Okay, I’m Bitching a Little Today

First Trax

Kenny usually leaves the real complaining to me to post on the weekends. What do I have to rant about? Maybe the fact that some ski resorts are STILL reporting “Packed Powder” conditions when most resorts in the region have seen from ZERO to 2″ of snow thus far in January.

That’s another thing I’m groaning about today – the lack of natural snowfall. Okay, I can’t REALLY gripe about that…but I CAN bemoan the fact that every meteorologist on the planet (at least in our part of the planet) was forecast 167% more snow than normal for this season.  If that is to still come true, then we need some blizzards of EPIC proportions to start falling with great regularity.

I’ll elaborate more on the snow deficiency thus far this season in a moment but as an example – Beech averages 80″ of natural snowfall per season. Thus far they’ve had 30″ of snow, with 22″ of that total coming in NOVEMBER. So on the surface they’ve had 37.5% of their normal FULL SEASON snowfall – which isn’t THAT low. We’re about 40-45% through the season …so again…not as far off as it would seem. HOWEVER, AGAIN most of the snow fell in November. Only 3.3″ of snow fell in December and thus far 2″ has fallen in January.

The “gripe” is that if we were (or are) to see 167% of normal, then Beech would have been in for 133.6″ of snow. That means that we need 103″ or so to fall from now through the end of March.

Not likely…

I’m also bitchin’ about some ski areas reporting “Packed Powder” conditions. Good gravy, that needs to stop. MANMADE and PACKED or PACKED MANMADE is what they should be reporting….or Groomed.

More bitching in a moment….

Today’s “Theme” for Snow Reporting is…

The “theme” for today seems to be that all of the resorts made snow overnight – but that they’ve all (with an exception or two) turned the snowmaking equipment OFF for this MLK holiday weekend. That WILL make for an awesome day and weekend on the slopes.

Conditions are pretty awesome for today with plenty of deep, manmade snow bases, awesome grooming to at least begin each day with AND a lot of slopes and trails open at each resort.


Last weekend I wrote that it seemed like resort operators got together and put out a memo that they should all start reporting “Packed Powder” conditions and while they were at it call MANMADE SNOW “New Snow”. While BOTH reporting tactics are atrocious in my opinion, I can semi-understand the “packed powder” surface conditions reporting as long as they add the word “manmade” in front of it. “Packed Powder” and “Powder” are terms that should always be reserved for the kind of snow that God puts down. The truth is SOMETIMES the snow that God blankets the slopes with isn’t powder either. Anyone who has skied or snowboarded the mountains after one of those wet, heavy-moisture-laden snows will attest to the fact that natural snow is not always powder. SOMETIMES manmade snow IS very light and powdery…but guys and gals – let’s call a spade a spade. It’s MANMADE SNOW and MANMADE PACKED POWDER. Let’s reserve the reporting of “Powder” and “Packed Powder” to those glorious days when 6-10″ of natural snow has fallen and to when snow groomers haven’t driven over it.

My REAL issue is with the reporting of MANMADE SNOW as “New Snow”. It is a very deceptive practice that I saw four different ski areas do last weekend. Thankfully, it APPEARED that most of those resorts thought better of doing so the very next day…but the term still appears on Sapphire Valley Ski Area’s report this morning.

I guess when you have more LIFTS than SLOPES (3 lifts and 2 slopes) you may feel the need to do so. Maybe it’s what my buddy, Joe Stevens said last week. He stated, “I’ll give you three ‘reasons’ why those resort might have reported ‘new snow’ that way. They are “M”, “L” and “K”.

What Joe was alluding to is that Christmas was the pits for some ski areas and certainly DOWN a bit for most and perhaps some resorts felt the need to AMP UP the perception of conditions at the mountains by reporting MANMADE SNOW as “NEW SNOW”.

You guys can count on me and our team to begin calling out those resorts that do that. I see no issue with accurate reporting. Report something like, “We’ve added 10″ of manmade snow overnight and conditions are awesome”. Heck, CHANGE THE HEADER on the column of your snow report to “NEW MANMADE SNOW” and then insert that number in it. Maybe ADD A COLUMN for “New Snow” and “New Manmade Snow” and report BOTH numbers.

