Ski Resort Grooming Crews Guarantee Awesome Slope Conditions

FeaturedFirst Trax

For a look at all of the specific slope openings and other details, check out the SNOW REPORT.

Today’s FirsTrax is about the most important people at each and every ski area for today. Owners, managers and marketing departments are all crucial to every ski resort, but for days like today, it is all about the grooming staffs at each resort.

Whether it is mentioned in the slope conditions at each resort or not, the conditions on every mountain is wet granular or wet packed today across the region as a bit of under-developed snow (rain) fell across the region beginning on Saturday and into last night and today.

I rarely talk about rainfall, however when I do I tend to receive random emails about how this or that resort saw no rain or only enough to dampen the ground. To (hopefully) avoid that today, I will share that I logged into weather stations positioned at or close to each and every ski area and the consensus is that about 0.20″ to 0.30″ (about a quarter to a third of an inch of rain) has fallen across most all of the region with the Virginia ski mountains seeing the least of the “under-developed snow” at around 0.06″ to 0.08″.

So the rainfall has been much lighter than most predicted, but I will say that the ground is very wet. Hats off to the resorts who are reporting “wet granular” or “variable” conditions. They’re all wet granular today.

COLD AIR AND SNOW IS IN THE FORECAST…AGAIN!

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Cold is headed back our way! Skies will be cloudy today with occasional rain. The rain will taper off and end tonight. Monday daytime will be relatively quiet and cooler, then much colder air arrives with snow showers and flurries for Monday night. Snow showers and flurries will taper off on Tuesday, leading to a clear and cold Tuesday night. We’re expecting 2-3″ of snow for portions of the High Country.

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February is to usher in another big change!

We are certain that Brad Panovich will provide us the most accurate skier’s forecast shortly, but one look ahead is showing lows next week in the low to mid teens and highs in the 20s at several locations and at least in the upper 20s for nearly every ski mountain…with some snow.

We’re also looking at a pattern change to begin February that will open the door for the chance for wintry precipitation at times. I’m looking at the Snowshoe Mountain forecast as I type this up…but we’re seeing lows in the teens and low-to-mid 20s beginning Tuesday of this week all the way through February 11th with snow mentioned eight times in that period. A look further south into Beech Mountain looks like close to the same temps…perhaps a degree or two ‘less cold’ but plenty cold for snowmaking and some mentions of natural snow.

So it looks like our awesome ski and snowboarding season continues!

…and that brings me to the main part of today’s BLOG….snow maintenance or snow farming here in the Southeast and mid-Atlantic.

Great minds think alike. I swear as I skied up at Beech Mountain on Friday the idea came to me that with this bit of rain and mild days…I needed to give more than a small shout-out to the groomers of the region. As I looked around for the snow reports this morning I see that our brothers and sisters at Wintergreen Resort in Virginia had the same idea. So I’ll say “KUDOS” to them and share something that they prepared this morning and then get into the people to thank at each ski area.

SNOW FARMING. WHAT IS IT?

Consider that without the ability to make snow, our ski resorts would only be able to open perhaps 20 days a season, if that. So SNOW is kind of a “cash crop” for every ski resort in the region. Winterplace Resort’s President, Terry Pfeiffer recently shared that they call snow “white gold”. Joe Stevens has long praised our snowmaking and snow maintenance crews as being the best in the entire country. They have to be. It is as simple as that. So Snow Farming? What is it?

Simply put, every resort has invested TENS of MILLIONS of dollars in the snowmaking plants over the years. Improvements in the mechanisms that drive the snowguns and fan guns is the first step. Miles of underground pipes deliver the ingredients of water and air from huge compressor stations strategically placed at each resort to pull the water needed from lakes and holding ponds, to reservoirs that are also stationed strategically as needed. Monster electricity bills fuel the mechanism.

Humans do the hard work…fighting the frigid temps, wind and snowmaking while walking the mountain. Click to enlarge.

Computers direct most everything in our lives these days and it is no different with snowmaking. Mountain Ops directors closely monitor the weather and in many cases computers signal the fan guns and snowmaking machines to kick in when the temperatures and wet-bulb temps allow. That is all great, but then there is a huge human element that goes to work – most often at about the same time skiers and snowboarders leave the slopes each evening.

