Photo of the day is from Winterplace Resort, where today is OPENING DAY!
I have had the opportunity to make the rounds and chat with a lot of the operations people at our ski resorts over the last week or two and I can share that while they are ALWAYS a hearty bunch, they are noticeably affected by the lack of cold temperatures and the concern over losing the fast approaching Christmas-to-New-Year week.
The mood is about as you would expect and as I was doing my own due-diligence this morning to pull the most, up-to-date and accurate snow report I kind of got the feeling that a few ski areas are like an old bear, lumbering back into hibernation and waiting on some colder air to crank up. Let’s just say that some ski areas have reported that they will be open today, but show no slopes open at their mountain. Not conducive for keeping the masses informed.
Saying ALL of that, despite the weather’s best efforts, those ski areas that are open, are weathering this spring-like weather pretty well. One tour around the LIVE SKI CAMS will show proof that there is plenty of decent, skiable/ridable terrain.
The other good news is that help is on the way, in the form of cold, snowmaking temperatures as early as Sunday evening. Sunday night’s low should give almost all of the ski areas a window of snowmaking as temps dive down to the low to mid 20s. The concern with a lot of the snowmakers across the region is how many days and nights of snowmaking can they get in between now and Christmas day to ensure good conditions and plenty of open slopes and trails.
As I looked around at the reliable weather sources, it appears that we could see the following snowmaking windows:
5-6 +/- nights at Snowshoe Mountain, Canaan Valley & Timberline Mountain
4-5 +/- nights at Winterplace Resort
3-5 nights around Beech and Sugar Mountain
2-3 nights at Appalachian Ski Mountain
2-3 nights at Cataloochee Ski Area
2-3 nights at Wintergreen Resort, Massanutten, Omni Homestead and Bryce
2-3 nights at Wolf Ridge Resort
0-1 night at Ober Gatlinburg
This is when ResortCams.com and SkiSoutheast.com really earn our reputation in terms of keeping you informed.
We are already getting more than a few skimails inquiring about whether or not to keep those reservations for your Christmas trips. As of today, we are one week away from Christmas Day and the following week is the most important week of the entire season to our ski resorts as many can generate from 25%-35% of their annual income in that one, 10-14 day period, that really begins NOW and runs through the week or so after Christmas.
Right now, things are looking better and better if you have plans to ski, ride or visit the West Virginia ski mountains. Snowshoe Mountain is now boasting 31 trails open and as you can see with our “snowmaking window numbers” above – the WV ski areas will be able to make snow and see vastly better conditions over the next few days.
Things should be decent at the NC Ski areas not named Wolf Ridge or Sapphire Valley. Appalachian Ski Mountain, Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountain can all add a lot of snow in a short time and they are already looking decent in terms of snow coverage.
Our biggest concern right now is for our brother and sister ski areas in Virginia. We think they will be able to make plenty of snow in a couple of nights and be able to open up some terrain for next weekend.
Preserving the Snow Pack
Some Props to Mike Stinneford, (@MikeStinneford) who is a Broadcast Meteorologist for WTOP Radio/NBC4 in Washington, DC and regular reader and contributor here at SkiSoutheast.com. On Thursday afternoon Mike wrote:
Just popped up to 65 degrees here in Washington at 1 pm, which is a new record high for the day. On this mild afternoon I am thinking I’ll talk about some of the conditions that help preserve snow pack this time of year.
The biggest help to maintaining snow pack during mild periods in December is the low sun angle. A warm up in late January or February would be much more damaging to the snow pack due to the higher sun angle and increased energy that this allows from the sun. Combine that with the short days of December, and you will see that our area resorts can weather a mild spell quite well, especially if they have been stockpiling snow.
Brad (SkiSoutheast.com Meteorologist Brad Panovich) has done a wonderful job detailing the weather coming our way, so I won’t rehash that. Suffice to say that there should be some good snow making opportunities next week. Weather for Christmas is a little iffy, but we have a few days to sort that forecast out. It appears some roller coaster temperatures are possible between Christmas and New Year’s. There are signals that some significant cold is coming our way in January.
Thanks for that Mike, and from YOUR lips to God’s ear. Speaking of that, I think it MIGHT be time to bring back the billboards that we posted a couple of years back.
Speaking of creating some winter mojo, I am planning on setting up a new snow measuring board in my yard. Something has to give, right?!?!
So, things are looking up at least a bit and here’s a detailed tour of the region:
58% Open – 50° – Appalachian Ski Mountain – with 7 of 12 slopes; day & night skiing; ice skating open as well.
55% Open – 52° – Timberline Mountain is open for skiing and snowboarding with 12 of 22 slopes and trails – from 9am to 4pm today. Their temporary closure this past week to conserve snow has allowed them to reopen with the same number of open runs as they closed with on Sunday the 12th. Today’s conditions are soft, machine groomed snow and areas with slightly less coverage than last week. The forecast for today, December 18th, calls for a high of 58 and a low of 27 and possible rain showers in the afternoon.
