A Wet, but Great Sunday, December 13th; Great Weather Ahead!?

First Trax

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It’s Sunday, so we’re only providing one update for the region today.

Good Sunday morning to everyone! Okay it isn’t really a good weather day for us. It’s drizzly and wet. If you’re an Appalachian State Football fan it isn’t a great morning after the Mountaineers fell seconds (and ten yards) short of another historic win in snowy Montana on Saturday evening. App lost 17-24 with three chances to win it in the final seconds of a windy, snowy game. I attended one of my nephew’s football games on Saturday in Chapel Hill and that game didn’t turn out great either as the Newton-Conover Red Devils lost in the state AA championship game.


Well there’s plenty of snow on the mountains of a favorite ski areas. There’s open terrain on thirteen of the region’s sixteen ski areas. Only Sapphire Valley has not opened yet in North Carolina. The Homestead is the lone ski area in Virginia not operating for snow ops and Winterplace is the only ski area not operating in West Virginia.

Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley has the most open terrain open in North Carolina today with 14 of their 16 trails. That is a testament to just how crazy good the snowmaking teams and equipment are in our area.

Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia has the most open terrain available for skiing and riding with 21 of 60 slopes and trails operating.


We received several emails on Saturday from peeps commenting about the fact that we are only reporting ONE number for average base depths. The main questions related to these two:

"What’s the big deal and why do you guys make such a big deal about the ski resorts reported snow depth?" – John Salters of Morganton, NC

"I noticed you’re only reporting one number for th average base and not the traditional two sets like 12-36" like the resorts do? What’s the one number mean?" – Donna Cummings of Washington, DC

While those questions summed up the 15 emails we received asking about the numbers, several others noticed that we have added the word "MINIMUM" to the previous "average base" field on our snow reports. It now reads "average minimum base".


Readers and messageboard posts have been commenting and complaining about base depths over the years. We’ve written about it more times that I care to think about or research. So we’ve figured a solution that should put this subject to rest forever. Jim Cantore of THE WEATHER CHANNEL commented last season on the air about how base depths (he actually commented on the Southeast’s resort’s numbers) are exaggerated. Then along comes Dartmouth College a couple of weeks ago making the same claim after spending a lot of private and/or tax payer money to do a study that we could have helped them finish in about thirty seconds and for the price of a beer. (I’m not cheap you know!)

First let’s address John’s comment/question above of "why do we care". The frequent skier or snowboarder who hits the slopes every week and more often will ski or ride on mud and gets the Joneses when mud isn’t available. Those people KNOW the conditions before they even look at ours or any snow report. We care about those people, but our snow reports really aren’t for those people with the exception of showing them a quick glance view of all of the terrain open, etc.

However, there are millions of people who only go skiing or snowboarding once or twice a season. MANY of them have never seen snow and you can not imagine how many emails that we receive DAILY from people in Southeast asking questions like, "My wife noticed that xyz resort is reporting the most snow on the ground and my family has never seen snow and we want to go where there’s more of it. Can you guys help tell us where to go?"

So there are MILLIONS of people looking at base depths as if they are some indication of where the snow is. They envision mountains of deep snow. So unfortunately they head to the resort that might be exaggerating their numbers. Additionally MOST ski areas report accurately nearly every day. So when one or two isn’t then they get an uneven playing field. That happens even moreso when a ski area over reports natural snow.

So to keep the playing field level we pull reports from numerous sources, compile it and report to you guys. I’d bet that even our numbers are not perfectly accurate, but there pretty darn close enough.

The answer to Donna’s question is that we’re now only showing the MINIMUM base depth as is being reported by the resorts. After all, as SEVERAL frequent riders have told us, "You know it really doesn’t matter if there’s 100" of snow on the slopes; we can only ski on the top 3-6" anyway!"

True enough. So in an effort to provide good information, all you guys need to know is that resorts have plenty enough minimum base to make the day a great one!

IT’S WINDY & WET with plenty of snow to ride no matter WHERE you head today. Just wear your wet suit!

Here’s the resort report for ALL ski resorts in the Southeast and Mid Atlantic for your Sunday reading.  (We’re doing this randomly today. Enjoy)

38° – Beech Mountain Resort is reporting a minimum base of 14" and they are open with five of their 15 slopes and trails for day and night skiing. They are reporting a wet packed and variable surface.

Some people are asking about "which five of Beech’s trails are open" as many times in the past Beech built base on the bottom of the mountain to include Powder Bowl. However this season they are working the following trails first and building from there: Upper Shawneehaw down to Lower Shawneehaw then Freestyle is open. They have the Meadows trail open up top for a side venture making for four trails that most skiers and snowboarders will want to play on. The fifth slope open is the bunny slope called Play Yard.

Several people emailed and/or posted pics and trip reports on Beech from Friday and Saturday and by all accounts things were great.

(As of this update, things are wet and foggy, hence the "wet and variable" conditions note.)

<Few are hitting the snow as of this early report.

35° – Appalachian Ski Mountain is reporting a minimum base of 40" and 8 of 11 slopes open for day and night skiing. They have the ice rink open as well.

After the fourth night of snowmaking this season, Appalachian now has a very conservative 40” base on 8 slopes. Their snowmakers enjoyed excellent snowmaking temperatures recently with a seldom seen 12% humidity. With 8 slopes open and a fairly deep base, skiers will find mid-season like conditions.

Good snowmaking temperatures are forecasted for Tuesday night through Friday night of next week, so the remaining unopened slopes should be open by the weekend of Dec. 19th.

