First TraxSnow News is Good News

Hello Everyone –

I was on the phone quite a bit this past week discussing the current weather situation that the southeast skiing is facing at the current time.  Most of the folks I spoke to were basically looking to the skies and wondering out loud, “why now?” I tried to be a voice of reassurance, because mild conditions during January isn’t something the industry hasn’t faced before and we will do so again in the future.  It’s weather everyone, deal with it, accept it and move forward with a smile on your face.

My above thoughts are easier said than done, for those who depend on putting butts in beds in the lodges and condos and skis, snowboards and snowtubes on the slopes and trails.  It can cause many a sleepless night and a text I received at 4:00am one morning was proof of the insomnia that occurs throughout the industry during times like this, with the weather creating the current challenges. If you don’t know this already – most people in this industry are in it not only for employment, but for the love of providing a true winter experience for the millions of visitors that take to the slopes in Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.  They take it personally when things go a little sideways for folks that are spending their hard-earned bucks to play at their playground.

For the next 10-days or so this region’s ski resorts are going to be facing mild temperatures that are going to “do a number” on the fine bases that all the snowmakers worked hard to establish. Many spent a lot of hours on snowmaking when manmade snow was being manufactured around the clock just a week ago.  Do not think for a moment that this weather cycle was not seen on the horizon by every mountain operations manager in the southeast and they worked hard to prepare for the mild conditions.  That is why when my son, his friend and I enjoyed a day on the slopes at Winterplace just over a week ago, not one complaint was heard about the snow guns operating on open terrain during the ski day.  We just made sure our goggles were good and snug and away we went.  Anybody worth their salt, understands there are very good reasons why things happen the way they do and making snow on open terrain when the trails are open is one of those things that happens in this fickle industry we all love and enjoy.

I saw several pictures of resorts making mounds and mounds of snow, here, there and just about everywhere – as the mountain operation folks got prepared for the mild conditions. These mild conditions obviously came as the resorts got ready for the Martin Luther King weekend onslaught, but as they say, it’s nothing new and they were as ready as they could’ve been with plenty of acreage open for all the skiers and snowboarders enjoying the three-day holiday weekend.

What some people who complained about those piles of snow getting in their way, don’t understand is that, that snow was really for them as much as the visitors that would be headed to the resorts in the days to come. Many of us in the industry knew what was going on and it created a level of confidence with everyone that the temperatures were going to be mild for a period of time, but the snow on the slopes was still going to be there and the stockpiles of the white stuff would come in handy with patching things here and there.

The Ski Patrollers at Canaan created the cool old man winter smiling whale of snow.

When the mountain operation folks were making the piles of snow, I knew they had their minds on the big picture.  Speaking of pictures, did you see the one that Mike Doble published on First Trax Saturday morning of the pile of snow at Canaan Valley with a smiling face carved into to the side of the pile?  That was a perfect example of a picture telling the entire story.  Needless to say, you will see those piles of snow disappearing in the days to come as the snow is used to fill in here and there.  By the way, you may have noticed those piles of snow have be strategically placed in high traffic areas, because as you have learned in this space in previous columns, the more you move the snow in mild temperature conditions the more you are going to give back to Mother Nature.

As Mike told you in the Saturday First Trax, he and I were having our annual January thaw conversation as I was headed north for an alumni outing in Baltimore.  Ironically the conversation was occurring as I passed the exit for Wisp Resort in Maryland, which has one of the strongest snowmaking operations in the region. He and I both agreed that the attitudes of skiers and snowboarders have changed quite a bit, from the damn the torpedoes attitude to the, oh I am not for sure what we are going to find and we are not going to find snow when we get there.  Obviously, those same skiers and snowboarders haven’t heard of webcams yet.  That’s a shame.

Now I have saved the best for last for this week’s column.  You have heard me go on and on about the snowmakers in the southeast.  I will always say, there are no better in the business than the ones right here in the southeast.  They take pride in what they do and they do it very, very well.  Well folks, I am here to tell you this week that their job is on a pause right now and it will be up to the next set up “Unsung Heroes,” the groomers to step up to the challenge now.  You see it looks like for the most part, the overnight temperatures in most cases is going to be around 40 degrees or so.  That will let the snow set up and allow the groomers to push the snow here and push it there and make everything nice for those first tracks in the morning. Those snow piles I referred to earlier, well they will be getting smaller everyday as that snow will be used by the groomers to patch things where the mild temperatures have taken snow from on the slopes.  As the region has the best snowmakers, I think the groomers can and will be stepping up to the challenge.

So, don’t worry, be happy knowing full well that your on-slope fun is in capable hands of some very fine folks who are going to make your sure your TOS (time on snow) is one that you will remember.

That’s it for this week, much more to come as the season continues. Just remember whether it be cold or whether it be hot, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather will be.  Think about it! See you on the slopes and again, Happy First Turns to everyone in land.

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