Go Play in the Rain – It will do your Soul some Good!

First Trax

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It’s still November. It is still Autumn and Winter is three weeks away. We have had an amazing, incredible start to the ski season with so many resorts opening with terrain much earlier than ever before. So I say, "So what if we’re getting a day of rainy weather. It happens."

The previous two-plus weeks have had us so spoiled to cold and snow that my inbox was jammed with emails this morning from disappointed souls – wanting a day of snow before heading home…or to the mountains…ot just wanting another glimpse of snow on the webcams. Who knows? However, it should be noted that today’s forecast is for light drizzle and a high in the upper 30s to 40° and a low tonight of around 27° – WHICH BY THE WAY is colder-than-normal for this day in November. The normal high is 49°, and the normal low is 27°.

So deal with this one day. If you were planning on skiing or snowboarding one more day before heading back from your turkey-day getaway then do it. Dress accordingly and go enjoy yourself.

Speaking of riding in the rain….I learned some interesting things last night while enjoying a quick trip to Sugar with some family and friends. My sister and her family (and a couple of friends) called to say they were heading up the mountain and wanted to go skiing. I checked the forecast and it called for a strange, 7% chance of rain for Banner Elk, so I told them that I’d meet up with them. I, my teenaged daughter and a friend headed up Hwy 105. As we got closer to Banner Elk, the rain started falling harder and I commented to my crew, "Guys if it’s raining, I say let’s not do it." After all, we get to ski most anytime we can fit in a trip to the slopes during the week AND we’d already been skiing twice in the last week.

We met the others at "Mickey D’s" in Banner Elk and decided to drive up to Sugar and see what was happening there. Light drizzle in Banner Elk can often mean that it is snowing atop Sugar and Beech. As we arrived at the parking lots at Sugar a couple of things were apparent to me. One was that very few people were there as we were able to park in the employee parking strip. The second was that we were still experiencing "under-developed" snow (rain), although it was more of a mist than rain.

We left our gear and walked in behind the lodge to have a look at the slopes and what we saw inspired us to "just do it". We quickly got our gear, bought lifties and headed to the slopes…at about the same time that the rain started to increase in intensity. The first fifteen minute trip up the lift to the top soaked the outer "skin" of my SkiSoutheast.com hoodie, although I was wearing a couple of thin inner layers that kept me perfectly dry.

The first run down the 1.5 mile mountain was AWESOME. Wet, but awesome as Sugar’s talented groomers had put down some sweet corduroy from top to bottom. I was expecting some soft slush, but there was none. The top two inches or so was a nice, soft, carvable snow and the secondary was packed nicely – despite the rain. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it – even with the relatively hard rain that hit us making that first trip up and down.

After waiting up for some of our party and about the time I was about to hit the chair for a second trip up – the rain changed over to a misty drizzle again…and it remained that way for most of the night, with periods of no precip at all. We made numerous trips top to bottom and had a blast. The last trip down (before calling it a night) was rainy again as the night’s hardest rain began to fall – this time soaking our outer wear pretty good! Having and wearing the appropriate gear is ALWAYS important as it will make for a great day on the slopes, regardless of the weather! Wearing goggles last night took on a different measure of importance (rain instead of snowmaking) and those of us who were wearing helmets found that they ALSO serve to keep your head nice and dry during rainfall! (Maybe that’s why they call it a bucket!)

Sometimes I receive emails from you guys making claims that "only hardcore skiers and snowboarders" do it in the rain. However, I consider myself more of a convenience skier, meaning that I typically stay away from the rainy days and high traffic weekends. Saturday night I saw many (obvious) newbies out there amongst the less than 200 skiers and snowboarders. There was enough of a crowd to make for 15 second lift lines (smiling here) and everyone was enjoying themselves.

The snow was VERY, VERY nice. Okay, so what…it could have been nicer with some natural snow or no precip…but it was a great trip out Saturday night.

So the next time you are debating hitting the slopes because of a little inclement weather…just do it. Wear the proper gear and go enjoy yourself. Be a kid again and just go play in the rain. You’ll thank me for it.


Another interesting thing I saw last night was that snowboarders FAR outnumbered skiers. On a few trips down the mountain I had the enjoyment of skiing slalom between a LOT of snowboarders who had "setup camp" on the snow at nearly perfect intervals along Upper Flying Mile. When I got to the bottom I purposely took notice and counted the snowboarders versus skiers and I noted 15 snowboarders and only 3 skiers. On a trip to the top I counted again…14 snowboarders, 2 skiers (not the same ones). On the subsequent ride up the lift I counted as I floated overhead – 27 snowboarders, 6 skiers.

There is no question that snowboarding continues to grow in popularity, particularly with kids and young adults who are taking up the sport for the first time. My 14 year old is an accomplished skier who skis with the same speed and efficiency of friends who are on ski teams at the various resorts of the High Country. However, we’ve been out three time this week and on TWO of those three trips she chose to snowboard instead. She began snowboarding last season along with numerous of her friends and she alternates skiing and snowboarding for the fun of it.

