Making the hard recommendations…You’ll want to read this entire article

First Trax

Some of you guys may find today’s article a bit boring or over the top in its methodic content. However, just know that we have had a record number of people asking the questions that prompted today’s storyline.

Today’s subject is "change". Today’s changes come in many forms. First we’ll cover the changes that most people want to know about. The weather. We have a new weatherman who will be taking on the chores of handling content and reporting the forecast for our ski areas. Austin Beegly is joining our staff and he will be both taking over our website as well as focusing on ski resort forecasts. We’ll talk more about Austin as we move into the coming week. Suffice to say that Austin is a snow lover, ski enthusiast and a wiz at this meteorological "stuff".

Austin called me last night around 9pm from Cataloochee, where he was reporting on-location that Cataloochee’s snowmaking crew was ready to fire up the snowguns as the temperatures over there had dropped to 32°. He showed a ton of enthusiasm as he began reciting temperature forecasts for Sunday night that might get the North Carolina resorts firing up the snowguns.

However, our normal reporting sources are not reflecting that so we’re going to have to work on tempering Austin’s enthusiasm with a bit more data 🙂

It was interesting though to hear him relate the fact that Cataloochee was sitting on ready to fire up the snowguns last night. Interesting because temperatures were not expected to dip quite that low and even more interesting when he spoke with reps at Appalachian and found that they had no plans to make snow last night whatsoever. Sugar Mountain had posted a notice on their website that said that they would be making snow as soon as temps allowed. They did just that the other night for a few hours to no real advantage as temps were very borderline. Like many of you that emailed me last night, Austin sounded astonished when I told him that most resorts in North Carolina would probably NOT make snow last night even IF the temperatures allowed.

The Reason? – The forecast for the week ahead is for MORE of the same mild temps all the way through Thursday so what little snow they could make tonight would not present any real value towards making conditions better for more than one day since temperatures won’t be getting colder for a few more days yet.

…and here is where Mother Nature becomes just down right MEAN! Martin Luther King weekend is coming up Friday through Monday of next week/weekend. Many of those visitors have had reservations for months and are anxiously viewing every weather source known to mankind to see IF ANY resorts in North Carolina will have SNOW…and we’re not talking about SNOW from the SKY…we’re talking about ANY SNOW on the slopes. We’re getting flooded with emails asking that question and many related to it. The heaviest burden on us comes in the form of those of you who are asking if WE would recommend keeping your reservations and whether or not they will get any skiing in. Over the last few days we have unquestionably received MORE emails from concerned visitors than possibly EVER before. We have had conditions like these in the past, but maybe not quite this bad on such an important/busy holiday weekend.

Here’s where things get tricky… – Yes…we feel for all of the accommodations people in the region…but we also feel for those of you who are wanting your hard earned dollars to be spent wisely…where you’ll have the most fun. Here is our call as we see it right now.

First, here’s a quick-glance status of each North Carolina resort and our best estimate of conditions through the week and into MLK Weekend:

Note: These are NOT official reports from the resorts and we will certainly update you with ACTUAL data as it happens.

Appalachian Ski Mountain – Has decent snow coverage and WILL make it through the week staying open…and WILL be skiing next Friday.

Cataloochee – Has decent snow though not quite to the level that Appalachian is showing right now. It is questionable as to whether or not Cataloochee will stay open through the week.

Hawksnest is already closed.
Sapphire Valley is already closed.

Ski Beech – We see no way that Ski Beech will make it. They only have Freestyle, Play Yard and College Park (a lower greens) open for Sunday and they MAY close after today’s day session and look towards next weekend.

Sugar Mountain – These guys will do everything possible to scrape a layer of snow 2" deep across a trail to remain open, but we don’t think they will be able to QUITE make it through the week. This one’s a crap shoot, (not the slopes…the guess), but we’re thinking they’ll come up a little short and have to close sometime during the week.

Wolf Laurel – They have decent snow right now and this one is another close call, but I think they will be ABLE to stay open.

They might CHOOSE not to open at some point in the coming week and aim towards the weekend.

– Just not quite yet. Next comes the forecast for the week ahead.

Sunday – Mixed Sun and Clouds – Hi 54° Lo 34° (Oh so close to snowmaking temps.)
Monday – Sunny – Hi 61° Lo 41°
Tuesday – Sunny – Hi 59° Lo 42°
Wednesday – Sunny – Hi 60° Lo 45°
Thursday – Cloudy…maybe some light rain – Hi 55° Lo 40°

So as you can see, there will be NO snowmaking to allow the resorts that are closed to begin skiing on Friday. HOWEVER, if you are coming to the mountains to see snow…you MAY be in luck as we have a chance of some light rain early on Friday morning and as temps DIVE DOWN due to an arctic blast. That light rain just might end up being SNOW at some point during the day. Friday’s high is forecasted to be around 40° (33 or so at the highest elevations) and the low should be in the 20° range.

SNOW IS IN THE FORECAST FOR SATURDAY If you guys were looking for THE REASON to keep your plans to come to the mountains this is it. There IS NATURAL SNOW in the forecast for Saturday! Yes! It will also be COLD with highs in the 20s.

That will DEFINATELY set the stage for MASSIVE snowmaking. The call here is that Appalachian, Cataloochee, and Wolf Laurel will be simply making their conditions better. Since Sugar may make it…they could fall into that same category of simply getting conditions BETTER for the Holiday crowd to ski on for Saturday. With the possibility that they will make snow ALL day Friday and Friday night…things should look pretty good on the terrain that is open.

Of the resorts that were closed Hawksnest might be able to make enough snow to open on Saturday without too much trouble.

Sapphire is a little southerly and it might be iffy. Ski Beech has a snowmaking slope sequence that they use with the focus being on the powder bowl, and upper and lower shawneehaw. While it IS a possibility that they could get enough snow made to open…NORMALLY they might would push it back another day, allowing them to make more snow before opening. With this being MLK weekend…they will probably open with whatever the have on Saturday.

So there you have it. WE THINK that all ski areas will be able to operate on Saturday, January 15th…and with COLD in the forecast for the following few days…conditions will get better and more terrain may open. So, pack your goggles, and layer your clothing because it will be COLD next weekend…and get your gear and your rears up here because there WILL be skiing.

It may not be pristine conditions everywhere with all of the slopes open that we normally have at this time of the year…but there will be skiing.

The best snow…the most terrain – Right NOW, if things hold like it appears they will…Appalachian Ski Mountain, Wolf Laurel and Cataloochee will have the best snow for next Friday. Give the pros at Sugar a full day of snowmaking and you can throw Sugar Mountain into the mix for Saturday skiing. By Sunday…they should ALL be looking pretty nice…and it will only get better with each passing day from there on.

I DO hope this helps to quell the anxieties for a lot of you. It will be cold, it IS the mountains and if we’re lucky, we might even see a little natural snow.

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