However for DECADES ski areas have been reporting “NEW SNOW” only when we have NATURAL SNOW. People are accustomed to seeing that number appear only when it snows. For resorts to simply begin popping a number in that column when they make manmade snow is deceptive.

Hopefully that stops OR they make tweaks to the wording to more accurately report it.

I guess what’s next is to begin reporting the year-long-manmade snow as “SNOWFALL FOR THE SEASON?!?! Gracious, I hope not.

I wonder how many times Vail or Vermont ski areas report manmade snow in their “NEW SNOW” column? It’s appalling and I hope the memo gets passed around that this is a practice that was not well thought out and that it needs to stop.

That said: Sapphire Valley DID NOT have 6-12″ of NEW SNOW in the last 24 hours. Good grief!


Interestingly just after posting Sapphire’s snow report I got a text alert on my phone for Vail Resorts this morning. It seems that their report reflects that Vail had 1″ of new snow; Beaver Creek got 2″ and Breck got 4″.

Wow – Sapphire’s 6-12″ has me ready to fly to Cashiers today. (Again) Good grief.

Perception, Persmeption…

Since we’re quickly closing in on the halfway point in the 2014-2015 ski and snowboarding season, we thought we’d show you where we are in terms of natural snowfall on the season. Bear in mind that since we’re about 50% of the way into the season, I have shared the percentage of snowfall that each resort is off through this point in the season and I’ve “ranked them” per how much OFF they are:

2015-01-17-saph(You guys see evidence of 6-12″ of new snow?)

Sapphire Valley: 1.5″ | Averages 30″ | Off 90% of normal (Actually over the last 8 years, Sapphire has average 8″ of snowfall and using that average they are still 63% below normal through this time of year. Again – maybe that’s why they are reporting 6-12″ of “n-e-w s-n-o-w” this morning 😉

Wolf Ridge Resort: 7″ | Averages 65″ | Off 78.2% of normal
We mentioned how Wolf has had “weather struggles” recently. While their long-term annual snowfall average is reported as 65″, they only seen more than 45″ of snow TWICE in the last TEN years. From 2009 through 2011 (two seasons) they saw 195″ of snow or 97.5″ each of those seasons. Otherwise, they’ve only averaged 35.4″ of snow in the other EIGHT seasons.

Appalachian Ski Mountain: 7″ | Averages 50″ | Off 72% of normal

Omni Homestead: 8″ | Averages 50″ | Off 68% of normal
The Homestead is another resort that is reported by numerous sources as averaging 50″ of annual snowfall. However, they’ve only reached that number ONCE in the last EIGHT seasons. They’ve ACTUALLY averaged 24.3″ of natural snowfall over the last seven seasons. Even using that average, they’d still be off 33% or so.

Winterplace Resort: 18.5″ | Averages 100″ | Off 63% of normal
Wintergreen Resort: 8″ | Averages 34″ | Off 53% of normal
Snowshoe Mountain: 52″ | Averages 180″ | Off 43% of normal
Canaan Valley Resort: 54.1″ | Averages 180″ each season | To date they are off about 40%
Timberline Resort: 54.1″ | Averages 180″ each season | To date they are off about 40%
Massanutten Resort: 10.5″ | Averages 35″ | Off 40% of normal
Sugar Mountain Resort: 26″ | Averages 78″ | Off 33.4% of normal
Wisp Resort: 35″ | Averages 100″ | Off 30% of normal
Beech Mountain Resort: 30″ | Averages 80″ | Off 25% of normal
Cataloochee Ski Area: 15.5″ | Averages 40″ | Off 22.5% of normal
Bryce Resort: 14.5″ | Averages 30″ | RIGHT AT NORMAL!!!

If you followed our logic, interestingly Beech and Cataloochee are not THAT far under their normal snowfall through this point in the season AND Bryce Resort is RIGHT at their normal average.



Winterplace Resort – 26° this morning and they made lots of snow but there will be no snowmaking today. Winterplace is 100% open with the best conditions of the season on all 27 trails. Snowtubing and terrain parks are all open as well. They are reporting a base of 40-62″

Beech Mountain Resort is ONE HUNDRED PERCENT OPEN. Did I hear a WOOT WOOT?!?! Beech posted, “White Lightning, a favorite slope of many locals, is now open! This means the resort is 100% open, operating with fifteen trails and seven lifts. Snowmaking will remain off during the day session in order to provide a better skiing experience for our valued customers.

