by Joe Stevens
Hello Everyone –
During an interview I did last week on Talkline, a statewide radio show in West Virginia, the host, Hoppy Kercheval started out the interview asking me to tell him about the ropes dropping on Saturday at Timberline and Snowshoe resorts.
This is a term I have used for as long as I can remember, anytime I am asked about opening day. I am just pleased that some in the mainstream media are finally catching on to industry talk.
Kudos to all the snowmakers in the region once again, because without their efforts, the slopes that are now open in North Carolina, West Virginia and Virginia would not be a reality.
I am here to say, given any chance by Mother Nature, these crews rock. I know I have stated this fact on numerous occasions in seasons past, but the fact remains that the best snowmakers in the industry can be found right here in the southeast. Point. Set. Match.
However, the snowmakers couldn’t be doing what they continue to do without the support of management. I truly don’t believe the majority of the skiers and snowboarders that play on the southeast slopes and trails fully understand just how much money has been invested in snowmaking infrastructures at every resort in the southeast. I have no problem saying that millions upon millions of dollars have been invested in not only new snowmaking equipment, but the replacement of water and air lines that were buried around the resorts decades ago.
If you think that there would be this much skiing and snowboarding available in the southeast without this type of yearly investment in snowmaking operations, you just don’t get it and there just isn’t anything else I can write that will convince you otherwise.
If you have kept up with the beginning of the season, you know that just ten days ago it was not looking very good for the start that finally occurred. Just a drop of three to five degrees in the freezing temperature range meant an opening day that was worth talking about, without a doubt.
While I am sort of on this subject, as many of you know, I have been in this industry since January 1, 1985, when I made my first turns at Massanutten Resort in Virginia. Well, as I have been brought yelling and screaming into the technology side of the industry through the social media aspect of it, I also appreciate and respect the human intel side of the industry.
Case in point is when I announced that the season was opening in West Virginia at Timberline and Snowshoe on Saturday, December 2 and that the season was on the way. I made that announcement after personally hearing from members of management, that skiing and snowboarding would continue, even after the opening weekend.
I was challenged on that fact because information on social media was to the contrary as to whether the resorts were going to provide on-slope operations. Well, I reached back out to my contacts and using human intel, which many have forgotten how to use these days, verified that skiing and snowboarding would continue past the weekend.
One person even went as far as to bet me a beer that I was wrong. I am here to say that I am going to enjoy drinking that beer and it’s going to taste mighty nice. My point, the internet is good and all that, but there is still nothing better than getting info from boots on the ground, folks that are up close and personal with the matter and will not try and lead you in the wrong direction.
That also leads me into folks believing everything they read on their various weather apps, but that is going to be a topic of discussion in an upcoming column, courtesy of the National Weather Service.
Now back to the opening weekend, besides the ones in West Virginia I have already mentioned, congrats and good luck to Sugar, Beech, Appy and Cataloochee in North Carolina and Massanutten and Bryce in Virginia for dropping the ropes (I love that term) either during the week or on Saturday. Your efforts are appreciated by everyone connected to the industry.
Everyone knows that the phones start ringing off the hook when snowmaking starts and the ropes drop at the resorts. However, many might not realize what this means to the folks off the resorts and the ones I am talking about are your local ski shops. I made a call to a couple this week and they said not only are the phones ringing, along with internet inquiries, but traffic in the stores has really picked up across the board.
That means, skiers and snowboarders hearing about the slopes opening are getting their skis and snowboards tuned up for the season for those first turns. I am also hearing that a lot of skiers and snowboarders are updating their equipment this season. While soft good sales (jackets, gloves, etc.) were on the positive side last year, hard goods (skis, snowboards) were off a bit.
I’ll let you in on a little secret, that also means that some last year models are still on the racks and it is not uncommon that great deals can be found on that inventory. You may think, that’s last years stuff, you need not worry, this is basically the same as the new models, just without some updated graphics.
So, if you are considering some new pieces, I really recommend stopping by your local store (shop local folks, please) and look over last year’s stuff and maybe pick up some new pieces of hardware to have fun on the slopes.
That’s it for this week. Just remember whether it be cold or whether it be warm, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather will be. Your favorite slope is now probably open, so go make some turns.