It’s Getting Colder, and Colder, and Colder…

First Trax

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Editor’s Note: I have trying to post this column all morning but this was one of those days that my real job has kept me hopping. I had a lot of data put together about temps and who was and wasn’t making snow; and who was and wasn’t receiving snowfall. Now, here it is after 1pm and all of that data is irrelevant.

It’s cold, the snowguns are blasting everywhere AND it’s snowing in numerous locations around the region. We’ll update you with more information as things warrant…and until later…here’s today’s industry insight.

A Battle of Perspectives –

Yesterday I was reviewing emails from some of our Trip Reporters as well as visiting the messageboard. Some people were writing about how they enjoyed their trip on Sunday with crowds and while reporting the assorted bare spots, still wrote things like, “Other than the bare spots conditions were ‘awesome’.”

Others responded with comments like, “What the heck do you MEAN, the conditions were awesome?!? Awesome for what, maybe Alabama? These conditions stink!”

Let’s be real. The conditions are NOT awesome. They are not even good. They are good “CONSIDERING” the weather that we’ve seen lately. However, for a normal January 15-16th, these conditions are NOT awesome. As one reader wrote, “It’s January 14th and The Cupp Run isn’t open and it hasn’t been yet this season!” Another wrote, “Tom Terrific, WhoopdeDoo, White Lightning, Robbins Run, Appal Core…NONE of these have been open this season as yet! Conditions are NOT awesome.”

We’re VERY pro the ski resorts of our region. Without them, we’d have to consider something other than day or weekend trips. It’s kind of hard to hop in your car and drive from Orlando to Killington for a DAY trip…or even for a three day weekend. However pro-tourism we are…you have to call a spade a spade. It isn’t pretty out there at the ski resorts of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic. However, it isn’t pretty further north either. For that matter we’ve received numerous emails (with photos) showing that it isn’t pretty in much of Europe either.

HOWEVER THAT IS ABOUT TO CHANGE! Cold weather is blasting the area all of this week and it WILL look like a normal January in JUST a few days.

Expect resorts to race to get 100% open.

How Fast Can They Can to 100%???

That is the question of the day on Monday. We received exactly 317 emails that asked, in one way or another, “We have a trip planned for mm/dd/yy (insert your dates) and wanted to get your opinion as to whether XYZ Resort (insert your favorite resort) will have all of the slopes open.”

The best way to answer that is to say that honestly NOT ALL SKI RESORTS ARE CREATED EQUAL. Some can simply crank out more snow than others because they have more and better technology than others. Others can really crank it out, but have to work around the availability of water supply. Still others have all they need of both, but have to deal with managers or owners that simply are not as aggressive as season pass holders would hope them to be. Some resorts have peak power considerations, and others are forced to be more frugal because they simply can’t afford to make snow unless it’s guaranteed to be around for awhile. (Finance IS a part of the business!)

That IS the reality. Having said that, ALL of the resorts will unquestionably be cranking out snow all week to make their product the best that’s it’s been all season to date. Lindsay Kutsko, Snowshoe Mountain’s Communication Coordinator, gave us some indication of just HOW MUCH snow they can put down in a short amount of time when she wrote us this weekend. She said, “At full capacity, Snowshoe Mountain can cover an area equal to five football fields with 1 foot of snow every hour, which means if the temperatures cooperate and the weather permits, we’ll have all 57 trails open in no time.”

Now THAT is a LOT of snow in a short amount of time!

Wisp Resort in Maryland has what has to be the most high-tech snowmaking system in the region so it’s safe to say that they can blast that much out. Wintergreen Resort in Virginia has an amazing system there and ALL of the resorts of the Southeast used the off-season to invest in more snowmaking capacity. Ski Beech added more pipe and guns to The Oz Run, hoping to open it earlier than ever before. Of course, Mother Nature has had something to say about that. Sugar Mountain and Cataloochee have a nice system and aggressive management that has shown a proclivity to make a lot of snow in a short amount of time.

We’re hoping to see ALL OF THE GUNS AT ALL OF THE RESORTS blasting the trails at your favorite resort beginning today and lasting all week. Look for trail count numbers to go up in a big way.

