Pretty Good Conditions at the North Carolina Ski Areas; Beech Shows Some Thin Coverage

First Trax

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A good friend of mine, Len Bauer is Sugar Mountain’s Director of Skiing and Snowboarding. That’s a cool title isn’t it? He’s in his 17th year at the helm of Sugar’s Ski and Snowboard School and he’s been teaching at Sugar for 23 years. He dropped by the house on Tuesday afternoon and I was showing him the video we shot from up at Ski Beech this past Saturday – showcasing some of the area’s ski and snowboard racing talent. His daughter, Dakota Bauer had the fastest time for the ladies on Saturday and another Dakota (Dakota Thompson) was the fastest men’s time! Both Dakotas ski for Sugar Mountain’s Race Team. Congrats to both Dakotas!

Len and I also talked about how great Sugar looks right now – right in the midst of this strong, mild spell and he told me that back during the last cold outbreak that Gunther had made a ton of snow and had a few stockpiles of snow in areas that was close to twenty feet! That is crazy! He also said that Gunther, Joe White and Sugar’s snow groomers had taken to grooming after 10pm lately so that once they finished up, it would give the snow a chance to setup overnight – making for a firmer start to the day. Very cool Sugar. Very cool.

Sugar looks REALLY, REALLY quite nice this morning – glancing at the live cam. We zoomed in from across the street and conditions look awefully inviting this morning and that is a credit to some strong snowmaking during the previous few weeks, to Sugar’s very good snowmaking plant, and to some good maintenance crews.

Ditto Appalachian Ski Mountain and Cataloochee’s management and system. Wolf Ridge looks pretty decent although they are showing a bit more wear and tear than those mentioned. The sides of the mountain are "creeping in" pretty good and they have a few thin coverage areas here and there. All in all they are in good shape and they will weather this mild stretch in pretty good shape. 

 <A look at Ski Beech this morning down where Upper Shawneehaw meets Lower Shawneehaw

Unfortunately Ski Beech is looking the worst of the bunch right now. While Appalachian, Cataloochee, Sugar and Wolf Ridge all get "8’s to 10’s" on our Base Scale right now, we’re grading Beech’s out to a "7". You can check the SLOPE REPORT page for how we grade all surfaces, but a "7" is good terrain, good coverage, but definately some thin coverage areas and more than a few bare spots. We watched live as Beech was grooming Upper Shawneehaw this morning and they will no doubt make things better for the first half day or so. Beech still looks pretty good, but they need the snowmaking temps to return a bit moreso than the others.  For those that are quick to jump on Beech, let’s give them a break because remember that they just got the 3rd pump into play up there and they didn’t have that in the system during most of the colder stretch of weather.  Once we get back to some snowmaking temps, they should be able to blast their way into really good shape in a day or two.

I was up with Fred Barth of Beech Alpen Inn on Beech Mountain on Tuesday and he was passing on the talk that everyone was thinking that Beech might get some chances to make snow tonight or early on Thursday morning. As we reported yesterday, that is pretty sketchy right now and we’re thinking that they are just going to miss that short "window of opportunity". It now appears that maybe Saturday night will be the first opportunity for Beech and Sugar to make snow. There’s an outside shot at it Thursday night, but it looks doubtful.

According to Meteorologist Matthew East, ALL of the ski areas should get back to the business of snowmaking on Sunday evening as temperatures are forecasted to get back to more winter-like numbers. Lows Sunday night should be in the mid 20s to 27°. After a mild week this week – winter is forecasted to return next week and we’re seeing highs in the 30s and lows in the 20s Monday and Tuesday. All of the talk right now is about the next SNOW SYSTEM that looks to be taking shape bringing some very good chances of snow to the North Carolina Mountains by mid week next week.

So what we have right now in the way of base and slope conditions, is what all of the ski areas are going to have to be able to provide a good product for the combined Valentine’s Day / President’s Weekend coming up this weekend. We’ve had some GREAT Holiday conditions thus far this season and this one looks pretty decent. We have some crazy weather today with some rain this evening (maybe even a thunderstorm or two) and some winds that may pop in the 60+ mph range!

Thursday and Friday looks nice, but there’s a little chance of some rain on Saturday morning. That should be shortlived and then from mid-day Saturday through Sunday looks nice. It won’t be a pristine weekend of conditions, but things will actually be pretty doggone nice at Appalachian, Cataloochee and Sugar Mountain. If you’re headed to Wolf Ridge, things are going to be okay, with plenty of snow and lots of skiable terrain with a thin and bare area here and there. If you’re headed to Ski Beech, keep your plans in tact. There’s plenty of skiable terrain. Most of Upper and Lower Shawneehaw looks fine; the base of the mountain is in good shape; Robbins Run and White Lightning look pretty good, and while there are some widespread bare areas and thinning coverage…you don’t ski those anyway. Go have fun.

Hawksnest and Sapphire Valley are closed til Friday.

OVER THE LAST FOUR DAYS – Base Reports and Grades:

Appalachian – Current base: 84"- 109" – Lost 11" of base – Rated a 10

Cataloochee – Current base: 37" – 91" – Lost 11" of base – Rated a 9

Ski Beech – Current base: 40" – 70" – Lost 5" of base – Rated a 7

Ski Beech isn’t reporting thin coverage or bare areas on their report, but they are there today and they have closed one trail that was open on Tuesday. We can’t tell from their trail map which one that was. We’re speculating "Upper Southern Star" because it was looking pretty thin.

Sugar Mountain – Current base: 44"-80" – Lost 17" of base – Rated an 8 to 9

Late in the day you’ll find some thin areas at trail merges and high traffic areas, but Sugar still looks really quite nice.

Wolf Ridge Resort – Current base: 52 – 72" – Lost 6" of base – Rated an 8

As you see above, all of the resorts are in good shape for the most part with Appalachian being the "pick of the day" for base and conditions. The rest are in pretty good shape, with only a few thin areas beginning to show at Wolf and less so at Sugar. Beech is decent but showing some wear.

As you can also tell from compiling reports of base depths from the last four days, SUGAR is reporting the MOST LOSS OF SNOW (17" of base in the last four days) but they still have a very good base across most all of their terrain with only a thin place here or there. Ski Beech is reporting the LEAST LOSS OF SNOW (only reporting a 5" drop) and yet they are in the worst shape of the resorts right now. (Again, decent shape, but the most bare areas, etc.) We actually had some of our staff riding at Beech last night and they reported that skiing down Robbins Run and over to the bottom of Southern Star was quite nice. Both of those trails looks really good right now.

Appalachian and Cataloochee are both reporting a four day drop in base of 11" and both are in very nice shape today.

You guys can take what you want from this four day base report, but we’re giving the highest reporting grade to Sugar Mountain as they have done a great job of self reporting over the last couple of years.

Go enjoy your day on the slopes today, as things will begin getting windy and wet as this frontal boundary of weather makes it into the area later this evening.

There’s some snow in the forecast further north for Thursday. You’ll want to cruise over to  to see the report for all of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic ski areas.

Send your comments, photos, videos and trip reports to: [email protected]

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