Dakota Bauer (Koti to friends) who ski races for the Sugar Mountain race team, is also a darn fast snowboarder. She too alternates between the two depending on her mood and who she’s with.  I’m seeing that A LOT these days, but I’m not sure if last night was an anomaly or more of a trend. Maybe more snowboarders are willing to ride in the rain than skiers. Maybe it’s just that a higher percentage of young people are snowboarding these days AND mostly younger people are willing to ride in the rain than older fogies. Come to think of it, I MIGHT have been the oldest person on the slopes last night! Damn, that’s a scary thought!!! Maybe, just maybe what was once thought of as a small "movement" (snowboarding) is now the norm, instead of the exception. I’m not certain if snowboarders NORMALLY outnumber skiers on the slopes, but last night they certainly did.


The North Carolina mountain forecast is as follows:

Monday will be much colder with snow showers intensifying. Snow showers will last through Monday night. Accumulations will be possible across most of the region, especially at higher elevations and western upslope regions right along the TN/NC line. By Tuesday morning, expect 2"-6" in those favored northwest flow snow areas, a dusting to 2" for most of us, and only a dusting at lower elevations near the Blue Ridge (including eastern Ashe County and Alleghany County).

Tuesday will have decreasing clouds and cold temperatures. A lingering morning snow flurry will be possible. Temperatures will rise Tuesday night at higher elevations.

Wednesday will be milder with few clouds. But the next front will approach Wednesday night bringing increasing clouds.

Thursday, that front will pass through in the morning with the chance of a shower. Then much colder air will move across the Southern Appalachians Thursday afternoon and night. Expect falling temperatures from morning highs and blustery winds.

Friday and Saturday will be cold. Even though it’s not in the forecast, a snow shower or two would not be a total surprise next weekend.

(Forecast compliments of Ray Russell of RaysWeather.com)


Expect a little rain on Sunday and then a 100% of SNOW Sunday night. More snow will fall Monday, Monday and Tuesday. Highs will be in the upper 20s to 30s and lows will be in the teens to 20°. Expect up to 5" of new snow through Tuesday. Another chance of snow is in the forecast for Thursday.

I’ll be attending a Snowshoe Media Weekend NEXT weekend and it looks like great weather with partly cloud skies and highs in the 20s and lows in the teens!

Here are some notables at the resorts for today:

Most of the resorts are reporting a slight drop in base snow. Most are reporting about 3-5" less base depth than 24 hours ago.

Even though there’s a LOT of snow out there AND even though conditions are quite nice, we would not be surprised if there were not SOME patchy spots of dicolored snow and maybe even a sketchy patch of thin snow coverage on a trail or two out there towards the end of the day on Sunday. Early morning grooming will cover those spots and things will be wet, but GREAT in the AM. By the end of the day with traffic, expect some thin areas. We saw some at Sugar on Saturday night…so they’re there.

Remember that Cataloochee will only be day skiing today. That is typical of Sunday schedules for them.

Has anyone else noticed that Sugar Mountain is not displaying the typical base depth measuring system of like 14-38"? I am not certain if I have just missed that or this is a one day thing, however today they are reporting – "Average Base Depth: 12"

If that is something new for them – I LIKE IT! I skied there last night and I’d say that was a conservative number since they certainly have a lot more snow than that across a lot of the open trails. As I mentioned above, there were some thin spots through the narrow feeder trail from Switchback to Upper Flying Mile. There was another bit of thin coverage on the slope leading to the feeder to the mid-station lift. I also saw some thin coverage over on "Easy Street". Reporting an average of 12" of snow depth is probably accurate. Way to go Sugar!

Wolf Ridge is reporting "Packed Powder" and we’re thinking that’s a little over-zealous. Packed manmade, maybe. Wet Packed – probably more accurate. They still have three trails open for today and they are reporting that they will be open for night skiing as well.

Massanutten – They too are only reporting a "one number snow depth average"! Is this a trend? If so, I am FOR IT!!! They are reporting an average snow depth of 30" and 4 trails open for day skiing.

Snowshoe Mountain continues to lead the way with 24 trails open for today. Laura Parquette writes what we feel is a perfect description of what visitors will find on their mountain, "Some significant natural snow is also in the forecast, with somewhere around 4 inches possible by the end of the day Tuesday. There may be some slightly icy conditions this morning, so use caution and please be aware of Snowshoe personnel and signage. Conditions across our open terrain will continue to be very good today with some wet snow out there. We now have 24 open slopes with skiing and riding available from the South Mountain to the North Mountain areas. This week we’ll continue to make snow whenever possible, with the hopes of further expanding our open terrain in the Basin area well before the Christmas holidays. Snowmaking also continues on our signature slope, Cupp Run. With some great cold weather moving in overnight, the entire length of Cupp Run may be open very soon."

Wisp Resort is open with 12 trails and their mountain coaster for daytime enjoyment til 5pm today.

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