Cheers to Wayne Hoilman and Ski Beech for The S-U-P-E-R Conditions Saturday!

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Happy Super Bowl Sunday everyone! Snow is in the forecast everywhere across the region! It doesn’t look like much in the way of accumulation is headed our way, but it’s nice to add a little ambience to our on snow experience. Most of Western North Carolina received 2-3” of snow on Thursday, another inch on Friday evening from a surprise snowfall, and then a playful flurry Sunday morning (very early).  Other areas further north saw more snow!

We can expect another light snowfall on Super Bowl Sunday with highs in the 20s and lows tonight in the single digits! (Even colder into West Virginia and Maryland) Expect breezy conditions if you’re going to be on the slopes today. 10-20 mph winds will be the norm with some gustier sustained winds at the higher elevations and especially later in the day.

For all of the details for slope openings, etc, Check the SLOPE CONDITIONS PAGE.  (There’s some highlights at the bottom of this morning’s story as well, and some nice events happening across the region today and Monday, so be sure to check out the notes.  We’ll also update you guys as needed if we get any real accumulations from the snow today!

Ski Beech In Near Primo Condition On Saturday!

I was hoping to make Saturday an ALL DAY ski day and begin it with my second SkiNC Summit attendance. However, my 13 year old was having a ski birthday party at Hawksnest and my 7 year old was feeling a bit under the weather. So I hung out with the babe for the morning while my wife took 7 or so to ski and ride at The Nest!

30-50 (depending on the reporter!) people made the 3rd Annual SkiNC Summit held at Ski Beech on Saturday. Thanks to Gil Adams and Group Sales for working out a nice group rate for Dave McConnell and crew! Sounds like they had an awesome day on the slopes.

I was able to make it to Ski Beech for the night session with some family and friends, and since I heard no reports about a rowdy, drunken bunch making off with a ski resort, I’m assuming the summit went off without a hitch! Now to the point of this morning’s update resembling something akin to a Trip Report that would otherwise belong on the middle column. Ski Beech was in rare form last night! Before I elaborate let me mention that I finally DID make it out to Hawksnest and skied from about 2-4pm and with the 20+ mph winds (and higher gusts) pushing the top-surface powder around, it was rather icy, except in a few isolated instances. It was not one of the better days to be at Hawksnest, but that ALSO brings me to a point that I want to make this morning.

A couple of weeks ago someone asked me to post a story about the fact that Ski Beech needed to step things up a bit in terms of paying attention to snow quality, visitor experience (including lift operators, etc), and the story hit a nerve. More than 96% (96.7% to be exact) of the more than 125 emails that we received in response to the story gave the author of the story a hearty “amen” and I could share every email, but that would serve no purpose at this point. 4 emails were disappointingly hate-filled and at this point it would serve no purpose to reveal who they were from either. The point is the response to the story showed both – that people agreed wholeheartedly with the story and that a massive amount of people cared enough about Ski Beech to write and call. I personally appreciate every email and the numerous phone calls that I received.

The reaction to the story also taught me a little more about Ski Beech. Not ALL that I learned was good, but I’ll save that for another day as well. However, I was a bit surprised to get a reaction from Beech staffers that resembled what kind of reaction you’d get if you offended or attacked my children. We received numerous emails and calls from current and past Ski Beech employees and what I heard was the same kind of “hurt” that you’d get from dealing with a family member when they were chastised. Reactions all resembled something like, “Yes, the story sure sounded like the Ski Beech I know, but it really hurt and caught us by surprise.”

I could comment on the fact that the only reason that the story caught anyone by surprise is because they weren’t listening, but this story is not going to be a part two of Dave’s rant. What I learned about Ski Beech is that they DO have a lot of long term, caring people; people who love the resort and put in a lot of long, exhausting hours. They care enough that if you slap them, their first reaction is to slap back. However, after the initial sting of the story went away it appears that Ski Beech may have used some of the contents of that story as impetus for improvement.

Is it a coincidence that everyday since that story was written, the snow has been in much better shape? Is it a coincidence that everyday since the story broke, there has been snow on the access/walking path from the upper parking lot to the slopes? Maybe. Some would argue that conditions everywhere have been better, simply because the weather’s been better, but I don’t think so.

Case in point is Saturday’s conditions. I was able to make it out to Hawksnest and ski from 2-4pm and the conditions were decent, but there was a lot of ice and very hard-packed snow (the kind that can hurt you when you fall). I went home after some enjoyable trips down, and a short time later I received a call from some family who were driving up from Hickory, inquiring as to whether or not I wanted to go ski…and asking for my recommendation as to WHERE to ski. I advised them that we’d had a very gusty night and that Saturday was very windy. I told them that Hawksnest had been pretty icy and hard packed. I also told them that I wasn’t certain I wanted to go back out and my reason was that I figured that conditions would be a little icy everywhere.

I had spoken to Len Bauer, the director of Sugar Mountain’s Ski School, just minutes before my family called. His daughter Cody was part of our birthday gathering. (By the way, congrats to Cody for finishing 3rd in her race on Saturday morning!) Anyway, Len told me that conditions at Sugar were great all day, and of course he sang the praises of Gunther who IS a skier and who would make sure that conditions were optimal under any kind of conditions. Well THAT conversation convinced me to head out for some night skiing Saturday night. After some debating, we all headed to Ski Beech.

