It is a Mild Pre-season Day in the Mountains! So we’re just running off at the mouth here today!

First Trax

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We’re kind of just rambling today. We’re still kind of in preseason mode around here so like the radio or television announcer who’s being told by their producer to s-t-r-e-t-c-h the monologue, etc – we’re in "filler mode" today. The weather’s on the mild side and only Sugar is operating today so we’ll try to answer some of your questions today and perhaps ramble a bit. I’ll try not to bore you guys!

Ted Ramsdell of Greensboro asked, "At the end of every season you guys hint that you’ll be doing a wrap up to the season and tell us how things went as far as how successful the season was, etc. How come we never seem to see that?"

Actually Ted we always DO a wrap up, however if you’re looking for NUMBERS, that just won’t happen. We address that in our rambling below so read on.

Laurel L. of Hampton, Georgia wrote, "I noticed that Sugar and Cataloochee are always able to make snow and open before any other ski slope. Why is that? Do they have more snow there or what?

No Laurel, they don’t get more snow at Cat or Sugar and the temperatures at Cataloochee and Sugar are pretty much the same as you’ll find at all of the higher elevations of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic. The answer to your question is more of a mindset than anything else. Of course there are fiscal considerations as well. I can’t really speak for any resorts except to express what I’ve witnessed in the many years that I covered the area. While one or a couple ski areas are more prone to simply get open as soon as possible, most seem content to simply get open by the time it means the most to them financially. I was speaking with Orville English over at Wolf Ridge on Monday and when I asked him about making snow anytime soon and opening, he shared, "Naw Mike, as long as we can get open before Christmas that’s what’s important to us." Any days prior to the important Holiday ski period is simply gravy to most ski areas. It’s good for most ski areas to open just after Thanksgiving to provide them the ability to get all of their staff and departments working smoothly prior to the heavy push over the Holidays and beyond.

WEATHER COMMENTS… (Yes, we got a lot of questions about the milder than desired weather ahead…)

The forecast for the next several days only includes a couple of borderline nighttime temps for each of the next few nights to make snow. Lows tonight through Friday night are all forecasted to drop to around 31° to 32° so it will be a close call for Sugar and Cat to continue to make snow. Saturday through Monday are showing highs in the mid 50s and lows in the upper 30s.

This morning’s temps are reflecting those pesky inversions with the coldest temps in the valleys and the ridgetops are showing 41° at Beech, 38° atop Sugar’s summit. Appalachian Ski Mountain is displaying 47° at 8am. It’s 48° at Wolf.

The cold air is trapped further north as we’re seeing an incredible 26.8° at Wisp this morning, 34° at Canaan Valley, and 37° at Snowshoe Mountain. Ober Gatlinburg is reporting 35° and Wintergreen Resort in Virginia is showing a 40° reading. As you can see, temps are all over the place.

Two of our weather peeps sent us the ten day forecasts for Snowshoe and Canaan Valley (which are typically a notch colder than the rest of the ski areas in the Southeast and Mid Atlantic) and like I just mentioned above, we only see a couple of borderline overnight temps that MIGHT allow for snowmaking ops all the way through Thursday, November 18th. It’s also going to remain rather on the dry side with showers in the forecast for this weekend (Sunday) and then perhaps Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.

SPEAKING OF WATER…or lack of it…

Before I elaborate let me tell you that ALL ski area owners, managers and team members of "glass half full" kind of people. If you’re going to be in the ski industry you HAVE to be. For example, it NEVER rains at ski areas. They received "under developed snow". My buddy Joe Stevens perfected that phrasology years ago. Prior to that it was "liquid sunshine", etc, etc.

Machine made snow became "manmade powder" somewhere along the way. We never talk about "bare spots" or "thin coverage" – we talk about skiable terrain – because after all you don’t ski where there isn’t snow, right?

There are numerous other examples, but you get the picture. The point is that nobody within the industry wants or is ever willing to talk about ANYTHING that has a negative connotation. That’s a given and prefectly understandable.

So when I’m talking with a resort operator about "numbers being down" two years ago, etc – it isn’t really that numbers were "DOWN" it is more that they were not as GREAT as the previous year, etc.

Now that I’ve elaborated probably more than was needed about the mentality of the ski area staffer you should know that since it takes water to make snow, we never really want to discuss the fact that its been kind of dry around here and the water levels of area lakes and ponds are down. However they ARE down a bit and while it isn’t a great cause for alarm (there WILL BE SNOW TO RIDE ON) I thought I’d ask a few peeps about it.

