I’ll get to those ski areas that are operating today in a moment. However, I want to take a moment and talk about the perceptions that ski areas have to fight this time of year. Unless it is mid-season and cold temperatures and natural snowfall is in abundance – ski areas have a tough time “winning” the marketing or perception “battle”.
Case in point – I was hanging with some family in Hickory, North Carolina on Turkey day. All but one of those in attendance are avid skiers and snowboarders who typically ski out west a couple of times a year. They also visit Snowshoe, Sugar, App and Beech once or twice during each season. So this group loves to ride and play in the snow and NOT ONE OF THEM had a clue that any ski area in the region was open. When I mentioned it, the looks I got reminded me of old Marty Feldman and his crazy eyes. The remarks I got were, “You’re kidding!?!? Really?!?!”
Another marketing battle that resorts face this time of pre-season/early-season is the one of “Why aren’t you guys making snow and getting open like ‘XYZ Ski Resort’?”
Right now only 4 of 17 snow-dependent, ski areas are open so far (5 of 18 if you count Liberty Snowflex which is open year round), and if you check the social media accounts of a few of the ski areas that are not open yet, you’ll get a taste of what I’m alluding to. More about that in a moment – but first – HERE is who is OPEN!
Snowshoe Mountain Resort – 37° – 9 trails with a base of 24″. Not making snow now but they did within the last 24 hours. Opening Day is TODAY as the rope will be dropped at the top of Heisler Way with 9 trails (34 acres of skiable terrain) and they even have the Progression Park off to a strong start with 15 features for all of your jibbing and bonking needs.
Beech Mountain Resort – 42° – Opening Day is TODAY and they start strong with 6 of 17 trails open, including “The Park” for those that wanna play early. They are open to the top of their mountain with a base of 6-18″ and offer day sessions only today.
Cataloochee Ski Area – 48° – They offer the same 3 of 18 trails open for day sessions today on a base of 12-14″. Cat posted this statement for those who thought they were supposed to be open for night sessions, “In an effort to maximize any snowmaking opportunities that we might have, we have made the decision to day ski only until 4:30pm each day and we will not be twilight and night skiing. Holiday rates are in effect Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and we will be open from 8:30am – 4:30pm each day.”
Sugar Mountain Resort – 36° – Open for day and night sessions with the same 5 of 21 trails and a base of 8-24″ and ice skating as well. Surprisingly, Sugar was making snow this morning (still as of 9am) and they will as long as temps allow.
Resort ops have a hard time winning sometimes. It may be 36° at Appalachian Ski Mountain (prohibiting snowmaking efforts) and 34° at Sugar and Beech (allowing them to make snow). It may 27° at some of the Virginia ski areas TODAY – but one look at the forecast for a few days ahead shows a “blow torch of mild temps” would result in a waste of snowmaking.
Snowmaking temps have been spotty at best so far this particular November-to-date and that has even made those that HAVE made snow, focus on only making it on a few core trails. In another “can’t win” marketing setup – that prompts many to inquire and even complain when they find out snow tubing hills are not yet open (except at Ober).
Questions related to all the above have been hitting my SkiMail INBOX over the last week. To be honest, Thanksgiving Day and Weekend have always been the unofficial opening day/weekend for the Southeastern Ski Industry as a whole, but the standard bearers (resorts that actually open each year around that time) are usually only Cataloochee, Sugar, Beech and Appalachian. Snowshoe has begun opening earlier as well.
So it is no surprise that all of those mentioned above (except for Appalachian) are the ones open for skiing and snowboarding today and this weekend. The rest of the ski resorts in the region are always more inclined to open in Early to Mid December and when temperatures permit.
So translation – it is still VERY EARLY and if you want to make some early turns to rid yourself of those early-season-joneses – you should get after it NOW at one of the ski areas that have worked really hard to make that a possibility.
