Great Skiing Today and Another Stab at Base Depth Reporting

First Trax

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We’re going to let the slope conditions tell the story regarding today’s conditions at your favorite ski area.  In summary, it’s just about as good as it gets in the Southeast – right now…so get out and enjoy these very nice conditions.

The forecast looks a little “confused” right now.  We’re going to see some areas of the Southeast pick up some “under developed snow” as my buddy Joe Stevens says.  Some of the higher elevations like Beech and into West Virginia may see a little more snow, but nothing significant tonight or tomorrow.  The next big news regarding the weather comes our way Saturday night when what looks like the coldest air so far this season will be filtering into the region.  Some light snow could fall then as well, but there’s very little in the way of moisture to play with all that cold air so whatever does fall will be light.  The main player in this weekend’s weather is COLD, COLD air. By Sunday night temps will be below zero in some areas to around 4° in others.  Lower elevations may see temps in the 10-15° range!

Just a few notes:

Sapphire Valley is operating on its normal mid-February schedule and that means that they are closed today.  They will be open Wed-Fri from 5pm to 10pm.

Ober Gatlinburg has announced an event for March 5th.  The Spring Flip, sponsored by Swiss Outdoors Sportswear, will provide competitors with a Giant Slalom Race, Slope-Style Race, and Aerial Competition.  The Entry Fee is $15 if you enter before 8pm Thursday, March 2nd.  After March 2 the entry fee becomes $20.  No entries will be accepted after 8pm Saturday.  There will be a pre-competition meeting on Sunday.  Also all competitors will have the opportunity to try their luck at pond skimming.  Prizes will be awarded to the winners of the race and aerial events.  Anyone competing under the age of 18 must have signed parental permission and wear a helmet during the comp.  Sign up at the Swiss Outdoors store in the mall at Ober Gatlinburg.

There will be no snowmaking today and that means unabated skiing and riding on some of the best conditions of the season. Temps will allow snowmaking in the evenings and particularly as we get into that arctic cold air mass this weekend.  If you have a trip planned for now through the next week or two – you are in luck as conditions will be sweet.

Another Stab at a Solution About Base Depths…

First things first.  If you will look at our slope conditions page and all of the individual resort summary pages that we do on all of the ski areas of the Southeast, there’s only ONE number being reported for base depths.  As of today there will only BE one number shown for base depths from now on. After all the argument from some readers has been that it really isn’t important how MUCH snow you ski on as long as there’s good clean snow below your skis and snowboards.  Some have said that as long as there is 6-10” of snow packed beneath us…then all the rest is just “numbers”.  So if it isn’t important, then why report it? So from now on we won’t.

We’ve been toying with the idea of ceasing to report ANY number whatsoever. We’ve actually played around with a tool that looks something like a thermometer or scale that shows from 1-10 what the slope conditions are.  The idea being that a “10” is as good as it gets (powder); and a “4” might be okay surface, good side to side coverage; and a “2” might be plenty of skiable terrain but you better know how to turn to dodge the bare spots.  That idea has been tabled for a bit while we work out the kinks.

What helped us come up with the idea of simply doing away with the maximum number (other than the fact that at many places it is a bogus number) – was YOU guys!  Several people have been emailing us with some ideas and after some careful thought, we decided that this was AT LEAST a step in the right direction.

Several of our On-Snow Reporters are ski instructors and ski patrol at many of the Southeast resorts and a number of them have been emailing us with little “smiley face winks” when they allude to some of the base reporting that has been coming from some ski areas.  Lorrie Tomlinson who has sent in more reports from more resorts this season than all of the others recently alluded to another On-Snow Reporter’s entry this past Friday when she said, “I read the report from Mike Edwards at Sugar on Friday where he reported thin areas, bare spots, and a brown tint to the snow at Sugar. Yet, Sugar claimed a base depth of 35-75. App was reporting 22-60. Something fishy with the base reporting here, because although App is reporting less base, they definitely have more snow and is obviously in much better shape.”

Hundreds of people write us with related comments.  Tom Abernathy wrote on Monday, “Guys I have a question and it isn’t meant to be confrontational but how is it that Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia, which has had undoubtedly more snowmaking opportunities and more than 130 inches of natural snow this season is reporting 36-50” of base and yet Sugar Mountain is reporting 34-81”? That wreaks if you ask me.”

Tom put it best, but he’s only one of a dozen who have asked that same question recently.  What makes those numbers even more bogus is when you compare those numbers with Hawksnest’s 54”, Beech’s 40” and the much smaller and equal snowmaking guys at Appalachian which is reporting 17” LESS snow base. There are certainly other resorts over reporting numbers, but that has to be the most blatant.

We’ve harped on it enough even though thousands have asked us to continue to do so.  We’ve even thrown down challenges wherein we promised to write a retraction of statements if a resort would prove to us that there is an AVERAGE MAXIMUM base depth of 80+” and we never got a response.  We’ve been in meetings where ski area operators laugh when the comment is made “we all know that base depths are being reported accurately”.

We’re tired of this “tired old story” so the best way we know how to shut that down a huge peg is to simply stop reporting it.  Maybe if we start the trend, others will follow.

Until Next Time!

Be sure to check out  for more news and stories for all of the Southeast’s ski areas.

Be sure to email photos, snow reports and comments to: [email protected]

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