago.)

The best hardware and option available at the time was this SNAPPY capture card that you could hook up and run through some software called “Webcam32” and THAT was the ‘birth pains’ of what was to become HighCountryWebcams and later (now) ResortCams.com.

By 2003 I was able to acquire ResortCams.com and by then we were able to offer “real” live cams that were able to show LIVE shots every one-second or so. Obviously, things quickly improved to the point that we were able to share LIVE STREAMS from across the region, nation and now – the world.

In those early days, I was tickled (and shocked) when television stations began showing them before I could even attempt to contact them. Early traffic “soared” to 100-200 visitors a day! Haha!

Now here we are having served up 1,841,502 webcam sessions in the LAST SEVEN DAYS! Even with the poor winter we’ve seen thus far and mild weather on and off the mountain – we’ve seen 753,644 visitors hit the SkiCams during this challenging season.

While Beech Mountain and the old Hawksnest Resort embraced the idea of live webcams pointing at their slopes, many ski resorts like Sugar Mountain and even Snowshoe Mountain (then managed by Bill Rock) were very much against the idea. Gunther Jochl had his own reasons – once actually threatening me with a cease and desist letter to stop aiming a camera from across Highway 184. Bill Rock told me several times that he just didn’t want a camera that showed how often the top of Snowshoe Mountain was “clouded or fogged in”.

dave dekema of snowshoe mountain passes suddenly

Dave ALWAYS wore a smile and was just “one of the good guys”. We all miss you Dave! (Click to Enlarge image)

However, s-l-o-w-l-y but surely we were able to drag everyone into the idea and now most ski areas have several cameras showing off how things are on the slopes.

By the way, I simply HAVE to credit old David Dekema, former marketing guy at Snowshoe, for joining me in selling Snowshoe on the idea…and now Snowshoe has more cameras pointing at the mountain than any resort in the region. (RIP David!)

 

Snowshoe Foundation Toys for Children Drive

Click to Enlarge! Photo courtesy of Shawn Cassell

Editor’s Note: I know many will ask…David passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly in November of 2017.

Snowshoe Foundation honors David annually with a Toy Drive that has raised tens of thousands of dollars to help provide Christmas presents for children in Pocahontas and Randolph counties.

 

Back to the WEBCAMS….

We now have LIVE CAMS many locations like:

Cane Garden Bay in the British Virgin Islands
https://www.resortcams.com/webcams/cane-garden-bay/

Dominical, Costa Rica
https://www.resortcams.com/webcams/costa-rica/

Portsmouth, Hampshire, United Kingdom
https://www.resortcams.com/webcams/hms-warrior-1860/

Of course our own favorites are atop the many ski resorts of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic.  https://www.resortcams.com/ski-cams/

SkiSoutheastTV to Make a Reappearance?

appalachian ski mountain snow report

Will this return?

A few years back, Kenny Griffin and I began attempting to deliver SkiSoutheastTV with LIVE feeds from slopeside and that was a bit more challenging as mountains and WiFi, and internet connections in general are not always as dependable as we’d like, especially in remote locations – like at ski resorts.

However, that too is improving as we witnessed recently with slopeside reporting happening at Snowshoe Mountain, the press conference at Winterplace Resort last week and we expect more in the future.

What’s Ahead?

Who knows what technology will avail us the opportunity to bring you guys. One thing that we are currently working on is to create more of a mobile studio where we can actually conduct more of a daily delivery of news and interviews with mountain ops and management at the various resorts. Some of you have emailed me about the increased video news delivery we are providing sometimes 2-4 times a day on the weekends and a few times a week.

You can see some samples of what is being pushed to our YouTube Channel and Facebook audiences. We’ll get better and better with those productions and very soon we plan on bringing in LIVE interviews where we can get you guys chatting and asking questions of our region’s many ski industry professionals. We need a little more hardware and software fire-power but that is on the way and I hope to share some of that with you guys over the second-half of this season.

My hope is to grow our team a bit more to provide even more content of interest to our readers and viewers. Like I said before, we have no clue what technology will allow in the future, but you can rest assured that we will be among the first to take full advantage of it.

If you’re a bright, good-looking young guy or gal who would be interested in getting in front of the camera and chatting things up with visitors and mountain ops on the snow and in a future studio environment….email me at [email protected]

SNOWSHOE SUMMIT NEWS COMING SOON…

I know that we are a little late on getting things cranked up for our SkiSoutheast Summit Promotion. I emailed back and forth a bit with Snowshoe’s peeps late last week and I expect to get confirmation on what we’ll be able to offer our readers by Monday. We’ll then share that with you guys.

As of right now, we plan to host the SkiSoutheast Summit on February 28th, 29th (leap year!) and March 1st at Snowshoe Mountain.

Stay tuned…

That will do it for today.

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