by Joe Stevens
Hello Everyone –
For my second column of the season, I usually give kudos to the resorts which are open and off to a rocking start for the season. Well, that isn’t the case this year, which has a lot of you out there full of worry that the season is already going into the dumpster.
Many of you read last week’s column, “What The Experts Think” (according to numbers given to me by Mike, our fearless leader, over 36,000) and you read that the season was probably going to be starting slow and then picking up like a snowball heading down a slope.
The good news is that I know for a fact that all the resorts in the southeast region have invested millions of dollars into their snowmaking infrastructure and have made snow in preparation for the season.
Most of you understand that for snowmaking to take place, the temperature needs to be around the freezing mark, with the best results coming when the temperatures are in the low 20s, with low humidity and little or no wind. Everyone also knows that hasn’t happened to any great extent this season. But it is coming.
This is the time of the season that resorts are basically getting ready for the upcoming busy holiday season that occurs at every resort in the southeast. That means the visits that are not occurring at this time, aren’t a really big dent in the overall big picture.
It is estimated in the region that 30 – 35 percent of most resorts’ business occurs during the three-week period of the week before Christmas, Christmas week and the week after Christmas.
I suspect the forecasted turn to colder temperatures is coming soon and the snowguns will be operating at 100 percent capacity. I am also known to be that eternal optimist and well I just know or have the feeling that it is going to happen, and everyone is going to forget about the current unseasonable temperatures across the region.
With that in mind, I also heard that a number of folks still headed to some resorts over the Thanksgiving holiday to enjoy family time away from their homes and let someone else worry about preparing the dinner bird. The word is that the crowds were actually pretty strong considering the overall situation.
Right now the P.U.D (Pent Up Demand) is extremely strong out there for everyone, including yours truly, as we continue to wait to see what the word is going to be for the opening of the slopes in the region. It looks like a number of resorts are pointing towards a December 1 opening. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that it is going to happen.
I know if any of the mountain operation staffs have anything to do with it, the bull wheels on the various lifts in the region will be spinning on that Friday.
The weather pattern is pointing to enough cold temperatures to be occurring at the higher elevations that will allow the snow guns to commence bombing the slopes with “REAL” manmade snow. That “REAL” factor is going to be a topic of an upcoming column, so stay tuned.
As I know everyone who loves the sport of skiing and snowboarding wants to be able to tour the entire resort of their choice on opening, please understand that just isn’t going to happen.
Talking to mountain operation folks, the plan again this year is going to be opening some of the most traveled terrain on the mountain and attempting to get as many lifts spinning to relieve some lift line congestion.
There will also be a concerted attempted to open as much teaching terrain as possible, because the southeast region is know for its teaching staffs and the new instructors that have been eager to begin their on-slope teaching careers, want to get out there and get folks comfortable playing on the slopes in a safe fashion.
Back to what everyone might be finding on those first days, I am here to say the base underneath your skis and snowboards is not going to be as deep as you will find later in the season. The snowmakers and groomers and going to give everyone a surface that will allow the carving of turns. There will probably be some cases of thin areas around the tree lines so plan on keeping those turns tight whenever possible.
To take care of everyone headed to the resorts for the first turns of the season, all the resorts have been having hiring clinics, not only for ski instructors and ski patrollers, but for those front line folks. With that said, if you want some extra work in your life, I truly believe all you would have to do is contact your local resort and they will be glad to find a spot for you on their team.
Speaking of ski patrols, I have heard that all of them have concluded their season preparations in any new techniques for helping everyone out on the slopes. If you didn’t know, each patrol crew completes a refresher course on such things as lift evacuation, especially the resorts that have new lifts this season. Also, the refresher allows any new patrollers to get adjusted to the lifts that they will now be working with during their time on the slopes. Sometimes I don’t think we give the patrollers enough credit for what they do to keep everything safe on the slopes. All of them are well trained and are appreciated.
That’s it for this week. Just remember whether it be cold or whether it be warm, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather will be. Your favorite slope will be opening soon, I promise.