Don’t Count Out Old Man Winter to Produce Sufficient Natural Snow –

We’ve been monitoring (and archiving) the weather for the last 12 seasons. We have data from the last several years and we’ve seen numerous scenarios when things started fast, went dead and then the skies burst forth with snow in February and March such that people almost forgot about the late start.

Lindsay Kutsko wrote, “During the 1998-1999 season, Snowshoe saw a mere 22” in November and December and ended the season with 153” of total snowfall. Again in the 2001-2002 season, there were only 21” recorded by Jan. 1 and a total of 109” by the end of the season. As of January 13, 2007, Snowshoe has recorded 19” of natural snowfall, which as history shows, is likely to pick up in the months ahead.”

You guys keep “thinking snow” and it will come! Hey, maybe it’s time to bring back Snowbird’s motto of “Think Snow and It Will Come!” We’ve prayed; we’ve re-erected the snow girl in my yard and maybe with a little PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) good things WILL happen!

More Traffic Notes

We received a couple of emails about our “Virtual Ski Visit” story (see the archives if you missed it) the other day. A couple of people related some regional websites statistics that always, exclusively relate HITS or PAGEVIEWS. One guy wrote, “I liked your story today and it was an eye-opener. I’ve always heard people claiming hits or pageview numbers and never gave it a thought. As I understand it websites like your site use Java to refresh the page content so that we can see the newest images. Gosh if you guys wanted to fake people out by claiming page views I’d bet they’d be astronomical! Want to share?” – Martin Ellerbe of Washington, D.C.

Martin, you’re either a fast learner or a “plant” trying to catch me in a lie! Okay, you’re from Washington, so lets see if I can answer this is my best “politician mode”.

To my esteemed and respected (and distinguished) visitor from the great District of Columbia – I have long witnessed the tireless contributions that you have made to our great country and honor you with my reply, such that it is. To answer your question, my good man, I’d have to discern what the true definition of “IS” is. What IS a hit?

JUST KIDDING!!! Martin, your question was pretty good. does get bombed with traffic, but the Java doesn’t refresh the page itself; it actually only refreshes the image block. Hence that would not get registered as a page view. During last Tuesday’s snow day, that one website experienced more than 56,000 unique sessions (visitors), 1.1 MILLION Page Views and more than 18 MILLION hits – ALL in ONE DAY. Ignore the “hit” tallies as they are misleading and useless. Thanks for your question and I hope this answers the others who emailed.

Physical Ski Visits This MLK Weekend Down???

The numbers are not “in” just yet, but it’s safe to say that overall attendance for the MLK weekend was down compared to normal years. It rained in some locations, and the threat of rain kept attendance down across the board. We’ll get some numbers later in the week, but it’s safe to say that there was about 20-30% less than normal out and about.

We toured the webcams all day on Monday and we can tell you that there were some rather EMPTY slopes on Monday – and pretty much all day! At 9:30am we viewed Beech, Sugar, Appalachian, Cataloochee and Hawksnest and there were VERY few people on the hill. Looks throughout the day were much the same and as of 2pm we’re watching TWO people on the main hill at App and maybe EIGHT people in line; maybe 20 people dodging the bare spots on Beech; 30 on Cataloochee’s base area; a handful at Wolf Ridge; and maybe 40-50 at Sugar Mountain. We saw nobody on any of the Wisp cameras, and only saw two people on Timberline’s camera.

Lindsay Kutsko at Snowshoe shared, “We have seen (rain) this Martin Luther King Weekend, but we’re going strong with at least 80% of our rooms full and guests are enjoying the opportunity to be out on the slopes, even when it’s wet. With cold temperatures in the days ahead, the snowmakers will work to rebuild where we’ve lost snow and continue working towards opening more terrain, including the Western Territory, as weather permits.”

The GREAT news is that it looks like FINALLY “weather will permit!” I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I think that we’ve seen the last of the thin coverage and bare spots for the rest of the season. Let’s see!

Email your comments and photos to [email protected]
Until Next Time…


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