In honor of this being Super Bowl Sunday, I will use that adjective to describe the conditions that we all found ALL night on EVERY slope! S-U-P-E-R! We had a friend of the family with us who was visiting from the UK (and who had not skied in 18 years) so we headed to Lower Shawneehaw first. The experience – SUPER! We then headed up the quad lift and as usual, when it’s windy anywhere else, it is BLUSTERY up at the top as you near the quad lift house. The wind was pushing you as you would head out of the house. I was expecting some of the same conditions coming off the top that I witnessed at Hawksnest earlier in the day. I was WRONG! The conditions coming down Upper Shawneehaw were SUPER! We made a couple more trips down both Shawneehaw trails and then skipped over to Robbins Run. The conditions on Robbins Run were SO S-U-P-E-R that we couldn’t pull ourselves off of that trail the rest of the night!

Several trips down Robbins Run and the bottom connectors both left into the Powder Bowl, and right were all as nice as I have skied in North Carolina this entire season…bar none! The conditions were so sweet that my brother-in-law and I were bumping fists at the bottom of Robbins and grinning a Cheshire-cat-like grin from ear to ear! It WAS that S-U-P-E-R!

I was speaking with some of our ski party, as well as other random people and one of them offered this observation, “I have not seen the slopes of Ski Beech look this nice except on rare occasions after deep snows, and as windy as it is tonight it’s hard to believe how nice it is.” Another person said, “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are NO chunky blocks of ice on ANY of the slopes tonight.”

I HAD noticed. What made this all the more amazing was that this was one night that we’d all have understood IF conditions had been icy or if there HAD been “death cookies” as some skiers call the chunky blocks of ice that have been strewn across numerous slopes in the past. Was it a coincidence that the slopes were in THAT good a shape despite the gusty, sustained winds and constantly FRIGID, ice-box temps of late? Maybe, but I really doubt it.

I also couldn’t help but notice that Ski Beech had placed a nice vinyl or plastic piping on the border of the loading area as you approach the Lower Shawneehaw Lift and that snow was evenly layered such that skiers and riders could easily maneuver the approach to the lift. Coincidence? Maybe.

Regardless of the reasons, we have received NUMEROUS emails (and I could share those too!) over the last week or so that the conditions at Ski Beech have been phenomenal. Saturday night had every opportunity of NOT being a primo night to ski at the windy, high elevations of Ski Beech. However, what I found was conditions that had me NOT wanting to stop at 10pm. I found the kind of conditions that have me thinking about heading up there this morning!

So regardless of the reasons, General Manager, Wayne Hoilman gets the credit. That IS where the buck stops at any of our ski areas. Whether its grooming or the TLC that goes into making things a little better when you visit any ski area…the top man gets the criticisms and all too often they never get the credit. So Wayne, in honor of our visitor from the UK, “here’s a tip of the glass to you” – Cheers Mate!

Editor’s Note: We did receive other reports of icy conditions at Hawksnest from Saturday and before I get a ton of emails regarding that statement, icy conditions happen from time to time in the Southeast and Mid Atlantic. Consistency is the name of the game and this season has been one of the best in terms of consistently great conditions at Hawksnest. Saturday just wasn’t one of their better ones.

Here’s Some Highlights Around the Region:

Appalachian’s two terrain parks are receiving rave reviews this season. Probably the best in the region according to our readers. If you haven’t checked them out, you should!

Hawksnest had some huge skier visits on Saturday. The parking lots were jammed full and people were parking down the road! They did not make snow for the second night in a row so some good grooming by Lenny or Vance will make for a great day today!

Cataloochee – Today is Ski Country Sports Demo Day over there! Check out the new skis and snowboards and enjoy a pre-Super Bowl day on Sunday!

Sugar Mountain – They made snow a LOT of the day on Saturday and were blasting away at the slope last night as well. They have turned the guns off for day skiing today. They are 100% open.

Ski Beech – They are 100% open for the first time this season and conditions will no doubt be B-O-M-B-E-R! Go enjoy the snow!

Wintergreen – They are having a Freestyle’s Boardercross race today on upper Diamond Hill. Conditions are great there today!

Canaan Valley – Timber Trail and Gravity are now open! Great snow!

Snowshoe – They are getting MORE snow on top of the 48” in the last 19 days! They have the Cupp Run Challenge happening on Monday. Our newest columnist, Rob Story will be there.

Timberline – 30 trails plus 17km of back country trails open with a base of 12-24” (people that’s natural snow!) They reported 1-2” more in the last 24 hours and now 73” on the season.

Winterplace – Reports 1” of new snow and great conditions.

Wisp – How about 30 trails and 30km of back country with 6-10” of natural snow. 3” more snow in the last 24 hours! 8” in last two days, nearly 40+” in last three weeks! How about this forecast for Wisp for the next THREE days: Sunday, Monday and Tuesday – SNOW and a high of 10° and a low of 0 to 2°

One of the Biggest Names in the Ski Instructor Business NATIONALLY was in my office this past week. Jim Cottrell came in to give me some good information. We’ll elaborate later, but as he was leaving he turned and said, “Hey, Mike, I want to thank you for always THINKING SNOW!”

So in honor of that…

Until Next Time…


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