Does this shot taken at 8:18am this morning like great or what?!? >

41° – Wolf Ridge Resort is reporting a minimum base of 36" and 5 of 20 trails open. They are open for day and night skiing session and tubing is open as well. They made snow within the last 24 hours but will not be making snow today.

38° – Cataloochee Ski Area is reporting a minimum base of 24" with 14 of 16 slopes and trail open for day skiing only on Sunday. That leaves ONLY Upper Snowbird and Upper Turkey Trot that is not open on the mountain. Cat Cage Terrain Park is OPEN!

Tammy Brown writes, "On Sunday, yes, we did it – we will be skiing from the top of the mountain down on 90% of the mountain on 14 slopes and trails including Upper Omigosh and the Cat Cage Terrain Park with two aerial lifts and two conveyor lifts operating on a base of 24-48” and a machine worked packed powder surface. We will continue our snowmaking efforts on the Upper Snowbird Trail and Upper Turkey Trot and will open these final two slopes as quickly as we can. Please check back with us for updates.

On Sunday we will offer one session of skiing, day skiing only from 8:30am – 4:30pm with a morning or afternoon half day rate available. Weekend rates are in effect.

Please remember we will day ski only today and Monday, December 13 and 14 and will start on our regular operating schedule of day, twilight and night skiing beginning Tuesday, December 15 at 9am. Holiday rates will begin Saturday, December 19 and continue each day through Friday, January 1." 

<Sugar was grooming this AM and looks great!

36° – Sugar Mountain Resort is reporting a minimum base of 36" on 9 trails and they are open to the top. They also have their sweet ice skating rink open for today. Sugar is day and night skiing on Sunday.

At 8am Sugar was grooming the trails and although the forecast for today is for periods of drizzle and a bit windy, Sugar was preparing the slopes just the same and really looks quite SWEET!

39° – Sapphire Valley has been making snow this past week when temps allowed and weather permitting they hope to open on December 18th.

<Snowshoe on Friday

32° – Snowshoe Mountain Resort is reporting a minimum base of 24" of wet packed, machine-made and groomed conditions on the region’s most open terrain (21 trails!) serviced by 7 lifts. They have four features placed in the Powdermonkey Terrain Garden and they will be open for skiing and snowboarding for day sessions only today. The Silvercreek side of the mountain is open today but not tonight.

Snowmobiling and other outdoor adventure programs are scheduled for opening for the season next Friday and Laura Parquette writes, "Some great weather is rolling in as we head into this upcoming week. More snow predicted and temperatures dropping allow for a strong possibility of more terrain opening in the near future."

The forecast continues to shape up nicely for Snowshoe as they head into the Holiday period. So if you don’t have plans why not start a new tradition with your friends and family and join us at Snowshoe during one of the most festive times of the year. Snowshoe consistently offers the most open terrain in the region, and conditions should be GREAT for the Holiday season!

* I am my family spend Christmas’ at Snowshoe and it would be great to make some turns with you guys. 

Ober on Saturday!>>>

46° – Ober Gatlinburg, located in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is reporting a minimum base of 15" with 5 of 8 slopes open that include the Upper Half of Bear Run and Mogul Ridge! Kathy Doyle reports that Mogul Ridge is not groomed so be careful out there! Ober is open until 4:30pm today and lifties are $30 for Sunday.

38° – Canaan Valley is reporting 12-48" of base with 4 trails open including the green, Bunny Buster and Sissy Schuss slopes, the intermediate Valley Vista slope and the black diamond "Face" trail. They are open for day skiing on Sunday.

<Ya think this look sweet? We do too!

39° – Timberline Resort – They DID get open on Saturday and will be operating again today with 4 trails and a reported minimum base of 12" with wet packed conditions for day skiing only today. Timberline will be closed Monday, December 14th – Thursday, December 17th to allow time for their snow makers to build their base. They will reopen on December 18th at 9:00 am.

We’re getting a bunch of reports of icing around West Virginia. The NWS released a travel advisory that lasts until 10am Sunday morning for icy roads due to the freezing rain. 

39° – Winterplace Resort made snow in the last 24 hours and they plan to open December 18th. A lot of people have emailed us asking things like "What the heck is Winterplace waiting on?" etc. If you’d have been reading this website update everyday you’d know that Winterplace suffered a power outage due to the ice storm of a week ago and was without power for a few important, snowmaking days and decided to hold off until December 18th. 

32° – Massanutten Resort had a great opening day on Friday and Saturday was very nice with a reported base of 18-30" and 5 trails open including the green "Nutten To it", Southern Comfort, Geronimo trails, the blue "Lower Showtime" trails and the black diamond "Diamond Jim" trail! Snow tubing is open as well.

< Massanutten Staff Photo taken on Saturday!

December 12th, 2009 – This is the newly replaced Lift #3 servicing one of our green trails, Geronimo. New lift #3 is a quad chair featuring a loading conveyor which should help beginners access the lift without having to push from start gate to stop line. Keep an eye on our snow conditions page for trail openings and updates.

36° – Wintergreen Resort made snow overnight and is reporting a base of 18-24" with five trails open for day sessions only on Sunday. Blue trails include Eagles Swoop and the rest are greens – Upper and Lower Cross Trail and Upper and Lower Dobie.

34° – Bryce Resort is reporting a base of 15-30" and 4 lifts and 4 slopes open for today for day skiing sessions only on Sunday.

Send your comments, videos, photos, trip reports and questions to: [email protected]  

SSAA: 0 for 17 Snowswr / self 16/17

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