by Joe Stevens
Hello everyone –
As I sit down, with another cup of Sunday morning coffee (thanks for making it strong Angie) to write this week’s column, I am reminded that today is when there will be millions upon millions of armchair coaches watching the Super Bowl game.
My annual pick will be at the end of this week’s thoughts if you make it that far.
In the theme of being an armchair coach, I think back to the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, when there was a number of second guessers on where this ski season was headed as it pertains to conditions and how long it was going to last.
I understand it was a time when the vast majority of the ski resorts in the southeast region had to suspend on slope operations, until temperatures dropped below the freezing mark.
The message boards were filled with questions on why more snow wasn’t made while the resorts had the chance when the snowguns could operate. I believe the pent-up demand (PUD) factor was taking over for most out there.
Now a days, there are number of skiers and snowboarders who wait either until the conditions are pristine or after the holiday season to make their first turns of the season. They don’t want to subject themselves (poor babies) to just a handful of trails available or the onslaught of holiday visitors to make those initial turns for the year. Heaven forbid they have to share their favorite trails with other skiers and snowboarders with the same thought process.
This season was the perfect storm for what I just described above to happen. There was adequate cold temperatures early on that allowed all of the mountain operation staffs to crank out enough snow to provide enough open acreage for the holiday crowd to enjoy. Would they have liked to have more open, of course, it doesn’t take you being Jean Claude Killy to grasp onto that concept. But you can only do so much with what is provided to you when it comes to dealing with Mother Nature.
I know for a fact, that a number of mountain managers who instead of laying down an adequate, but thin coat of snow on the slopes to get them open, they hammered a select number of trails with more than normal of manmade (gosh I love that term) snow, so that the base would hold up to the large crowds that visit every holiday period.
There were messages like, “why wasn’t this trail open” or “why should I pay just to do this or that trail, I want this trail open, and I want it open now.” For those keyboard warriors, I would love to see them in the operations planning room one time while snowmakers wait for the temperatures to drop so they can begin the process of making it fun for everyone. By the way, that includes all those armchair snowmakers out there that think that they know it better, hundreds of miles away from any resort.
Let me now remind everyone what happened right as the holiday crowds were leaving and the new year was starting, Mother Nature took a quick winter break. Temperatures climbed above freezing for about ten days or so and well I don’t care how much manmade snow you have out there, it’s going to melt in 60-degree January temperatures.
For you second guessers, freeze thaws occur every year. It’s part of the industry. Not a fun part, but something that is dealt with when it happens.
This brought out the “I told you so” comments on the message boards. Yea right, every operation manager out there knew the thaw was coming in early December and decided the snow they made was enough. For those kind type of message goers, get a grip because you just don’t get it when it comes to making manmade snow.
Then Mother Nature returned from her first of the year break and not only did the temperatures drop for snow making purposes, but the region also experienced one of the snowiest Januarys in recent memory. I loved to see the pictures that were posted of all the powder on the trails. Without a doubt there was plenty of fun to be had and guess what, it seems the armchair snowmakers out there took notice and finally headed to their favorite ski resort for some, are you ready for it, yes, “Product Evaluation.”
I am going to admit as much as my son and I tried to get to the slopes early or late December it just didn’t work out for us. I will also admit that it wasn’t because we were sitting back and waiting for more acreage to open, sometimes other things come up and have to be dealt with before play time. We also knew that the snowmakers were trying their best and we appreciate all of their efforts, every day they are on the hill.
Thanks to Winterplace Ski Resort’s high school ski club program, we have made it out onto the slopes, now a handful of times. You may ask why being involved in a school program is important? Well, when you are a 17-year-old pretty darn good skier and your father is a 65-year-old snowboarder, you want to make turns with friends, after a few warmup runs with your dad. Hey, I am just happy he wants to make those early turns with me. I will never get back the opportunity to do it, so his waiting for me at the top of the trail to strap in is appreciated.
One of my best friends in this business is Tom Wagner, Executive Vice President of Winterplace and recently during my “Product Evaluation” days, I made sure to let him know what I thought needed to be done to make the experience better. At least I wasn’t one of those keyboard warriors, I made my comments face to face. But what I forgot to tell him, how much I appreciated being on his hill to conduct some “Product Evaluation”. So let me use my trusty keyword to say, “Thanks Tom!”
Finally, Cincinnati 28 LA 23.
That’s it for this week, thanks for joining me for my weekly turns on the laptop. Just remember whether it be cold or whether it be warm, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather will be. Hope to see everybody on the slopes as the season rolls on for everyone.
Photo above is from 11:20am today at Winterplace Resort.