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by Joe Stevens

(Photo compliments of Snowshoe Mountain media.)

Hello Everyone –

When you have plucked the keys as long as I have, sometimes you have to just sit back and wonder where the words come from. Do they come from an experience from long ago or from a thought that just popped into your head as you sit down to scribe your weekly verse? I am just thankful that there are some creative juices flowing upstairs.

It’s that time of year again when it’s about to get real, real busy at not only ski resorts in the southeast, but resorts across the country.

It’s also the time of year when some visitors to ski resorts, especially in the southeast see snow for the very fist time. This year, thanks to the outstanding snowmakers in the region (and some help from Mother Nature), that snow is going to be of the manmade variety.

I have the feeling that some of the old folks arriving at the resorts, (another way of describing parents), will be thinking (hopefully to themselves that it is fake or artificial snow) but we know differently, don’t we? For the young folks getting out of their vehicles and seeing white stuff for the first time, they don’t care or even realize that it was produced by hardworking snowmakers.

As I have mentioned in previous columns, even though the holiday season produced 18-hour workdays, there was nothing better than seeing the looks on the faces of young people seeing snow for the very first time up close and personal.

They would run out of their cars and SUVs and just start to play on what was under their feet, no matter what the depth, it was snow, and it was time to have some fun.

The majority of these young people were from parts further south, from states like Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, etc. Of course, they have seen snow on the tv or their phones, but to be able to feel, taste and touch was a whole new experience. Something they will remember the rest of their lives. They will start stories in the future by saying, “You remember when we went to Snowshoe or Appalachian or Massanutten and everything was covered with snow?” Memories that will last forever.

The holiday season at a southeast ski resort is the most critical time of the four-month ski season. Things are just flat busy from now through the first week of the new year. For most of the resorts in the region, it can mean up to 35% to 40% of the season’s anticipated budget.

Sit back and think about that for a second and understand what making snow every second when possible has meant to the resorts. Yeah, I remember holidays when the slopes were bare, but thankfully that doesn’t happen on a regular basis.

This season, you may have read that some resorts have suspended on-slope operations leading up to the holiday period to save the snow. Please understand, those type of decisions don’t come about lightly, but are the right thing to do to save the snow and the experience for the holiday crowd that are now at the resorts.

It’s called people placement, meaning the more terrain available means that folks will be able to spread out a lot better on the slopes. That’s why up until now, you saw pictures of snow whales on the slopes as the resorts were preparing to open for the season. The best way to lose snow during these mild periods is to move the product. The more you put air between the manmade flakes, the quicker it’s going back to the snowmaking pond.

The good news is that due to the efforts of the snowmakers there is still adequate slope coverage and the temperatures in the forecast are going to allow the snowguns to commence operations again.

That brings me to the next point, all the resorts are going to do their best to make snow during the day on unopen terrain, but I am sure there are going to be some cases where everyone will be skiing and snowboarding through some snow guns. All I can say is be ready for that situation. Make sure your goggles are packed for the trip.

Also, if you have slope side accommodations, you may hear the sound of snowguns during the night. May I suggest you let your mind wander and think that what you are actually hearing is the sound of waves hit the shore during your trip to the beach during the summer. What you need to realize that when you wake up in the morning, not only will there be more snow on the slopes you played on the day before but there may actually be some additional terrain to play on that day.

The holiday season is a special time at every resort and every employee is doing their best to make your stay a special one. Please remember, while you may be off on Christmas day and enjoying your family and friends at the resort, the employees are away from their family making sure your stay is enjoyable. My point is you may have to give them a break or two before criticizing for the littlest thing. Step back and take a breath and go back to having some fun.

What this all means is it’s a time of the year to be thankful we can do for the most part what we want to do if we have the means. The means this year is to be thankful we are with family and friends and the snowmakers throughout the southeast did their magic and there is snow to play on again this holiday season.

Merry Christmas everyone!

That’s it for this week, thanks for joining me for my weekly thought process. Just remember whether it be cold or whether it be warm, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather will be. I still believe this season is going to be a lot of fun but challenging and we wouldn’t have any other way, would we?

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