Most of you who are reading this have probably seen the movie "Independence Day" that was released in 1996 and plays seemingly every other night somewhere on cable and DirecTV. There’s a character in that movie played by actor, Harvey Fierstein who has one of the best lines in the movie. When faced with an impending, major, post-explosion, firestorm that is about to incinerate him – he looks wide-eyed at the camera and says "Oh Crap" in his famous low-octave, raspy voice.
Those two words were all that was needed to say.
Those same words are what came to mind when two things happened on Sunday. One was the news and subsequent emails that I received alluding to Wolf Ridge Resort closing after day sessions on Sunday. Most of those who emailed me seem to believe that even some of Wolf’s insiders think that yesterday was their last day of winter skiing and snowboarding for the season. They’ve left the door open saying that they will re-open Saturday "weather permitting" but that takes me to the SECOND thing that had me saying "Oh Crap!"
We’re now two weeks deep into a prolonged stretch of amazingly mild temperatures for this time of year. Additionally we’ve also seen 1-3" of RAIN in that same time span at many locations across our region. Although areas like Canaan Valley have seen 5-6" of snow in the last couple of weeks, they’ve also seen nearly 2" of rain in that same period.
Some people will tell you that a couple of our ski areas basically shut down a couple of weeks ago as they’ve simply not been maintaining their slopes very well. We’ve received a ton of emails over the last week from visitors complaining about how shoddy one particular ski area’s slopes were during this last week-plus. (No, not Wolf’s…)
Let me tell our readers that there IS still plenty of snow on the slopes. There are piles of snow big enough to keep them covered for a while to come. There ARE several ski areas that are doing a fine job of grooming and maintenance to keep the slopes looking darn nice, despite the weather of the last two weeks. Snowshoe Mountain, Massanutten, Wisp, Appalachian, Cataloochee and Sugar come to mind and I’m certain there are others.
However when people stop showing up to play on that snow – the resorts start migrating towards shut down mode. On a typical February 28th, we’d be looking at some sweet, near-mid-season conditions and plenty of traffic for a few weeks to come. However, with temperatures OFF the mountain rising to the mid 70s and with temps ON the mountain getting above 60° – it becomes anyone’s guess as to how the resorts will respond.
Several people emailed me this weekend with suspicions that this next weekend could be one or more of our region’s resorts last weekend of Winter Ops for the season. Let me be CLEAR in saying that we have NOT heard of any such plans, however some resorts have often closed with only a day’s notice so that wouldn’t be all that surprising to some of our readers.
MA NATURE MAY FORCE RESORT’S HANDS…
…and then there’s today’s weather forecast. After what has been a prolonged bout of mild temps and wetter-than-desired conditions we see today’s forecast:
Today: Showers and thunderstorms likely before 1pm, then showers and possibly a thunderstorm between 1pm and 4pm, then showers and thunderstorms after 4pm. High near 65. Breezy, with a southwest wind between 15 and 20 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New rainfall amounts between 1 and 2 inches possible.
Tonight: Showers and thunderstorms likely before midnight, then a slight chance of showers between midnight and 3am. Cloudy during the early evening, then gradual clearing, with a low around 31. West wind between 15 and 18 mph, with gusts as high as 32 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.
That’s the forecast for much of the region and it gets even worse for some of the ski areas further north into West Virginia with the addition of "damaging winds" in their forecast.
Tuesday through Friday looks pretty clear but there are NO snowmaking temps in the forecast for the North Carolina, Tennessee or Virginia ski areas. The West Virginia and Maryland ski areas SHOULD have three to four nights of snowmaking opportunities this week but then the forecast for this weekend looks wet from Friday night through Sunday.
Like I said, "Oh Crap!"
WILL WINTER RETURN IN TIME TO SAVE MARCH???
That was the most posed question of this past weekend. The answer. We’re looking at some colder air that could find its way to the mountains about a week from now. However most of the weather gurus are saying that we’ll probably see an outbreak or two of potential snow, but they are not seeing anything that hints of some consistent colder, snowmaking temps in the long range forecast.
All bets are off as to how the ski areas will respond to these kinds of weather players. During NORMAL seasons I’d bet my paycheck that Cataloochee, Snowshoe, Sugar and Wisp would be open until April 3rd this year with that date falling on a potential closing Sunday. Appalachian Ski Mountain had previously announced that they’d call it quits for the season on March 27th with their annual Meltdown Games.
However, THIS has NOT been a "NORMAL" season by any standard.
The message that I could share today is that there IS plenty of good base on the slopes and there are NO bare areas or thin coverage areas to speak of. When it isn’t raining, you’ll find great, carvable snow. So pay attention to the forecasts, and hit the mountains when you can.
Otherwise we could be seeing more, early closings.
SOME CLOSING GOOD NEWS!!!
Snowshoe Mountain is hosting us this weekend for the 4th Annual SkiSoutheast.com Summit Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The forecast is looking "iffy" right now but that could "turn on a dime". I’ve received two more confirmations adding to our guest list which should now be closing in on 140 +/- of our closest snow-loving friends. No matter the weather, we will be there skiing and riding every chance we get and we might just be hitting up Shavers and holding our own impromptu socials. Regardless…come join us for 25% OFF LODGING RATES, FREE SUNDAY LIFT PASSES and a Saturday Night Apres Ski Party.
For more information and to make plans and join us – click