Also, bear in mind that JUST BECAUSE a ski area is open today, does not guarantee it to be open in a week. It IS still November and that usually means wild temperature swings in the Southeast. Right now we are seeing reported base depths of 8-24″ across the trails of those four open resorts. Unquestionably Snowshoe has the most base right now and I suspect that a ski area or two that is open today MIGHT NOT BE in a week.
Readers have asked me things like, “How can we be sure that a ski area will be open in early December?” or “What is the best way to monitor conditions to ensure a good ski getaway?”
Ummmm…if you emailed me that question, you’ve found the answers to both questions! Just visit SkiSoutheast.com, ResortCams.com and our weather content via HighCountryWeather.com and you will have everything that you need in one place.
Another reader yesterday asked, “My wife and I are planning to head to Cataloochee on Friday (December 1st) and we want to know what your opinion is on how things will be?”
By the way, you could replace “Cataloochee” with the ski area of your choice and the answer will be pretty much the same right now.
The NEXT 10-15 DAYS (and Nights). Who Will Make Snow?
Unfortunately we’re seeing NORMAL to slightly MILDER than normal temperatures for this time of year for the next ten days or so. That will take us to Friday, December 8th and that means some snowmaking challenges for all of our ski resorts of the region. We’ve taken the time to show the number of snowmaking nights/days between now and December 8th. Obviously this COULD change, but based on what we are seeing right now…here’s the snowmaking ops per resort:
Snowshoe Mountain – 8-9 nights (maybe 2 days of around the clock)
Sugar Mountain Resort – 8-9 nights (Gunther seems to make snow at 35°)
Canaan Valley Resort – 6-8 nights
Timberline Resort – 6-8 nights
Beech Mountain Resort – 7-8 nights
Wisp Resort – 4-6 nights
Massanutten Resort – 4-6 nights
Bryce Resort – 4-6 nights
Winterplace Resort – 4-6 nights
Wolf Ridge Resort – 3-4 nights
Wintergreen Resort – 3-4 nights
Appalachian Ski Mtn – only 2-3 nights
Cataloochee Ski Area – only 2 nights
Oglebay Resort – Maybe 1-2 nights
Sapphire Valley – only 1-3 nights
Omni Homestead – Maybe 1
Ober Gatlinburg – MAYBE 1
READERS NOTE: Our weather patterns can turn on a dime and the snowmaking data above is based on forecast models available to us today. It is important to check back every couple of days as this can change by just 2-3° and allow for more snowmaking opportunities.
So as you can see, we’re probably in for a sluggish or challenging start to the season. Most long-range forecasts are supporting the content we posted above, however they are also supporting a trend towards MUCH COLDER with some snow around the middle of December and into the first of the year which could be PERFECT for ski resorts and those of us who are planning Christmas-to-New Year’s ski getaways.
However, some patience will be needed if things hold the way they appear to be headed for the next week or two. Based on what we are seeing, I would not expect any additional ski areas to open between now and the first of December and maybe for another week or so after that. Of those that are open NOW, it won’t surprise us to see only Snowshoe open non-stop bewteen now and then – with a possibility that Beech and Sugar will also be able to remain open each day through that period.
Of those that would be open now IF the weather had permitted them to do so – those would be:
Appalachian Ski Mountain
Wolf Ridge Resort
Typical Early-to-Mid December Opening Dates:
Canaan Valley Resort
Bryce Resort – was making snow last night and this morning with temps hovering around 30°. They will open asap.
We heard from our buddy Ed Galford of Snowshoe yesterday as he wrote, “Hope all is well for you and the family, Happy Thanksgiving! See you soon once we get this season going on Friday! You’ve seen the trail cams, it’s awesome!
Editor’s Note: Ed is VP of Operations at Snowshoe.
That will do it for me today. I want to say “thank you” for making this website a daily stop in your day. Pass the word or email a friend to pay us a visit. Also if you haven’t done so already, check out the messageboard. We have lots of industry insiders, ski patrol and instructors and lots of fellow skiers and snowboarders who are on there every day. Click over, join in on the conversation. It’s fun and it’s free.
Email me anything, anytime at [email protected]