More Trails Open in West Virginia and Maryland – Further South Struggles a Bit!

First Trax

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Okay, Christmas office gatherings and Holiday goodbyes took place this morning so I am just getting to what’s happening around the region today. Basically in a word today it is – wet. Not real wet, but wet nonetheless. Light, bothersome drizzle has set in and many of the resorts are reporting some wintry mix as well.

Last night we posted a story about our "team meteorologists" and provided their weather updates for the days ahead and so far they nailed the first day of the forecast as they called for rain, mixed with snow and other wintry precip. As of this 8am this morning we’re seeing a rain / mix across much of the region with some light, wet snow being reported in Boone, Beech and Sugar Mountains. Temperatures are pretty much all in the 30° range and hence the wet conditions.

If your Holiday ski vacation begins today or this weekend, then don’t lose heart…it will start off wet and yucky…but things get better fast as colder temps and snow chances are still in the forecast. At LEAST the night time temperatures will allow for snowmaking, which will bring about what should be really nice Holiday skiing.

Conditions won’t be that nice for this weekend with wet conditions pretty much everywhere in the state. None of the resorts made snow last night but overall the SNOW conditions will be pretty good with a soft surface. If you’re thinking of skiing or riding this weekend, just be prepared and take along a shell or something to shield you from an occasional light drizzle which is in the forecast for most all weekend.

THANKFULLY for the resorts, the majority of the Holiday skiing crowd comes in the day after Christmas and stays through New Years. THAT crowd will be in for a good week of skiing and riding with temperatures in the 30s and 40s during the day and mid 20s (snowmaking temps) at night. That should make for more slope openings towards next weekend.


Our own "team meteorologists" somewhat disagree on how much snow may fall Christmas Day, and to defend them the systems that are headed this way have numerous different computer models in disagreement so everything is still up in the air…literally! The National Weather Service seems to trend towards a bit milder forecast for the week ahead, as does Matthew East and local, High Country weather dude, Ray Russell. Ray is saying that Christmas Day will be partly cloudy and we may see some evening drizzle Wednesday night and Thursday.

ALL agree that there is a trough of COLD air that will push down and create colder temps and good snowmaking ops so the Holiday Skiing crowd should be pretty well off. It would be nice if the cold air would kick in a bit quicker because we could do with some snowmaking and additional terrain/slope openings to better handle the large crowds that will no doubt be at every resort beginning Wednesday…and even more so as we go into the weekend of December 28th.

The good news is that conditions should be pretty good and improving as we go through the next week. Keep the fingers crossed and the prayers flowing and maybe, just maybe that European computer model will take shape and build us a snow storm.

Meteorologist Matthew East wrote us this morning that he’d try and get us another update later today or over the weekend as we get closer to what we HOPE is the big weather story around Christmas.



Sawmill, one of three new trails in the South Mountain area, is set to open today. Sawmill is the name of the slope and it is located skier’s right of the Widowmaker slope and Soaring Eagle Express lift, and the middle of the three new trails. It will open for the first time Friday, December 21. A 10am ceremony will include a ribbon cutting with Snowshoe Mountain President and COO Bill Rock, Sawmill Village Project Architect and Developer Tom Tretheway and Ed Galford, VP of Mountain Operations for Snowshoe Mountain, who served as the trails’ designer.

The trail is marked for expert skiers, and is a long, challenging run, similar to Widowmaker, a long-time favorite of Snowshoe regulars. Sawmill measures 2790’ and has a vertical drop of 630’. The trail will be serviced by the Soaring Eagle lift, a high-speed quad the mountain added last season.

“This is going to be a special day for Snowshoe and our guests,” said Bill Rock of the trail’s debut. “This is the most significant addition of expert terrain in at least five years at the resort, and it marks a clear improvement in the skiing experience at Snowshoe. A very special thanks goes out to our friends at Sawmill Village and Snowshoe’s Mountain Operations Crew, without whom this day wouldn’t be happening.”

Sawmill is one of three new trails that were added to the South Mountain area this summer. Sawmill Glades and Camp 99, the two additional trails, will open as weather and snowmaking permit. The trails were a cooperative venture with Snowshoe’s new Sawmill Village neighborhood. Sawmill Village’s developers invested nearly one million dollars for the construction of the three new trails, which will provide ski-in/ski-out access to the gated community.

"We feel that it is critical to provide our home owners an experience that warrants their desire to build custom home packages at the top of Snowshoe Mountain Resort," says Tom Tretheway. "By forming the partnership, we feel our development will continue to grow along side of Snowshoe and everyone will benefit in terms of increased resort infrastructure, such as trails, snowmaking, lifts and events."


Jessica Scowcroft up at Timberline wrote me this morning saying, "We have a trail from top to bottom! WHITE LIGHTENING IS NOW OPEN!!!!"