Resorts need water to make snow and some areas of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic could use a little rain to feed those holding ponds. Sugar made a lot of snow from Thursday afternoon through Sunday and according to two sources the ponds had dropped considerably as a result of all of that snowmaking. We’ll try to speak with Gunther or Kim, but some are thinking that they’ll have to tap into their wells for water if things don’t get a bit wetter. Sugar and several of  the ski areas actually feed the water that drains back off of the ski hill into their water supply so there’s not a LOT of concern being shared (or admitted to) but things are pretty dry around here.

I asked Orville English of Wolf Ridge about it and he said that they had plenty of water as it was a pretty rainy summer over there. He related that one of the last heavy rains they’d received dropped a flood-creating 5-7" of rain not too long back.

I asked a couple of others and they related that their supply was in good shape – but then they shared that they’d heard that "xyz resort" had told them that they were concerned.

That’s the way it is within the ski industry. They’re ALL brothers and sisters, but like a lot of brothers and sisters they’re also competitive. I was speaking with a close friend who works for one ski area the other day and he is notorious for displaying that kind of competitive "brother-speak". In one moment he’s proclaiming how great it is for all of the ski areas when one opens early…and then he’ll quickly follow with, "…but as you know we are only concerned about providing what we think is a fair product to offer our guests from the first day we open. We think our guests want more than 400 yards of terrain to ski on once we open."

Another very good friend is even worse when it comes to talking about the ski industry around here. Not ONE other resort has water, good groomers, snowmakers, ski school, skier visits or anything else than the one he works for. I had to chuckle when over dinner towards the end of last season I was discussing some of the great numbers that several of the ski areas were experiencing for the 2009-2010 ski season and he responded with something like, "Oh noooo Mike, I was talking with my buddy who lives with the girlfriend of one of the people who’s brother works in the ski school at XYZ Resort and he said that his manager told him that they were way off this year." Of course he added how great things were at HIS home resort this past season.

So as far as I could discern water isn’t a concern right now. End of subject.


I was getting ready for a sales meeting this morning and a call came in from a newspaper and the reporter asked me specifically about how many skier visits did "XYZ Resort" receive. This was AFTER I’d already written all of the content above. So let me tell you what I told him and perhaps this will better address the question posted earlier.

I’ve covered the ski industry around here for 14 previous seasons and as much as we’d like to present skier visits and success numbers for you guys at the end of every season – GETTING that information is like trying to get the secret formula for Kentucky Fried Chicken. Each year I broach that subject and about all you’re going to get is a guarded response designed to relay that things were great.

Truthfully though if my clients were to ask me how our web design business is going I don’t share numbers with them. I’m not sure why we should anything different from the ski resorts. They certainly have to answer to their stock holders or investors/banks – but as for the rest of us – not so much.

I think that most of us just want to know that our favorite resort is doing well and that they’re getting enough skier visits to pay the bills and reinvest in their product such that OUR on-snow and resort visitor experience is a delightful one – right? Nothing else really matters does it?


WOW! That’s about all I can say. What a day I had on Monday. I’ve been doing this little network of ski, weather and webcam websites for 14 previous season (our 15th anniversary was September 8th) and I think on Monday I heard from nearly every ski resort in the region in one form or another!

A little snow and some amazing traffic goes a long way around these parts. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen so much preseason interest. If we get a little support in the form of some good-to-great weather I think this has all the makings of an incredible, record-breaking season.

Our effort to deliver realtime weather data from the ski resorts of the region is taking hold. We picked up two more ski areas today that will be making this happen. Getting realtime and accurate weather at ONE location is crucial with so many weather sources pulling temps from off the mountain. It is exciting to see the response we’ve had. Unfortunately we’re thinking that not every ski area will "get it" but we’re excited that so many already are.

We’re also excited to see a GREAT new website online for Canaan Valley in West Virginia. Lenora and crew did a marvelous job with that. I also like App’s new website. Very cool to see the marketing departments devoting more resources to better deliver their product to the tens of thousands of visitors searching for that kind of information via Google.

We spoke with Rick Bussey and Orville English of Wolf Ridge today and THEY TOO are going to deliver a brand new website that will go LIVE prior to the start of their season. Charles Stancil has done a great job with the new web cams over there and we’ll be able to show you guys more of what should make for some great views of Wolf this season.

That’s enough "filler" for today. We’ll see you guys tomorrow.

Be sure to check back often for more photos being posted as well as our video blog. If you have not yet visited our Ski Messageboard Forum you should do so.

We’ll be sharing TONS more input about our plans for this season, but for a little sneak peek visit:  

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