On Saturday, January 17th, the Jacob Johnson Band will play at 5pm in the Beech Tree Bar and Grille, to kick off our Après Ski Music Series. Plan a quick getaway to Beech Mountain Resort, and after a hard day of hitting the slopes, relax and take a load off with some great Après Ski fun!” (You heard them…go. NOW!)

Canaan Valley Resort – 23° and they are in the best shape they’ve had all season with a base of 20-30″, new manmade snow, a dusting of natural snow and 23 of 43 trails open. Snowtubing is also open and conditions will be awesome for this weekend. (We still saw SOME snowmaking going on up on top of their mountain as of 9:30am)

2015-01-17-wintergreenWintergreen Resort – 19° – The coldest spot in our report this morning and they made tons of snow and now have the snowguns off. They are riding on 24 of 26 trails and I just love the way that these guys post reports. Their updates are perfect and clear.

Here’s their morning update:

Open Trails:  24 trails open – Outer Limits is really close and could open sometime today…  If not, Outer Limits will open Sunday morning.

Surface:  40-60 inch machine groomed base.

Terrain Park:  The Progression Park is open with: 10ft pipe, 14ft down box, 14ft flat box, 18ft flat down box, 30ft pipe, “A” frame box, propane tank, 15ft flat rail, 1 small and 1 small to medium table top jump.  The Advanced Park is open with: a long arm pole jam, 2 – 20ft pipes one flat and one down, large propane tank, 30ft down pipe, large battleship rail, side by side rail, up box, a snow box and a medium/large jump.

Tubing:  Open with sessions from 9am until 10pm.  Sessions often sellout, you can purchase tickets in advance here:  http://www.wintergreenresort.com/Tubing/

Ridgelys Fun Park:  Open Saturday, Sunday and Holiday Mondays with sessions from 11am-4pm

Snowmaking:  Snowmaking looks unlikely overnight tonight.  Temps cool back down overnight Sunday into Monday allowing for the possibility of fresh snow Monday morning.  Overall, surface conditions continue to be fantastic!

(I wish all resorts would report this way…)

You can also check out “Josh’s Mountain Minute” at:

Damn fine job Josh. Hopefully all of the other resorts are paying attention.

Timberline Resort – 23° this morning and they made tons of snow and now have a base of 30-40″ of manmade snow and they’ve also seen a region-leading 54.1″ of natural snow on the season. They are riding on 24 of 41 trails for today and their terrain park is open and night sessions will be running tonight for skiing and snowboarding.
2015-01-17-appAppalachian Ski Mountain – 32° – No Snowmaking – 7″ of snow on the season – 12 of 12 slopes open. Ice Skating and Terrain Parks are open as well. They too have the snowmaking equipment off and we watched two snow groomers out laying down some sweet corduroy this morning. No doubt that App will be in the best shape of the season to date – this weekend.

Massanutten Resort – 25° – They made snow and groomed on every trail and they are open today with 100% of the mountain and 14 trails, 10 lanes of snow tubing, terrain parks and more.

They posted, “The Mega Zip and Kids Adventure Course will be open today from 10:30 – 3:30. Regular Season rates are in effect.”

For those who have emailed us about Massanutten’s snowtubing webcam being “down”…we have shipped a new one and they should get it one day next week. I have to admit that it’s a lot of fun watching peeps riding that hill.

Check out this cool race video at Massanutten recently: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xC8aq5WjL4Y

Bryce Resort – 25° – They are 100% open with Grooomed slopes. (The extra “O” in there is on purpose as they do a great grooooming job.  Rob and their team posted, “This holiday weekend is shaping up to be a great one with 100% of the terrain open and a great forecast ahead for the weekend! Make sure you come out and join us!”

2015-01-17-omniOMNI HOMESTEAD RESORT – 27° and they made snow but are no longer. They’ll operate for day and night sessions on Saturday on 100% of their mountain (9 slopes & trails). Snow tubing is now open as well.

