It’s been a weird winter so far. We got off to one of the earliest starts ever with Cataloochee opening up on October 28th! Then we had a short, mild spell that had Cat and all of the other ski areas hold off until mid November to open. (Sugar Mountain opened November 17th). Then we saw three weeks of cold and snow that would rival any of the best winters on record. Sugar and Beech Mountain in North Carolina both saw 24" of snow by December 5th and resorts in West Virginia saw nearly 70" of snow and that got everyone excited about the prospects of one of the best natural snow winters. Skier interest was WAYYYY UP and that was evidenced by good early traffic on this website and at the resorts as well.
Cataloochee, with their great early conditions and 14" of snowfall experienced their best ever Can-U-Ski days. Ski Beech was off to its best start in years and rave reviews were the norm. Resorts in West Virginia and Maryland were opening new trails almost daily. Fast forward to today, January 4th and we can now report that the last four weeks have simply been a roller coaster with many periods of rain, and days worth of mild temps. Additionally, Ma Nature has simply been showing quite a bit more love to the northern tier of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic resorts than those in Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina. Typically if you’ll look at the temperature at Wisp Resort, you’ll see about the same as that at Ski Beech or Sugar Mountain. Not so this season. The cold fronts have been flowing such that the resorts in Maryland and West Virginia have been typically 8-10° colder than those in Virginia and North Carolina and that difference in temps have meant the difference in being able to make snow more consistently.
We reported on Saturday that Snowshoe Mountain had made snow for 132 straight hours! Resorts into Virginia and North Carolina had only been able to make snow sporadically for some 48 hours within that period and not straight through. While conditions across the entire Southeast and Mid Atlantic are not pristine, those resorts within Maryland and West Virginia simply have more and better snow conditions and more trails open. While resorts in North Carolina and Virginia have struggled over the last week to maintain the slopes that they have open, resorts in WV and MD have actually ADDED more open trails to their offerings.
Resorts across the entire region have provided some trails with thin coverage over the last two weeks, but today the thin coverage is reserved only for those resorts in Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee. There may be one or two trails in WV and Maryland with a bit of thin coverage but they are few and far between. While WV and MD resorts are opening more terrain and operating with better conditions, even so NONE of our region’s larger resorts have been 100% open to date this season. (Appalachian Ski Mountain did for about two weeks.) Ski Beech has had no more than five slopes open, Sugar has only been able to open as many as 12 trails thus far and Wintergreen thus far has only been able to have 9 of 26 trails open. It has been a struggle to say the least.
Even with the more consistent cold and deeper natural snows further north, even Wisp has only been able to open 27 of 35 trails. They’ve seen 49" of natural snow so far. Snowshoe Mountain has the most terrain open and they have received 99" of snow thus far (a figure to brag about) and they’ve been able to make more snow, but even they have only been able to see no more than 55 of 60 trails open thus far this winter.
It is a huge testament to the hard working crews at all of the resorts that they have been able to provide us with the terrain that we were able to ski and ride through the Christmas and New Year break.
Regardless of whatever spin some resorts may want to put on the last four weeks, this past month has still been disappointing to say the least. Don’t misconstrue the nature of this story – conditions are remarkable considering the weather and many resorts look VERY NICE today. However, skier interest across the region is about as variable and fickle as the conditions and number of slope openings at the various resorts north to south.
Over the years, we have noticed that your emails and messageboard posts tend to serve as a great barometer as to what’s happening out there in "SkiSoutheast land" and what we’ve noticed based on your emails of the last three weeks is that the number of slopes and trails that are open at any given resort dictates where and when you’re willing to ski and ride. Simply put, you are skiing where the most terrain is open.
I have mentioned (probably too often) numerous times in the past that your emails tend to drive what we write about and after receiving nearly 200 emails within the last two weeks that related to slope openings – it is clear that you guys are simply going where more slopes are open. I suppose that is as it should be, but I don’t remember having to respond to so many inquiries of that nature in our past twelve seasons.
Jamie E. of Aiken, South Carolina provides an example of the kind of questions that you guys have been asking of late. She wrote, "Hi. My husband and I are planning a trip up to N.C. and we’ve come to trust your website’s opinion and we wanted to know which resort will have the most open by Christmas." She adds, "We’ve always like xxxxx resort but we noticed that they only have 4 slopes open and we want more! Thanks for a great site and we hope to hear from you."
I replaced the name of the resort in her question with x’s.
We’ve never seen so many questions of that nature as we’ve received in the last two to three weeks. So we thought we’d wait until we got back from our Holiday ski getaway and see if there was anything to this. Granted this is very unscientific, but yesterday I dug into our stats package and looked at the pages that you guys were viewing AND there is no question that Snowshoe Mountain is getting the most page visits on SkiSoutheast.com. (They rank number one with the number of slopes open as well!)
