FIRST TURNS by Joe Stevens

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Hello Everyone –

Let’s talk about those first turns of the season or in my case, the turns that could’ve been but didn’t happen. For those of you who were able to enjoy the incredible conditions for the first weekend of December, here is to you for letting gravity be your friend. I was all set to head to Pocahontas County, West Virginia and check out Snowshoe Mountain and well it just didn’t happen. You see that angel on my shoulder overruled the devil on the other shoulder and I was able to see my son Christian sit on Santa’s lap for the sixth time and that’s one thing doesn’t get old.

I did make the trip to Snowshoe Mountain on Friday and did seven satellite uplink interviews from the slopes in Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. I was able to speak about the awesome conditions throughout the region and all the anchors wanted to talk about was how cold it was. They just don’t understand do they? Just dress for it dude or dudette.

Those who have read this column for the last five years know that I am not a fan of any metoroligist that tells you what you want to hear instead of telling you what you need to hear. When that first big storm forecast was coming down the pike and all the snow gooses were predicting a foot or more of snow, I said here we go again. I told anyone who would listen (including our bud Mike Doble) that most resorts would probably get six inches at the most. Well when you are wrong, you may as well be wrong in a big way and boy was I ever. The snow gooses hit the mark this time around. In a few cases more than a foot fell during the storm which contributed to conditions this past weekend.

One of those weathermen who was on target was skisoutheast’s chief forecaster, Brad Panovich of WCNC-TV, Charlotte, NC. In last week’s column Brad didn’t get his season forecast in time to be included so I decided to include it in this week’s column. Here is what Brad thinks about this season’s weather: Winter 2010-2011 will be hard pressed to match the epic snows of last winter. which was one of the snowiest for most of the southeast since the late 1970s. I do think we return to a more typical winter in these parts with lots of up’s and downs with some good blasts of cold and snow early in the winter followed by our typical January thaw. Then some late season storms in February and March. La Nina will make for a more favorable storm track for MD and WV due to the cold air being bottled up north more than last season. This should allow for many clipper type systems and Ohio Valley low pressure systems. These usually bring pretty good snows to the Virginias and Maryland with northwest flow snows for North Carolina. We won’t have the storm track we had last season through the gulf of Mexico then up the east coast.

Normally we would expect a milder winter thanks to La Nina as well, but I think the Negative NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) and Arctic Oscillation or AO could help give us several arctic outbreaks of cold. Like the one we have right now. With the cold temps and further north storm track, the season might not be as snowy as last season but should still have plenty of cold for the snowmaking and enough natural stuff to keep the slopes covered most of the season. The one concern I do have is that this combination of cold and northern storm track usually means more ice storms. This is something that we need to watch out for this upcoming ski season.

I promise no more comments about snow gooses for the time being at least.

That’s it for the season’s first column, 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. 

Send your comments to: [email protected] or [email protected] 

Joe Stevens, a member of the southeast ski industry since 1990 is a regular columnist for and serves as the Communications Director for the West Virginia Ski Areas Association.

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