Resorts close down around 10pm or so and typically just prior to that snowmakers (people, not the machines) start crawling the mountain on foot or via atvs, snowmobiles or all three. Most (I wish all) resorts then farm that snow all night. Some crawl into their groomers around 5am-6am or so and groom their mountains, while others drive all night. (You can tell the difference in the product when you ride it.)

Those hearty souls are out on their respective mountains when the weather is the toughest. Nightime winds can be howling and temperatures can drop into the -5° to -10° range (natural) with wind chills into the -30° to -40° range and those guys are on the mountain, moving guns and fan guns around to optimize the direction and flow of snow. For those of you who complain daily about “how bad the snowguns affected your day on the snow”…remember that those snowmakers (again the humans) are out there overnight being pummeled by those snowguns as they move things around.

Whales of snow at Winterplace…ready to be farmed. Click to Enlarge.

Whales of snow are created when the temperatures are optimal like they were a few weeks ago and then those talented grooming crews go to work. I will repeat that some resorts are not quite as “financially resourced” as others, but they all send their arsenal of snow groomers out to the slopes. I have been fortunate enough to visit most every ski resort in the region and it is impressive to see some of our mountains out early and all-night and all morning, grooming corduroy perfection across their respective mountains.

Like everything else in life, some are better at it than others, but in the end, every ski area in our region does a REALLY, REALLY nice job of cultivating, farming or grooming their mountains. Like most skiers and snowboarders, I love a little powder with my ski day. As I get a little older (don’t laugh, we all do) I will say that my favorite surface is a fresh 2-3″ of snow that blankets perfectly groomed slopes just below the surface. There’s nothing like it for me.

Snowshoe’s Groomed Corduroy from Friday. Click to Enlarge!

If there isn’t any powder available…then give me that corduroy perfection. Every ski resort in our region gets it nearly perfect a lot of the time and some get it perfect all of the time. Regardless, we all have a lot of people to thank for that effort. For the most part, it is a thankless job as most skiers and snowboarders just take it for granted that we’re meant to ride groomed snow. I will tell you without those grooming efforts, you probably would not like the inconsistent, heavy corn to refrigerator ice to mounds of loose snow to chunky spots of “death cookies”.

So snow farming is essential at every ski resort.

As mentioned early, kudos to Betsy Dunkerton and their crew at Wintergreen Resort for posting this “sneak peak” at Snow Farming. Betsy, aliens must have come in and snatched your brain out and inserted it into me as this is a well timed “great minds think alike” moment!

Here’s Wintergreen’s offering…

Again hats off to them and all of our snowmaking and snow farming crews. Betsy also shared some additional, impressive information. Their snowmaking system is called “SNOWPOWER” and it consists of over 400 snowguns, 45 weather stations, and they can cover a football field with 37 feet of snow in just 24 hours. She stated, “But SNOWPOWER doesn’t run on its own. SNOWPOWER only works because of our Snowfarmers.”

Wintergreen is compiling a more, in-depth video that we will share once they provide that.

Closing Notables…

SkiSoutheast.com is still compiling a ton of video that we took at Beech on Saturday. Unfortunately things came up on Saturday that had me working my “real job” so fun stuff had to take a back seat. We’ll share what is timely and appropriate a bit later – hopefully today.

Snowshoe reported, “Happy Sunday from 4,848ft! We may have a round or two of “under-developed snow” today but ski conditions will be awesome anyway. Today looks to be the last day of this little mild stretch, with plenty of cold temperatures and natural snow in the forecast for this week. Timberjack and Mountaineer are open at Silver Creek as ski trails without park features. Widowmaker will be delayed until around 11AM for ski team practice.”

They remain 100% open with 60 trails.

Omni Homestead reported, “Our Rental shop is open today from – 8:30 am – 5:00 pm
Lift access is from – 9:00 am – 4:30 pm

Tubing is open with sessions at 10:00 am, 11:00 am, 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm, and 3:00 pm
Mountain Lodge Skating Rink 10:00 am-9:00 pm
Mini Snowmobiles are open 10:00 am – 12:00 pm, 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Omni promotes the upcoming President’s Weekend:

RANDOM WEATHER INSERT! What Global Warming?!?!

