Snow News is Good News

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By Joe Stevens

Hello Everyone –

Before I get to the main topic of this week’s column, I would like to give another huge shootout to all the mountain operation teams throughout the southeast region.

If you would’ve asked me two weeks ago about the amount of terrain that would be open for the all-important holiday period, I would’ve have given a pessimistic honest answer of just enough to get through.

Boy was I ever delightfully wrong about that assumption. Every time I turn around there are more trails opening on a daily basis at just about every ski resort in the region. That means that there is a considerable amount of terrain available for skiing and snowboarding for everyone heading to their favorite slopes during the holiday period.

Lifts are spinning, tubing hills are opening, and terrain parks are rocking. I am here to say that this is not only making resort management smile but with more terrain available, there is more teaching terrain and patrollers aren’t having to act like traffic cops on the slopes.

Mother Nature can be fickle sometimes, but when she sees fit to provide snowmaking conditions, on top of some nice natural fluff, well, all the snowmakers do what they do best and that’s make tons upon tons of snow on slopes and trails throughout the region.

Like I mentioned in last week’s column, a large number of visitors to the resorts are seeing snow for the first time ever and that’s exactly what they are getting to see, thankfully right now, plenty of snow on the trails. In other words, it’s all downhill from here, yes pun intended.

Now let’s dive into this week’s main column topic and that’s the clearing of roads that lead you to your favorite resort.

When it comes to clearing roads, it really doesn’t matter if you are in North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee or Maryland, pushing snow is about making sure that it is safe to travel, heading to or from your favorite resort in the southeast.

Recently I got a chance to talk to one of the many highway officials in the region that stays on top of keeping the roads passable during an active weather period, Jeff Miller, Executive Director of the West Virginia Parkways Authority.

There have already been a couple of occasions this season when the slow plows were on the roads, making everything safe. However, Miller let me know, there was prior planning that went into pushing the first snow of the season off the roads, “Yea, we had mild weather last year and it’s not like we forgot how to do our mission. Weeks before the first flake hits the ground, we are out there with the trucks conducting dry runs, making sure the trucks are all tuned up, salt binds are full, just trying to get ahead of game, so to speak.”

I am here to say, I have traveled during active weather periods and with it snowing, there is not a better sight on the roadway when I am traveling than your friendly snow plow, making it that much safer.

One thing that is different than a few years ago is all of the highway departments out trying to get ahead of a forecasted weather event. It’s not unusual to see state highway trucks in position at key points along the roads, especially the interstates waiting for conditions to change.

Throughout the southeast region, one thing that is a challenge to the highway departments is the change in elevation, as it could be raining in one sector, while the snow is dumping where the elevation is at a peak.

Miller describes his challenge in West Virginia, “Take for example, Winterplace Resort in southern portion of the state, we could have six to eight inches of snow falling, which definitely has our driver’s attention, while a few thousand feet lower in Charleston it maybe freezing rain, so in just 75 miles our plans are totally different. It can really be crazy sometimes, that’s why we are always talking to each other.”

Yes, it’s the job and responsibility of the snowplow drivers to make sure the roads are passable, but Miller made it clear it goes beyond just being a job, “The key piece in the snow removal operation is really the pride our crews take in the work that they do when they are out there on the roads at all hours of the day. They understand how important it is to provide a safe passage for the families that may be out there traveling to their favorite resort.”

When traveling to your favorite resort in the region, there is something you can do to help the snow removal process and Miller reminds everyone the way to help is right in front of you, “Safety is the key out there always. We do ask when you see the snowplows out there and on many occasions they are running in tandems, which means you may see two or three of them running at the same exact time. Please stay back and do not try to pass those snowplows. Safety is critically important for everyone out on the roads. An opportunity may present itself when it is safe to pass, but patience is key during an active weather event on the highways, and we want everyone to have a safe traveling experience.”

All the state highway departments in the region have apps that travelers can use to find out ahead of time, if a road is being plowed and treated, or if it is being advised maybe to wait until the storm passes through to get out on the roads. All you must do is Google your state highway department and the information will be right at your fingertips.

One final thought this week, from our family to yours, Merry Christmas everyone.

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 is now open, so go make some turns and let gravity be your friend.

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