Base Depths Soar, More Slopes Open and Snow is in the Forecast! Life is Great!

First Trax

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It’s 4.8° at 7:45am in Banner Elk this morning after a low of ZERO overnight. If you take the period out from between the "4" and the "8" that is about what the low temperatures looked like seven or eight days ago. 48° was the low for several mornings in a row! Here we are a week later and we’re seeing temps that are literally 40 degrees colder for lows. We have definately had some wild weather swings this winter!

That 4.8° reading was observed at Banner Elk’s 3700′ elevations and it is much colder at other spots this morning. Sugar Mountain saw another ZERO degree reading overnight after a minus 7° temp the night before. Beech is showing 5° as of this post (7:55am) but they dropped to 3° overnight. That is cold, but sixteen degrees "warmer" than the minus 13° temp 24 hours ago! The cold spot this morning that we’ve seen in North Carolina is over towards Crossnore where the low was minus 3°.

The good news for those of us who want to go do a few turns today is that the highs are forecasted to "soar upwards" to a high today of 26° or so. Tonight’s low should be around 20°. We may actually see some 25-27° highs today and Sunday at some of the other ski area locations around the state.


If you’re one of the thousands who are taking advantage of the long MLK Weekend to make it a ski getaway, then you’re probably among the majority who are also wishing and hoping for a little natural snow. There are always a lot of visitors within this kind of crowd who have never seen snow before and you’re in luck for the next few days as the National Weather Service is forecasting SNOW for Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday! Highs should be in the 20s daily through Tuesday with Wednesday getting into the 30s. Overnight lows will be in the teens every night until Wednesday night when they are forecasted to reach into the mid 20s. So this is a great few days ahead.

The normal average high for this time of year is 41° and the low is 19° (for Banner Elk) so we’re looking at some great temps for snowmakers to do their thing, and for those of us who love to ski and ride to do OUR thing!

Those of us who want a foot or more of powder – don’t get too excited as the forecast is for mostly a burst of snow each day with maybe an inch to 2" of snow each day. Some of the traditionally snow-prone areas could see a bit more out of each snowfall. So perhaps 6" or so of snow is not out of the question at some locations.


We peeked ahead for the long term forecast and it looks very nice for continued sweet conditions at the ski areas as highs look to be in the "slightly colder than normal" for highs and the lows in the upper teens to low 20s through next Friday. If it isn’t snowing it is forecasted to be sunny – so the conditions at your favorite ski areas will continue to be GREAT and the slope offerings will continue to grow!

Let’s have a look at the slope report and do the quick tour:

Cataloochee Ski Area – They get "top mention" this morning since they are now 100% open for the first time this season! They now have all 14 trails open, terrain park features and snow tubing ready to play on for day and night sessions. After growing their base 4-6" each of the last four days, they show an increase of 10" this morning (maybe they had a look at App’s growth – see below). They are reporting an average base of 48-72" with some SWEET SNOW CONDITIONS! Several of you emailed about the great photo from Cataloochee that has ran for the last day or so. That was of Heath Lewis from Knoxville, Tennessee.

Appalachian Ski Mountain – I love these guys, but I’m going to have to get up with Drew, Brad or someone over there because after showing an increase in base depth that grew 4-5" each day for the last week that saw them reach a base of 60-86" as of Friday morning – they are now reporting an average base depth of 77-103". That would be a 17" growth in one day and I was reminded by a few of you guys via email that App has only been making snow from 9pm to 9am each night. Regardless, they obviously have one HECK of a lot of base (far and away the best in the region) but they may have made a mistake this morning.

Again…regardless…they have amazing snow conditions. We ARE a little surprised that they have not yet opened the remaining two black diamond trails "Hard Core and Thin Slice" but they do offer 8 trails and two sweet terrain parks and ice skating for today and tonight.