As I was researching the rainfall from around the region, I came upon this nugget from over at Ober Gatlinburg. This one is for all of you Global Warming peeps. Want to know what real warming looks like? How about back in 1876, the high temperature for today was 74°! Fast forward to 1940 the low was -3°.

We Want More Virginia News…

I receive emails about once a week from fans of the Virginia ski resorts asking us why we don’t feature more videos or photos from those ski areas. For nearly 22 years we’ve operated on an “information IN, is information OUT” basis. We ask for input and thankfully we hear from avid Massanutten skier, MeiMei who shares content with us. We DO post videos via our “Featured Videos” section of this website and we post imagery when we get it.

A few times when we’ve posted the news shared with us it is most like “Come and enjoy ‘coffee night’ in the dining area” we get emails complaining about that.

But lets see what we can share today….

Massanutten posted this 24 hours ago:

Yes, their featured photo of the day is of their impressive waterpark. Click to Enlarge as it IS IMPRESSIVE!

Guests asked if they were expanding their POOL AREA. Massanutten responded with, “Not in the near future as we have focused our efforts on the waterline for more snowmaking, a new learning center, zip lines, mountain bike park, escape room, new dining facilities, parks, and condo and hotel renovations.”

This is a most recent post other than the President’s Day Promo. Click to Enlarge as it is pretty!

Omni Homestead Resort most recently posted a GORGEOUS wedding video from this past week. Their previous post (last week) was “Hot Springs, Horse Country, and Historic Hotels: Virginia’s Countryside Has It All” which was an article that appeared in Vogue Magazine.

Wintergreen Resort’s most recent post was the “Snowfarming Video” – good on them. Awesome. They also do a great job of showing off their sunrises…

Speaking of Awesome Grooming…here’s Wintergreen from Friday! Click to Enlarge!

Nice view from up at Bryce Resort. Click to Enlarge!

Bryce Resort posted, “Your weekend just got a whole lot better 👐 #freshsnow #TGIF #thankasnowmaker”

For you Virginia Lovers….please…send me yours. I think we do THE BEST job of showing what we can get our hands on.

Continued West Virginia Love…

All resorts not named Timberline in the state of West Virginia simply do the best job of providing content that keeps you guys and gals excited.

Canaan Valley’s Justin Harris has been awesome this season. I just wish we could get them posting on Youtube. However, your’s truly hits them up on Facebook and I pull that content over to YouTube so that you non-social media types get to see his great work. Here’s his latest posted Saturday:

Check out our Daily Mountain Report, coming at you from the Ramble Race Course on a very busy Saturday. Conditions are great, the sun is shining, and our guests are smiling. Come join the fun! #canaanvalley #skithetrees #SNOW #snowcountry #skiWV #almostheaven #defygravity #wvstateparks #letsshred #gettuckered

(Love that #GetTuckered which is a reference to Tucker County.)

Winterplace’s Andrew Odell shares this:

 

Snowshoe Mountain is ALWAYS Promoting Something!

 

No updates from Timberline since December 22nd…

Cataloochee Ski Area RARELY posts anything to their website or sharable content, but here’s one from yesterday promoting NASTAR RACING. Cool. However they ended up cancelling that for today but will pick things back up next weekend.

Ober Rocks…

Ober Rocks was a huge success! We had a blast and we hope everyone enjoyed it as much as we did!

A shot from the concert at Ober this weekend! Click to Enlarge!

Wisp Resort JUST SHARED THIS 19 minutes ago:

#SubaruWinterFest day two is underway, be sure to stop by for some goodies and learn about all things good with Subaru of America, Inc.

Wisp Resort from Saturday. Click to Enlarge!

Wolf Ridge Resort got in on the “thanking our snow groomers act” with this post on Thursday.

Not the greatest photo work, but the sentiment is there.

Does any other website share the experience that IS southern skiing and snowboarding like we do? I didn’t think so.

If you have anything to share (photos, videos, comments, questions), the best way is to email me at [email protected]

Also, be sure to join us on Instagram and Facebook and share your comments. Also, we invite you to check out our SnoForum (Messageboard) and JOIN FOR FREE and post your questions and meet fellow snow-loving friends.

Also, be sure to check out all of the LIVE CAMS at www.ResortCams.com and our weather content

https://www.skisoutheast.com/category/news/weather/ – Brad’s Skier’s Forecast

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