Let me be clear. The Ski Resorts have had snow on their slopes ever since opening with NO thaw periods and conditions have been pristine all season long. The title of today’s FirsTrax alludes to the fact that we’ve had NATURAL SNOW on the ground at numerous of our mountain towns for thirty seven straight days and MORE SNOW (5-8″) is in the forecast for today, this evening and Sunday morning.
Photo of the Day is from Ober Gatlinburg where this gorgeous group of young people posed for the photo.
Speaking of “no thaws”, we simply have not had one. Typically every ski season we will experience a few thaw periods where we will see five-to-ten-days of mild temperatures that play havoc with the base depths on the slopes. January is almost “famous” in the southeast in terms of always providing at least one or two major thaws. That simply has not happened this season.
Loving that! (By the way, not that I am inviting it, but we could see milder than average temperatures for a month straight now…and still have good base depths on the slopes. However, I hope this cold and snowy trend continues!)
The words, “SOLD OUT” are appearing in the SNOW REPORT today. Numerous ski resorts are SOLD OUT for today and this weekend.
It’s A Sign of the Times…
I mentioned this last weekend, but never before have we seen guests posting on social media to see if others will sell them their lift passes or tubing passes. That has been a phenomenon for years for college and NFL football, but I have never seen that happen for ski resort lift passes.
All you have to do is visit any ski resort’s Facebook page to see some of that going on. My SkiMail INBOX has received hundreds of requests for any ideas on how to scarf up some lift passes.
Several people have emailed me to complain about making the trek to visit a ski area, only to find out that they cannot get lift passes or even tubing tickets.
A lot of our resorts are only offering lift tickets for sale online and those are not all working to perfection. One frustrated visitor emailed me after posting several times to the ski resort (Resort name withheld…as many are seeing the same thing.)
“Please help those of us who are STAYING there specifically for winter activities to book tickets??? I have been on the website continuously for past 24 hours and still cannot get anything. I had tickets in my cart several times and every time I went to pay, it said “operation timed out”. It’s not a vacation if we have nothing to do while we are there.”
Longtime reader, James Izzell emailed me:
I just read your article from a few days ago where you discussed crowds and snowfall. I have a condo on Sugar, and I work as a Mountain Host at Appalachian, so I am at either of those slopes at least once a week. As a Mountain Host, it is my job to interact with the guests, answer any questions, and make sure they are happy. Which is natural for me because I do that anyway (a “people person”). Anyway, my point is, in regards to the crowds, I am seeing that a very, very high percentage of the crowds at App and Sugar are FIRST TIME VISITORS and nearly all of them are from Florida. The last several years have seen a huge influx of Floridians, but for some reason, they are multiplying. I have started to ask them why they came, and almost all of them refer to friends on social media. It appears to be a trend on Florida Facebook and Instagram to post about your fantastic vacation to the North Carolina mountains. Next time you’re stuck in traffic on Tynecastle, take an inventory of license plates. Florida. And a lot of the NC plates are Floridians rentals, like the poor unfortunate family I met while out on a walk in the snow Tuesday. This was their first trip from Florida, flew to RDU, rented a budget sedan (2wheel drive), and was hopelessly stranded in the icy parking lot.
I enjoy the Facebook page and articles.
James is correct…but it is also the fact that people were cooped up for months and perceived that a vacation to the mountains would provide a safe place for a getaway. I was at Beech Mountain last Friday and what James mentioned was on full display. At noon, the main lifts to the top of the mountain (more difficult slopes) had only perhaps a 5 minute lift line – while the beginner lifts at the base had lines nearly a football field long!
The Tourism Boom in the Mountains Continues
I’ve been talking all season about the fact that we are seeing record numbers of visitors to the mountain (in epic, unprecedented numbers). That continues. I had an opportunity to speak with two of our region’s attractions managers on Friday. One was Josh Williams of Ashe County Cheese in West Jefferson and the other was Matt & Michelle Banz and their manager, Frances of Chimney Rock Gem Mine located over in Bat Cave, NC – who also manages their restaurant. What they all shared is the same message that I have heard since mid-Summer, throughout the fall months and now all winter long. That message?
50% of NOW equals more than 100% of MOST SEASONS!