That is too cool. She said to keep the positive thoughts and prayers going because as she put it, "…it seems to be working…"


Of the Virginia resorts, Bryce is doing okay with 5 trails, followed by Massanutten and Wintergreen BOTH with just two trails open.

Wintergreen wrote, "MORE TERRAIN OPENING THIS AFTERNOON AND TOMORROW! Eagles Swoop and the Lower Crosstrail will open this afternoon for the night session. Potato Patch and the Discovery Ridge Learning Area will open Saturday morning. The Plunge and the Slide will open Saturday. Tubing tickets are on sale now over the web and in person. Don’t forget, Season Passes are good everyday through December 25th. If you like to ski and ride and want to save some dough, you should think seriously about purchasing one of these passes.

We will continue to make snow on the trails that we have open but plan to move some of our snowmaking capacity to the Highlands and the Terrain Park very soon. Weather permitting, we anticipate having these areas open before next weekend. The best way to stay informed about what is happening up here is on the web. Please check this report prior to your visit for the most up to date snow and slope information."


Hawksnest Ski Resort in North Carolina dropped a couple of trails from their open terrain. They have three slopes open today. However they are operating their tubing hill today as well.

Further south at Sapphire Valley things are not going at all! We spoke with Justin over at Sapphire earlier today, and then RJ who both told us that last night’s warm rain has made their tubing hill look pretty bad and although they were trying to groom it around a bit, they were doubtful about opening for tubing today as they had previously planned. Call ahead if you were thinking about heading that way.

RJ also told us that the planned opening for skiing and snowboarding WAS December 26th, but that was not seriously in jeapardy of not happening. RJ stated, "We have rain in the forecast for a few days ahead this next week and it’s not looking good right now."

Ski Beech was showing 30° this morning and some light snow. They have 4 trails operating and according to one of their ski patrol they have the machines sitting on ready to make snow and open more terrain just as fast as they can.

FYI, we have a new Beech weather station running a nice, new weather-magnet graphic that will provide you guys with the accurate temp up their. We are going to get that up to Ski Beech so they can replace the one that shows on their website because that temperature is actually coming from down the mountain.

You can see that new weather data at: Ski Beech Weather

We were asked more by more than 300 emails in the last two days "which of the NC resorts are in the best shape right now?"

That is hard to answer since none of the resorts are fully open and none are in pristine shape. Certainly those that have been open since the first of November would probably have the upper hand as they had a decent base started when they all fired up the guns again last weekend. Appalachian, Cataloochee and Sugar have the most snow and the most coverage. Sugar has the most terrain open with 8 trails so they’d probably get the nod.


Appalachian Ski Mountain wa at 32° with five trails open and SIX terrain park features spread around. They have their popular ice skating rink operating as well.

Cataloochee is at 37° this morning with 7 trails and some terrain park features as well. Tammy Brown wrote, "We will be skiing on seven slopes with 3 aerial lifts and 2 surface lift operating on a base of 24-48 inches and a machine worked surface. Please note that some of our terrain features including our C Box, Wall Box, Battleship Rail, Flat Rail and Flat Box will be available for you to ride at the top of Over Easy, right down from the Snack Shack, accessed by the Easy Way Triple Chairlift."

She also shared that they have "Tube World" open. She wrote, "Tube World located in Maggie Valley, across from Ghost Town four miles from the ski area will be open from 10am until 10pm with 1 hour and 45 minute sessions available beginning at 10, 12, 2, 4, 6 and 8pm. Cost for tubing is $25 per session and you must be 42" tall to ride alone. There is no two person tubing allowed at Tube World. Please remember that tubing is on a first come, first served basis and some sessions do sell out. Should the session you wish to tube be sold out when you arrive, you may purchase a session for later in the day. Tube World is on their holiday tubing schedule and will be open everyday through Saturday, January 5 from 10am – 10pm with the exception of Christmas Eve when they will close at 6pm and Christmas Day when they will be open from 2pm until 10pm."

Sugar Mountain – They were at 30° this morning and reported some "new snow" as a part of their slope conditions report. That isn’t q-u-i-t-e accurate. There has been some snow falling from the skies, but one look at the webcam up top will tell you that new snow isn’t exactly a part of the surface conditions today. To give them the benefit of the doubt, they probably posted that thinking that snow might end up being a part of the real conditions today. I say that because Sugar has arguably been the BEST in the region at reporting accurate surface conditions over the last two years. They call a spade a spade up there. We just didn’t want you guys that aren’t here yet to get the wrong impression. There is no snow on the ground other than some coming from the skies early and perhaps a dusting somewhere in a tree up top. There’s none even on the rails at the gazebo where the camera is posted.

Wolf Ridge is fulling open for skiing, snowboarding and tubing with 6 trails open today and ready with the snowmakers asap.

That’s it for now. Go enjoy your day and get off of this computer and onto the slopes! Pack your gear and get your rear up here as Holiday Skiing will be pretty nice.

Until Next Time…Send your comments, photos and videos to: [email protected]  

See You On The Slopes!

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