Ski Beech – After a low of ZERO last night, they are at 4° as of this post at 8:48am and they debut Upper and Lower Robbins Run AND their new TUBING HILL which is located behind the cafeteria / lodge building. If you’re walking up from the upper parking lot it will be on your right. Skiers and Snowboarders will be more ecstatic about being able to hit Robbins. That really is a sweet trail and coming off of it and cruising through either the Powder Bowl or Freestyle side of the mountain makes for a nice top-to-bottom run. It’s good to see 7 trails open at Beech right now.

They will be working on White Lightning now and with the forecast of continued cold AND the forecast of a third pump coming online this week, we think they will be making snow on White Lightning and other terrain soon.

By the way, Ryan and his crew are reporting the same 28-48" base that they reported yesterday which makes sense since they moved the snowmaking equipment over to Robbins and other trails not open yet.

Sugar Mountain – A low this morning of zero has allowed Sugar to grow their base 4-6" each of the last few days and they are reporting another 5" of manmade powder to get to 35-58" of sweet base. (These guys have been consistently putting out good reporting all season.) They will be making snow as temps allow (and they will probably allow all day and night). They move their open slope total to 18 of 20 trails with the opening of the Easy Street Extension. The only trails not open are Sugar Bear and Boulderdash. Sugar has tubing and ice skating open as well.

Wolf Ridge – We heard from one of the owners yesterday and they have obviously listened to our readers and they are kicking their reporting up a notch. Way to go Wolf. These guys have kind of "silently" (as far as the skiing public is concerned) racheted up their resort to what could soon be one of the top ski areas in the region. They have a ways to go yet and some blips on the radar to maneuver around, but there’s a lot of potential for them to be a "big bad wolf" at some point. They have Powder Hill and Whistling Dixie open now and they have 50% of the mountain open with 10 of 20 trails and snow tubing. The terrain park has yet to open this season. Wolf Ridge also held steady on the same 30-48" of base that they reported yesterday.

Sapphire Valley – They have both of their 2 trails open and snow tubing for this weekend with great conditions. They are reporting a base of 40-75". That is a growth of 22" on the minimum and 31" on the maximum in two days.


I know some of you will write me that I’m in a picky mood and ragging on some of the base depths being reported today. I’m trying not to because truthfully the base depths don’t matter to the GREAT CONDITIONS that we have today. Like many have told me for twelve years, you can only ski or ride on the top few inches or so and 26 feet of snow below you means nothing. Ski areas in the Southeast DO NEED ALL THAT DEEP BASE to insure good conditions through the normal mild stretches that hit each winter. If things get mild again in a few weeks it will allow them to push some snow around and stay open with decent conditions.

Maybe we’re the only reporting service that monitors these kind of things, but to see an acceptable growth in base depths in the 4-6" range daily and then see them jump 20-30" in one day just kind of sends a bad signal. Either they were not actually reporting actual numbers daily and did some kind of "one day correction" or some are looking around at what others are posting and "catching up".

I’m not singling out any one resort, it just looks funny to see crazy numbers popping up overnight. That is why we went to the base legend that appear on our slope reports. We’ve had some people email us asking why we were not using it this season and the reason is simply because we were seeing realistic numbers even as late as 24 hours ago and then all of a sudden this morning we’re seeing one day base growths of twenty to thirty inches in one day. Of course, we could be wrong – maybe there was something in the 5° temperatures last night that wasn’t in the ZERO degree temps the night before.

Maybe some resorts ARE doing a "base depth correction".

…or maybe some resorts have "base envy". Some guys have got it and others envy it and SAY they have it. W-h-a-t-e-v-e-r, the conditions ARE SIMPLY FANTASTIC out there at ALL of the ski areas today and that is probably what we should be yapping about. I couldn’t help myself though.

That is what you guys expect out of us, right? I hope so!

It will cold for snow tubing at Hawksnest or Scaly Mountain tubing areas today, so bundle up and get us some pics. Both are open and both should look great after several days of snowmaking.

As always, be sure to click over to  for more news about ALL of the ski resorts of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic including more photos of the day, more snow news, more videos…and just MORE!

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

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