First Trax

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The first thing that I’m faced with every morning as I climb of bed is the view from the French doors off the back of my home that face the converging ridges of Grandfather Mountain and Seven Devils. Depending on the time of year, the sun seems to rise from behind Grandfather and cast a glow of yellow/orange on Hawksbill and Seven Devils that reminds me why we moved here twenty years ago…and why, Lord willing, they’ll plant me here as well.

It’s simply beautiful. I’m always immediately inspired to write my daily blog. Of course I didn’t know I was blogging for the first fourteen years that I’ve done this shindig. I thought I was just talking with you guys – which is kind of how I’ve approached it. I figured if I just shared what was happening around the region (as it applied to skiing and snowboarding) then you’d be happy and tell others to join in on the conversation.

Of course these days I’m only getting to "talk with you guys" on weekends since Kenny, theKENDOG, Griffin has taken over the weekday conversations. I think Kenny did a great job on his first post this past Friday. I don’t if you guys could tell but he was trying very hard not to smile from ear to ear as he was clicking away at his keyboard. It’s cool to see that kind of excitement in sharing the industry news of the region. By the way, Sarah Davis did a nice job for us prior to Kenny’s "takeover". We just needed her elsewhere in our office and Kenny came along at a great time.


This morning, what is happening is something I haven’t heard since last pre-Spring. It’s quiet…and birds are chirping like crazy. In another few weeks when Spring really gets here this place cranks up the animal effects to a degree that sometimes sounds like a rain forest…which I’m told it is of sorts. The Cherokee Forest – not too far from here – and the Pisgah Forest which technically begins a couple of miles away from here is a land of mile high peaks, cascading waterfalls and a gazillion different species of plants, birds and animals that all start to "wake up" around this time of year. Even though the temperatures so far are have not risen to Spring-like temps just yet – it is as if nature knows that we’ll see some mid-50-degree temps today and milder still over the next few days.

The forecast here in the mountains of North Carolina is for sunny skies and highs near 50° at Banner Elk and warmer still around some of the ski communities such as over at Wolf Ridge and perhaps Cataloochee. The high yesterday stuck around the mid 30s and from what I could see traffic at the resorts was "way up there". The roads were crowded with near bumper-to-bumper traffic approaching the ski areas and Sugar’s parking lot was near to overflow capacity. That’s a quick glance indicator to me that skier visits were bringing smiles to the face of Gunther Jochl, President of Sugar Mountain Ski Resort. I’m sure you could "ditto that" for most, if not all of the ski area management peeps Saturday.

It is nearly always busy on the weekends around this time of year, but it "felt" a little busier than a normal February 12th yesterday. I don’t know if it is because a lot of people have heard that it’s milding up over the next couple of weeks and felt they’d better get up and enjoy one of the last great weekends of conditions; or that they new that President’s Day Weekend (next weekend) was going to be a madhouse because IT might be the last deep base snow weekend.

Regardless it was busy on Saturday and I suspect it will be today as well. It will be beautiful no doubt. With temps creeping first into the 40s and then 50s expect the snow to become nice and soft which should make for a great day to play in the snow no matter where you want to head to today.

The forecast for the week ahead is for Sunny Skies and temps rising to highs in the upper 40s Monday, fifties Tuesday, mid fifties Wednesday, low sixties on Thursday and mid sixties on Friday. There’s some talk of showers developing next Saturday so maybe THAT’S why it is so crowded this weekend. I don’t know these things, I’m just talking to you guys.

What do you think?

Before I get some moaning and groaning from those of you who may have waited the entire season to plan a trip for next weekend only to hear that it MIGHT rain…know this. First, we need some rain. It’s hard for me to understand that since we’ve seen so much snow and snow is melting and leaving things WET. However the National Weather Service has released a warning that there is an increased FIRE DANGER through this afternoon across Western North Carolina. The combination of upper 50s and dry air will allow relative humidity to fall 20-25% – creating conditions that promote greater fire danger.

One more thing…just because we’re in for the first real stretch of THAW weather over the next week or so…KNOW that there’s plenty of good snow on the slopes and there WILL BE plenty to ride on over the closing weeks of the season. So IF you can’t make it this week or next, don’t fret – there’s still PLENTY to go around and conditions will remain darn nice for some time yet.


Check the Snow Reports for the details today and remember that some of the ski areas operate for DAY SESSIONS ONLY on Sundays so check that before heading out for some night skiing or snowboarding.

Cataloochee Ski Area wants us to remind Cat Fans that the BIGBIGBIG One Day Season Pass Sale Day is on Sunday, March 6 from 8:30am – 4:30pm. Pass prices on this day will be the lowest of this year and next and if you are a new pass holder, you can ski for the rest of this year and next on this pass! If you’re thinking about a season pass to Cataloochee THAT DAY should be marked on your calendar.

Cataloochee Ski Area was reportedly the only ski area to have made snow last night which is kind of telling. There’s a lot of snow on the slopes and resorts didn’t feel they needed more base right now to whether the mild stretch. Appalachian Ski Mountain posted, "Snowmaking is likely done until colder temps return." Bear in mind that Appalachian will make snow right up til the day or so before the season ends just to tune on base for their guests. The fact that they didn’t make snow last night should tell you guys just how much snow is on those slopes!

Sugar Mountain is not reporting that they made snow but we’re thinking the did because their base depth reported minimum WENT UP BY THREE INCHES since Saturday morning. EVEN WITH snowmaking that’s a big jump in 24 hours. We’ll leave that one to you guys…but just FYI they’re reporting more snow this morning since Saturday morning and it didn’t snow. The only way I know that can happen is with snowmaking. We’ll leave it there…

(By the way Cat did report snowmaking overnight and an added one-inch of base.)

Wintergreen Resort is hosting a 2ND FREESTYLE DOUBLECROSS TODAY!

Today is a rare day this season wherein we saw natural snow numbers leave the 72 hour snow report for ski areas in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Most all this season we’ve seen measureable snow somewhere in the 24-72 hour window. There are zeros across all the NC, TN and VA ski areas in the last 72 hours for perhaps only the second time this winter.

Not so for the West Virginia and Maryland ski resorts. Canaan Valley saw another 1.6" of snow on Saturday through this morning according to David Lesher’s official Davis, West Virginia weather center. That is 2" in the last 48 hours and 17" in February alone. There’s been 166.8" of snow up there this winter. So there’s still some packed powder conditions at Canaan, Timberline, snowshoe and Wisp.

Snowshoe Mountain has a ways to go to get to their average of 180" per season, but it’s been a consistently snowy 130" of snow thus far…as another 1" of snow fell there on Saturday.

I think that’ll do it for today. We’re giving away a bunch of lift passes this next week. Look for Kenny to hook you guy up. The ONLY thing that beats skiing and snowboarding is FREE SKIING AND SNOWBOARDING and we’ll be doing some of that this week.

Til then…plaster on the sunscreen and head to the mountains.

Enjoy your Sunday! Email me your thoughts, questions, comments, gripes, photos, videos, etc. Just email me at [email protected]

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Great shot overlooking Wintergreen Resort from Friday! Great conditions abound across the region for skiers and snowboarders!
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