51% Open – 47° – Snowshoe Mountain – with a “league leading” 31 slopes and trails, Snowshoe Mountain is actually looking amazingly well, considering the weather. Snowshoe posted:
Temperatures will plummet overnight allowing our snowmakers to get back to doing their thing. Next week looks like a prime, extended snowmaking opportunity which will allow us to beef our open trails back up and continue expanding terrain.
Check out this video from December 16th:
47% Open – 51° – Beech Mountain Resort – with 8 of 17 slopes open; day & night skiing. Upper & Lower Shawneehaw and Upper and Lower Robbins Run are open. Reporter, Brian Dix plans to be at Beech today, so we should get some good photos and videos from there.
44% Open – 47° – Winterplace Resort – Today IS opening day for the Southern, West Virginia ski area. They had made PILES of snow, readying for today’s opening day. They are open from 9am-9pm Saturday with: Country Roads, Easy Street, Highland Run, Wanderer, Cascade, Compromise, Look At Me, Meadows, Rendezvous, Rendezvous Too, Snowfield, and Drop Off all open.
38% Open – 48° – Sugar Mountain Resort – and they are open from the top of their mountain for day and night sessions, as well as for ice skating and tubing.
34% Open – 43° – Bryce Resort – with from two to four trails open for day sessions only today. I spoke with Patty in the administration department and they were scrambling this morning. They did post this nice video from earlier in the week when they were able to blast piles of snow. Again, call ahead, but we think they will have tubing open as well.
22% Open – 51° – Cataloochee Ski Area – Cat has been offering some good coverage and slope openings, but with the light rains and mild temps, they have pulled back a little for this weekend and for today and tonight will only have Beginner’s Luck, Easy Way, Lower Omigosh and Rabbit Hill open. We’re all hoping to see Maggie Valley get three to four nights of snowmaking this week and that will do wonders for them.
15% Open – 46° – Wisp Resort is open on 5 slopes and trails for day and night sessions and snow tubing.
So NINE of our SIXTEEN RESORTS are open today. Here are some deets about the rest:
Suspended Operations Temporarily:
42° – Massanutten Resort posted:
Cold air is on the way, we anticipate snowmaking temperatures arriving tomorrow evening (Sunday) and the Mt Ops team is anxious to get back to work. We will re-open for skiing and riding just as soon as possible. Snow tubing will be open Saturday.
Massanutten’s Kenny Hess is one of the mountain managers who I spoke with on Friday and he’s always an upbeat, positive guy. He shared, “Man we are struggling with this weather right now. We know some cold air is headed our way, but it can’t get here quick enough for us. Think cold!”
48° – Wintergreen Resort – they had planned on reopening today, but alas old man winter had other plans. They posted this nice operations update:
COLD TEMPERATURES ARE ON THE WAY AND WE WILL BE OPENING SOON
Snowmaking scheduled to start Sunday night
It has been a warm December so far in Virginia, but cold temperatures are forecasted to return on Sunday evening so winter can begin in earnest. Our snowmaking team and high tech SNOWPOWER snowmaking system are scheduled to start making snow every night next week as the resort ramps up for the holidays.
We had a successful preview of the ski season last weekend and had hoped to be able to open fully for this weekend, but the warm temperatures thwarted those efforts. With the only fully automated snowmaking system on the East Coast and some of the very best snowmakers in the business, we are standing by to take full advantage of the change in the forecast. Stay tuned to our website, www.wintergreenresort.com/blog/ for the latest updates.
Not Open Yet:
52° – Canaan Valley Resort – They posted:
SKI SEASON UPDATE!
In an effort to provide the best guest/skiing experience we have postponed our opening day for ski season. The short term forecast is working against us, so we plan to try to be open by Christmas. The exact date will be determined by the weather/forecast as we get through this coming weekend and the weather starts cooperating.
57° – Ober Gatlinburg – They posted:
DELAYED: SKI SEASON OPENING
Due to ongoing weather patterns beyond our control and the weather that is forecasted, Ober
anticipates that we will not be able to open our Slopes for Skiing/Snowboarding in the upcoming
There is still a Mountaintop of Family Fun to be had with: the Aerial Tramway, Alpine Slide, Snow
Tubing, Ski Mountain Coaster, Ice Skating, Wildlife Encounter, Scenic Chairlift, Carousel, Mini Golf,
Rock Wall, Kiddie Rides, and a Holiday Snow Zone.
51° – Omni Homestead Resort – Opening Date Tentatively Set for December 23rd.
54° – Sapphire Valley Resort
SKI SAPPHIRE VALLEY TEMPORARILY CLOSED. They posted:
The Ski Area staff just can not say when the Ski Area will open. The weather is just too warm! Snow making will resume as soon as colder weather returns. Weather Update: There is a cold artic blast coming in Sunday with lows in the 20’s giving the Ski Sapphire staff several days to make snow!!
46° – Wolf Ridge Resort – waiting on cold weather.
So it’s gonna be a little wet and dreary for ONE MORE DAY and then we should see some conditions and weather improving.
That will do it for me today. We are truly thankful for you, our readers. Check back tomorrow for more!
Email me at [email protected]
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