That seemingly “fuzzy math” can be explained this way. Frances said that while their restaurant has taken away 50% of their tables to provide for social distancing guidelines…those 50% of tables have been occupied at near full capacity every single day of every single week since mid-summer and that has meant record numbers for them.
Frances shared, “Business has never, ever been better.” She added, “We don’t know what we’re going to do when covid is over and we put 100% of the tables back in. I’m not sure we could handle the crowds.”
Josh Williams of Ashe County Cheese echoed that same thing. They have seen record attendance since mid-summer of 2020.
There is no question in my mind that MANY ski resorts are enjoying their best skier-visit numbers EVER. Even some that have struggled in the last several years are experiencing skier numbers that are exceeding anything they’ve seen in years.
Over the years we have often shared about the economic impact that our ski resorts create on their mountain communities and I can assure you that every ski shop, lodging, cabin rentals and restaurant in every mountain location in the region is enjoying a phenomenal year.
Here are some RANDOM shares from around the region:
When I first hit my laptop this morning (just prior to 6am) I was able to witness some heavy snow falling at Wisp Resort in Maryland. As I checked my emails, I ran across one, very sweet email from an elderly lady who wrote me:
“Hi, I think your name is Mike. I am not probably your usual reader as I am 90 years old. I haven’t skied in decades and I miss it. I was always told how beautiful I was at 39 years old when I started skiing, first at Appalachian Ski Mountain in 1970 and then at many of the ski resorts in the region until my body wouldn’t let me anymore. I had a nice run of 30 years until I skied my last time down at Massanutten at the age of 69. I am writing you to share that I so enjoy it when you do your videos talking about the mountains, the snow and everything related. I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ for allowing those of us who cannot make it to the slopes and for those of us who can no longer enjoy the snow under our skis and the wind in our hair, that little bit of escape to the mountains we love.” – Faith McCurdy, Jacksonville, NC
Faith – this one is for you sister. I am certain that you are as beautiful as ever. So sit back and (hopefully) enjoy. As I hopped on and clicked on the recording…I didn’t plan on making this one a 40 -minute tour, but I was thinking of Faith as I did this one. (I’ll admit, I got a little choked up reading that. You never know who is reading your content. Thanks for making my day, Faith.)
If you want to scroll below and read the rest first or skip this long video…have at it.
MORE VIDEOS, PHOTOS AND SHARES
It’s been a few years, since we haven’t led numerous FirsTrax stories with the amazing job that our mountain ops, and snow making crews have done. They’ve certainly done a job every bit as awesome as ever, but we haven’t heard about them as much because we have not had to see those near-miraculous jobs of taking a resort from zero-to-covered this season.
Speaking of snow making (and base depths), when is the last time you guys saw Sapphire Valley Ski Resort with a base of 56-96″ of snow!?!?!
Bryce Patroller Sarah Street Carving Hangover, Now 100% Open!
Got to give our Virginia Ski Resorts some love. Conditions have been sweet lately!
Canaan Valley Resort’s – Mark Moody – Provides Another Great Vid
Snowshoe Sweet Video
Wintergreen Resort Chimes in with a Nice Vid
Here’s a nice photo from Wintergreen this morning:
I told you guys that it was snowing HARD this morning at Wisp Resort. Here’s the evidence!
Man, do we get some awesome sunrise and sunset photos at our mountain locations. Check this one out of Cataloochee from earlier in the week!
I received a lot of excited emails from Omni Homestead Resort’s Lynn Swann this week. In addition to a ton of snowy photos that she shared, she also announced that the children’s mini-snowmobiles were back and now open!
A PodCast In Our Future???
Joe Stevens of “Snow News is Good News”, called me a week or so ago and mentioned the idea of us starting a podcast for the region’s ski resorts. We’ve talked about that a few times over the last two years with various members of our team and I think we’re going to do it.
We’ll share stories from around the region and bring in guest resort owners and marketing peeps. We’re targeting the end of February to launch things.
We’d LOVE to hear from you. If you have ideas for episode subjects and themes, let us know. We’re also considering many names for it. If you have a suggestion, let us know.
That will do it for me today. Email me anything you like at [email protected]