We captured a kind of cool shot showing some nice snow conditions at Omni Homestead and I for one would like to make first tracks on that!2015-01-17-omni2 I also snapped a quick shot from a different angle just about the same time as a couple came out on the deck to watch some of the early visitors make turns at the bottom of the mountain. That older guy in the full-length coat and cool hat looked dapper. (Okay now I’m creeping myself out. Didn’t mean to stalk, sir.

Thanks to Eileen Judah for the snow report today.

Snowshoe Mountain – 26° – The region’s largest ski resort also has the most terrain open this weekend with 208 acres available to ski or ride on. Snow tubing and terrain parks are all open. Those 208 acres comprise 54 of their 60 trails that are open.

Snowshoe’s LIVE CAMS are the best in the region (hands down) and they are always worth a visit. See them all and many others at www.ResortCams.com
Cataloochee Ski Area – 35° – Made snow and Snowmaking will continue in limited areas on Saturday. 15.5″ of snow on the season and Cat will play on 17 of 18 slopes and trails this weekend with snow tubing open as well. Conditions will be awesome all weekend.

Wolf Ridge Resort – 37° – Made snow in the last 24 hours but are not now. They are operating on 9 of 15 trails and a base of 36-56″. They posted, “We have a fantastic base, the terrain park has been re-worked, the skies are clear and the temperatures are moderate. A great day on the mountain. We look forward to seeing you out there.”

These guys have really struggled against all odds with semi-subpar weather, a fire that destroyed their gorgeous lodge and some of the newer lift system, a couple of would-be buyers who reportedly left them in a tough way financially. Thus far this season they’ve seen 7″ of natural snow, and temps have often been just above freezing – limiting their ability to make snow.

They could use a break and we’re hoping that things turn for the better for these guys soon. Orville, Rick and their crew are great people and could use some better luck.

Sugar Mountain Resort – 29° – They made snow overnight but there will be no snowmaking today. They will have 16 of 21 trails open. I’m a little surprised that Sugar isn’t 100% open at this stage of the season considering that they are usually leading the way in snowmaking and snow maintanence. Also when you consider that both of their sister resorts in the area are 100% open now. In case you’re wondering, Boulderdash, the Terrain Park, Zoom Yang, Sugar Bear and the Easy Street Extension are the trails not open today.  That STILL makes for THE MAJOR portion of their mountain open with a base of 36-85″.

Since I’m on a “snow reporting tangent” this morning – I never thought I’d say that Sugar Mountain’s report has been among the most accurate all season. Gotta hand it to them as they are reporting “Packed Manmade & Frozen Granular” this morning. Also they make as much or more snow than any ski area and I’ve never seen them call manmade snow “NEW SNOW”. Now Gunther and he crew will add an inch or two to a natural snowfall on occasion…but they seem to know the difference in natural snow and manmade snow. Kudos to them.

Wisp Resort – 23° – No Snowmaking – 35″ of snow on the season – 27 of 34 trails open. Awesome conditions for this weekend. Their grooming crew is second to none and as of this post you could see some evidence of awesome corduroy. I REALLY wish these guys had a large, format HD webcam or two because the views up at this Garrett County ski resort are awesome. Deep Creek and Wisp Resort offers a ton of summer activities and we’re launching a new HighCountryOutdoors.com website soon. Perhaps by then we’ll be able to show you guys a better taste of what Deep Creek, Deep Creek Lake and McHenry, Maryland looks like.

Ober Gatlinburg – 42° at 8:30am – They are looking pretty on 8 of 10 slopes with only Alpine Way and Grizzly as closed terrain. They have a base of 30-40″ and snow tubing and ice skating are all open as well. We’ve talked about it before but Ober’s Aerial Tram is worth the price of admission by itself and offers some awesome views of the surrounding mountains and the city of Gatlinburg at the bottom of the ride down. I wish we could get a LIVE WEBCAM on that baby. Talk about a sweet shot!

Sapphire Valley – 22° – They have both slopes open and the Frozen Falls Tubing Park open. It’s great to see Sapphire running full bore again. They’ve seen 1.5″ of snow on the entire season so far. However they are reporting a base of 20-54″ of manmade snow.
That’s going to “DO IT” for today. Avoid the crowds…ski early and often. Drop me an email if you like at [email protected]

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