First Trax

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I talk a lot about perspective on this website and this has been one of those seasons that has caused a lot of frustration for those of us who like to carve more than a couple of days a season out of our favorite mountain.

Perspective is defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as:

Pronunciation: pər-ˈspek-tiv
Function: noun

to look through, see clearly

Most of us use the word somewhat differently. Most of us seem to define the word as not so much to see "clearly" but more "my version of what something looks like".

I have caught more than a little heck from some of our readers thus far this season. It seems that MY perspective on conditions at our ski resorts from time to time this season is different from some of yours. To that I say, it’s a free country. Go ahead and live your depressed, glass-half-empty, "oh woe is me" lifestyle if that’s what makes you happy. For me? I choose to be more of a glass-half-full kind of guy.

I have received emails from some of you guys who evidently think that I and our network of ski websites (comprised of,, and have been catering to the ski resorts this season by (and I list accusations that I have received):

1. Not showing the really bad images of ski areas this season.

2. Not telling people about all of the bare spots and thin coverage on slopes and trails.

3. Not reporting anomolies like the trail access issues at Wolf Ridge.

4. Turning webcams off when the worst conditions are evident.

5. Aiming cameras at only the best of terrain and not revealing all of a mountain.

6. Calling (and I quote for effect) "piss-poor conditions" – decent and calling "decent conditions" good.

I could go on but you get the picture.

Okay, okay – I admit that we have also received several hundreds of emails admiring and praising our reporting this year in (and I list some of the praise that we have received):

1. Showing the really bad images of ski areas this season.

2. Telling people about all of the bare spots and thin coverage on slopes and trails.

3. Reporting anomolies like the trail access issues at Wolf Ridge.

4. Keeping webcams live when the worst conditions are evident.

5. Aiming cameras to show all of the terrain and not hiding bad conditions.

6. Helping to inform about true slope conditions.


We’re not going to please everybody and we know that, but the rest of this particular story is for you negative, "this-season-sucks" people who are out there.

Certainly in many respects this HAS been a frustrating, crappy ski season. Even though the West Virginia and Maryland ski areas have had it SOMEWHAT better…it has not been one that any of the ski area owners and managers would like to see come around for several years to come.

<Ski Beech on December 29th, 2007. Not exactly "decent"

However, when we report about "decent conditions", often that is an overview of conditions that CAN be found within our very wide area of coverage. For example, on December 29, 2007 guests at Ski Beech may not have had decent conditions, but those at Appalachian, Cataloochee and resorts northward, into West Virginia were having a ball on some pretty DECENT conditions.

I was enjoying a Holiday ski getaway at Snowshoe Mountain on December 29th and I can attest to the fact that conditions there were WAY better than decent.  In fact, skiers and snowboarders at Wisp, Timberline, and Canaan Valley wrote to advise us that we were understating how nice things were.

While there was some great snow quality on numerous trails during my visit, there were some trails that showed a bit thin and there might have been literally one or two bare spots on the entire mountain.

Mostly great, with a couple of thin areas translates pretty darn good in my book. Perspective.

<Snowshoe Mountain on December 29, 2007 looking pretty darn nice.


Those of us who LOVE the mountains and desire to ski and ride at our favorite mountains have not had it our way thus far this season and forecasters who make a living telling us what to expect from the weather next week, next month and beyond have been pretty unanimous is saying that those of us who love skiing and snowboarding should "act fast" everytime the conditions are good. Basically they are saying that there will be "windows of opportunity" for us to ski in near perfect conditions this season, but probably NOT those consistent sweet conditions that we long for. Not this season.

That remains to be seen.

However, I thought that I would share the TRUE nature of the TRUE snow lover. Case in point are two young men who have been "SkiNC-ers" since the website’s inception.

Many of you have met these guys through the messageboard and on the slopes. They are hard-core snowboarders and ride anywhere and anytime they get the chance. Joe Harmon is know as "Snowbird" on the messageboard and joined the old board and updated when we went to the last board in 2003 and has posted more than the 5047 posts that his stats show!

<Mark McKelvy, me and Joe Harmon pose for a quick photo at my office on Wednesday

Mark McKelvy has been around on the board as "Markhpnc" since December of 2004 and has posted 1701 times.

More importantly they have helped SkiNC and SkiSoutheast share photos of the day and videos with you guys from numerous ski resorts across the Southeast.

They call numerous of the board members friends and I call them friends as well. They have made more than a few turns with more than a few of the other messageboarders and I have skied with both of them a time or two as well.