Wisp Resort is second in pageviews and second in number of trails open (27 today). Timberline is 3rd in both pageviews and trails open! Is this an anomoly? We don’t think so. In fact, Sugar Mountain is perennially a top page visit, but they are down this list with other ski areas in the Southeast having more trail openings. In fact, for only the second time in the last six years, SkiSoutheast.com pages are being more viewed than those of our sister site SkiNC.com which has been around twice as long.
What is interesting though is that of the North Carolina ski areas, Sugar Mountain’s pages on SkiSoutheast.com are receiving far and away more traffic than any of the other resorts in the state. Sugar has the most open terrain in the state with 12 of 20 trails. Second is Appalachian and they have 8 of 10 trails open. Cataloochee is third and they have the 3rd most open terrain with 8 of 14 trails open. Those resorts with fewer trails open, are getting fewer visits.
Granted, skier visits have been pretty good across the board as all of our region’s resorts had a good Holiday crowd, despite the economy and somewhat reduced conditions. Sonny Gowen shared that Snowshoe Mountain was at 96% occupancy on most days of the Holidays and 100% booked for the pre New Year’s Day period.
Appalachian, Cataloochee, Ski Beech, Sugar Mountain and Wolf Ridge have all seen pretty good Holiday traffic. However there is no question that Appalachian and Sugar have seen far and away the most skier visits in the state of North Carolina which supports our unscientific theory that people are choosing to go where more trails are open…even per state.
WHILE IT HAS BEEN A WEIRD ONE THUS FAR…CONDITIONS ARE PRETTY NICE FOR TODAY! The resorts into WV and Maryland are still getting the bulk of the better conditions, but resorts across the entire region look pretty good for today.
Here’s the quick glance notes for today!
Appalachian – 47° – down 2" in base but they have 53-79" – 8 of 10 trails open and ice skating.
Cataloochee – 43° – They are day skiing only today with 8 of 14 trails open and tubing as well.
Ski Beech – 43° – Beech is looking slightly worn today and there are a few thin coverage areas here and there. They are skiing and riding on 5 of 15 trails.
Sugar Mountain – 43° – down 7" of base but they still have 21-48". They have 12 of 20 trails open with some thin coverage areas being reported. They have tubing and ice skating open as well. Their tubing hill looked pretty nice on Saturday.
Wolf Ridge Resort – They haven’t changed their base depth in two weeks, but we’ll give them the 20-40" base as they look plenty "snowy" via their live cam. We’ve cracked on Wolf a little this season for not updating their report on a daily basis and we can’t help but bring attention to the fact that they are now reporting conditions for the 5th of January – which isn’t until tomorrow (Monday). So they are now predicting to have 7 slopes open for Monday! They have 7 slopes open for today as well!
Wintergreen Resort – 37° and holding up pretty decent with 9 of 26 trails open and tubing as well. Like all of the Virginia resorts, they are looking forward to the return to some snowmaking temps forecasted to hit Monday night.
Massanutten Resort has 10 of 14 trails open with both terrain parks and 8 lanes of tubing open as well.
Bryce Resort – 7 of 8 trails open with tubing open as well.
The Homestead – They have not updated their report since January 2nd, but are showingt 2 of 7 trails open with tubing and ice skating available as well.
Canaan Valley – They are reporting a low of 31° and conditions are so good there that they have opened two more trails after some additional snowmaking on Saturday. They now offer 12 of 39 trails, ice skating and tubing.
Lisa Ratliff, Director of Sales, at Canaan Valley Resort & Conference Center sent this cool photo of a para glider over the resort on Saturday. It isn’t a GREAT photo but it does show some natural snow in the pic as well. Lisa also sent a couple of really nice images of their tubing hill and skiing on Saturday and those are on the Photo of the Day section and shows just how nice conditions are at the Tucker County ski area.
You can see more Photos of the Day at Canaan Valley by clicking here> Canaan Valley Ski Resort Photos
Snowshoe Mountain – They made snow early on Saturday and that allowed them to open another trail and they now offer 54 of 60 trails with Cupp Run and Fox Chase getting the nod as "Groomer’s Choices" for best trails today. Snow is in the forecast most all next week, so conditions will remain great.
Timberline Resort is open for DAY SKIING only today on 21 of 37 trails and they offer their Bear Claw Terrain park as well. Conditions are great at Timberline for today.
Winterplace Resort has another trail opening today and that gives them 20 of 28 trails open. They also have the terrain park and snow tubing park open.
Wisp Resort – 36° low and they have added three more open trails to their mix for Sunday DAY SKIING ONLY today and now have 27 of 35 trails available. They also offer one of their Terrain Parks open and Mountain Coastering and TEN lanes of snowtubing at the Bear Claw Snow Tubing Park!
Ober Gatlinburg is reporting 35° this morning and 5 of 8 trails open until 7pm and they are reporting some thin coverage on Mogul Ridge for today.
Ski Sapphire – NA – They have not updated their reports since the 29th of December, however we called and they said that they would make a decision as to whether or not they will be open today before 11am. So call ahead if you’re in that area and thinking of skiing or tubing at Sapphire Valley.
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