Good Conditions – Limited Slopes – Winter Returns WHEN??

First Trax

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Let’s address the most asked questions of yesterday and then get you the resort notes from around the region.

Leslie Conners of Jacksonville, FL wrote, “Will Winter make it to XYZ Resort before my annual trip on January 5th?”

Others asked the same question and simply changed the date and inserted their favorite ski area. We are ski resort reporters, not weather gurus. That said, EVEN a lot of the weather gurus are contemplating climbing on the roofs of their offices because snow lovers (and cold weather enthusiasts) are threatening them with bodily harm! Before the season started many meteorologists and weather practitioners forecasted a winter that would be colder and snowier than normal for our area. November gave us a little cold weather head start that got Cataloochee some headline news by opening the earliest ever; however December has pretty much been the pits!

To answer Leslie’s question, we consulted with a few meteorologists who are looking for any sympathy and love that they can get; and we also consulted The Farmer’s Almanac, The National Weather Service and a few trusted sources. All are NOW referring to one small disclaimer that they seemingly agree was written into their early season forecasts in print that was so small as to be invisible that said – and we are paraphrasing, “While we believe that the region will see about 10 to 20 percent more snow than normal, we are not concerned about the bulk of the season…from January through to the end…HOWEVER, getting out of the blocks looks as though it could be a challenge.”

The truth is when forecasts come out prior to a winter season, most all of us see the parts that we want and ignore the potentially negative stuff. However, I went back to my notes in October and sure enough the kind of comments shown above WERE in there. Herb Stevens, known as The Skiing Weatherman, actually nailed the majority of my paraphrased comment above, with his preseason forecast in November.

So let’s hang our hats on what we have to hope for and that is that we’re stuck in the influence of the El Nino for another couple of weeks. In Herb’s latest missive, he actually states that we should expect more of the same that we’ve BEEN dealing with, though slightly cooler weather for another two weeks and then start to see some changes to a more consistent Winter as El Nino sort of goes away. Ray Russell of Boone seems to agree with his comments that no cold air is in the foreseeable forecast until mid January.

So Leslie, it appears that YOUR trip may be “iffy” if you’re looking for 100% trail openings or pristine snowfalls. If your trip is after mid January, then hang your hopes on the above commentary.

The other most asked question was related to, “Why are the slopes so much more crowded than the last few Holiday periods?”

Simple. When you’re trying to put the same number of people on less acreage, the result will be more crowded slopes. Most of the resorts across the Southeast have about 50-60% of their slopes operating. Even though Holiday attendance seems to be off slightly from years past (according to a couple of our resort contacts) – the slopes are more crowded because there’s fewer slopes open than we’d like to see open this time of year.

However, look at the bright side – There IS skiing…and with some cold air and a snowier forecast ahead…things WILL get better as we move into the main portion of Ski Season 2006-2007. (Please God, give us this one!)

Some Resort Notes:

We’re heading out early to do some first tracks at Snowshoe. They have added three more open trails since Thursday; they made a little snow last night AND they are debuting their new High Speed Quad “The Soaring Eagle Express” at 10am. If you’re one of the first 100 to ride it, your name will be entered into a raffle to give away 10 new iPods!

Wintergreen Resort is offering the ability to try the latest gear at Freestyle’s Demo Day at the top of Eagles Swoop.

As far as we can tell some resorts reported that they made snow last night (Cataloochee, Hawksnest and Sapphire), but the live cams at Cataloochee and Hawksnest don’t show any machines running this morning at 7am. Temperatures seem to support the potential of snowmaking at Cataloochee as one report showed 24°. However, the higher elevations of App, Beech and Sugar are showing 30°, 36°, and 37° respectively. No snowguns were operating at those hills, so we’re going to speculate that very little, if any snowmaking went down Thursday night or overnight Friday morning. If it did, it was minimal.

That means what you skied on yesterday, is what you have for Friday. The temps probably won’t support snowmaking until Monday night and YES we do have some rain coming in for Sunday and early Monday. Let’s enjoy Friday and Saturday and then take a look at what gives for New Year’s Eve and beyond.

Note: Several people have asked us about the Hawksnest camera. We CAN log in and see live images, but their IT guy made some tweaks that are prohibiting the camera from broadcasting. He is working to resolve that and we should have it for you later today.

Hawksnest has TUBING open! If you want to do some tubing, Cataloochee and Hawksnest are your choices.

Expect decent conditions today, perhaps some thin coverage areas…and crowds. Now get out and enjoy yourselves!

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Until Next Time…


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