Mark McKelvy has been the most consistent trail reporter that we’ve had over the years and if we awarded a "Trail Reporter of the decade" for our websites, the face on the trophy would be that of Mark’s.  Frankly I think that the ski areas should provide him a free seasons pass due to all of the promotional photos and the hours of time that he’s put in that I will guarantee has helped to spread the word of how cool our mountains really are. Come to think of it I’m going to see what I can do for him next season.


Mark McKelvy and Joe Harmon are snowboarders who happen to share the perspective that many of us share and that is that they JUST WANT TO PLAY IN THE SNOW, wherever they can find it. They ski out west when they can and in fact they are flying out sometime next week to play in the b-o-m-b-e-r powder that has been hitting the western ski resorts.

<Mark McKelvy rides some of the "thin coverage and bare spots" at Sugar Mountain on Wednesday, January 9, 2008.  I didn’t say these guys were rocket scientists!

However, they also ski in ice, groomed corduroy, slush, crusty, heavy corn, loose granular, hard packed, and of course the sweet conditions that you will find during most any season in the Southeast and Mid Atlantic.

They ski the thin coverage and UNLIKE many of us, they will EVEN ride the bare spots. Go figure…must be an old board!

Mark and Joe called my office earlier on Wednesday to get my take on conditions and made the drive up anyway!  Just kidding.  I told them like it was.  They had ridden at Appalachian a couple of times lately and wanted a bit more vertical and I told them that Sugar was "decent".

They dropped by to talk a bit and there was no "oh woe is me", boy-how-crappy-is-this-season talk in these guys.  Okay maybe a little, but like a lot of us, they were ready to go and have a bit of fun and they are also believers in the adage that "fun is where you find it".

The guys shot some pretty neat video of their trip to Sugar and we’ll share that with you guys on the video page.

As you can see by the photo to the right, Joe and Mark were able to find a few other people who look for a fun time on the snow…EVEN when the snow is more condusive for water skiing!

These two guys could have easily avoided this pond at the top of Sugar, but they chose not to.

<Joe Harmon couldn’t let these other guys have ALL of the fun so he joined in.  According to Joe he was practicin’ up for the "Meltdown Games" at Appalachian at the close of the season!

At any rate, we HOPE the Meltdown Games hold off til the end of the season!

Sugar Mountain has been the most agressive ski area about making snow at every single opportunity this season and to that end it has paid off in providing good, skiable terrain for the majority of the season.

These two goof balls simply went LOOKING for the worst that they could find for a portion of the day and they didnt fool me…I KNEW that they also hit the good stuff that was available to ski and ride on Wednesday.

<Okay where’s Joe and Mark? (This is NOT them!)

We know at least one of them was behind the camera to snap this photo.  We’re betting on it being Mark, because Joe Harmon was probably out scouting for another challenging, thin coverage or bare spot to ride!

Sugar Mountain was open with plenty of snow and side-to-side coverage with little in the way of thin coverage on MOST of their terrain.  We really want to stress that because these characters are showing us the worst.  However THAT IS part of the point that I am trying to make when I say that good FUN is available at many of the ski areas from North Carolina up to Western Maryland.

Okay…let’s see where these two will take us next…

Mark?  Joe? Where are you guys?

I KNEW IT! Just as I suspected!  Joe Harmon is riding near the top of the mountain while Mark gets a birds-eye view of the – WAIT, I just made a joke.  Kind of.  You see, Joe’s board name is "The Bird". Oh, forget it! When you have to explain comedy it isn’t that funny.

If any of you guys want to see more, full sized photos of these and more pics from their day at Sugar Mountain, I have posted several of them and you can access them by clicking below:

Sugar Mountain Ski Resort Photos from January 9, 2008

<Oh jeez Mark! There really WAS some good terrain at Sugar Mountain on Wednesday people!

The moral of this story is that while this has not been a great ski season thus far at ANY of the ski areas of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic, there HAVE been some GREAT times to be enjoyed at all of them.

My mom has a term that many of our family have incorporated into all of our getaways and vacations together. The term is – "making memories" and you can make memories at the ski resort of your choice even when conditions aren’t the perfect, pristine, snow-covered, powder enhanced trip that we all dream of.

So take a lesson from Mark and Joe and make the best of whatever conditions you find. Okay don’t necessarily go looking for bare spots and rocky terrain like these guys as that might get you hurt and possibly even thrown off the mountain (especially if you are on closed terrain).  However take THE BEST of what these guys can teach all of us and that is that there IS a great time of memory making to be had anytime, anywhere.


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

For resort news, photos and videos from ALL of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic ski areas, visit  

See You On The Slopes!

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