is Inaccurate and we’ve Gone Soft.

First Trax

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Okay, we’ve seen more than 82,000 unique visitors on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and you guys have looked at 1.5 MILLION pages in those three days! That’s a lot of cameras, weather stations and ski resort pages! So I guess it really isn’t all that bad to receive a dozen or so complaint emails from over the weekend. My calulator tells me that’s a 99.99983% approval rate…or at least 99.99983% of you didn’t write to complain 😉

Those inordinately high (14) complaint emails that we received this past weekend were complaining about the ski areas – to us. Three also claimed that we’ve "SOLD OUT" to the almighty dollar and the ski resorts.

Would you guys quit talking junk! 😉

First of all – IT IS SNOWING – STILL! We can’t help it if YOUR local weather guy isn’t telling you like it is. I’ve had several emails this morning from people spouting all sorts of lunacy…

It’s funny, this is our 15th season doing this website and it seems that some people never learn. We educmacate and we edumacate (mispelled on purpose and for whatever pun and effect you want to give it) and I guess we’ll always have to.

Case in point – a M-U-L-T-I-T-U-D-E of emails (okay only 14 complaints in 763 emails) were in my skiMail INBOX from many of you complaining about the fact that the ski areas were making snow on Sunday while you were on it.


I don’t know where the heck that term comes from but one of you readers will edumacate me later I’d bet. Anyway – here comes the cat.

You guys are going to need us more than ever later in this season if the long range forecasters from around the region are accurate in their forecasts for the 2010-2011 season. Why, you ask?

Not so fast – chill for a second and read on…

We’re BARELY into December and BARELY into the ski season and SOME ski areas have BARELY been able to make snow thus far. Ask Ober Gatlinburg, Sapphire and some of the Virginia ski areas if they could have used a few more nights of snowmaking temps so far. Again – it is ONLY December 6th and even in the case of Cataloochee, Sugar and Snowshoe who began early and have made snow at every opportunity – even THEY would have liked more snowmaking temp days thus far.

However, here we are on December 6th and here are some reported base depths:

Appalachian Ski Mountain – 47-71"
Beech Mountain Ski Resort – 20-40"
Cataloochee Ski Area – 18-80"
Sugar Mountain – 26-56"
Wisp Resort – 20+ "

(Kudos to Wisp’s single number reporting. I like a single number because we all know there isn’t 70-80" all over the mountains of the region – BUT they aren’t saying that and that’s for another story on another day.)

The WV and Virginia ski areas aren’t reporting bases yet ’cause they aren’t open yet. However when all the resorts are open later in the week, look at the base numbers and know this…THOSE BASES NEED TO GROW AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.

Go ahead and ask "why" again…I dare you.

Here comes the cat…

Because if you believe or have ANY faith in the long-range forecasts from nearly every single reliable weather guru in the region – our ski areas of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic are going to need those bases come January when they expect things to be "more challenging".

Joe Stevens posted his first column of the season on Sunday and he interviewed four trusted meteorologists. They all agree with what Joe Bastardi, the National Weather Service, NOAA and even The Farmer’s Almanac all forecasted back in October and November. Even the most "glass half full", snow loving weather gurus such as our man Brad Panovich are in agreement that things will be "more challenging" in terms of snowmaking opportunities once we get into January.

By the way – nearly all of these same weather people forecasted a "Fast start" December with lots of snow. (Look out the window if you’re located in the mountains!)

Some forecasters are predicting that we MAY see near record conditions for the all-important Christmas to New Year’s Holiday period. That’s GREAT NEWS to all ski resort marketing and accounting departments. It is equally great news if you’ve plunked down a few thousand dollars for lodging, lift tickets and packages for a Christmas getaway. By all accounts it should be a good one!

However, most weather professionals are already talking about less cold and snow in January. Some like Herb Stevens (no relation to our man Joe) who goes "The Skiing Weatherman" are forecasting very challenging times for some of the Southeast’s ski areas to be able to make and keep snow on the slopes.


If we indeed see these challenging periods where there’s less cold and fewer snowmaking opportunities…you’re going to need us more than ever to "keep the reporting real".

Since Sunday morning we’ve SEVERAL emails and there are some Trip Reports posted on the messageboard related to these we received:

John D of Charlotte posted, "I thought Beech was great on Sunday. There was lots of really deep snow on the sides of Shawnee(haw) but why the heck would they be making snow?!?! That sucks! Everyone I ran into were all complaining about it. You couldn’t see a damn thing. With a foot of natural pow, you’d think they care about the skier and shut the damn things down."

You could ditto that email for Sugar, Cat and Wolf. I know because we got them for all of them. Here’s another:

Jim R from Atlanta wrote, "Sugar sucked on Sunday! Well let me say that the snow was great, the slopes were great, just they shouldn’t have been making snow everywhere! You could not see your hand in front of your face at times because they were relentlessly make so much snow. Tell them to turn them off sometimes."

Okay, now THAT’S funny. If you’ve been following this website long at all you’d know that we can’t tell ANY resort what to do, but I’d love to see some faces if we tried to do so at Sugar! Funny stuff there! By the way Jim, why were you trying to ride with your hand in your face? That kind of cuts down on your range of sight doesn’t it?

I know. I know.

Here’s where the edumacation stuff kicks in. Let’s fast forward the calendar about 45 days. We’re now in the Twilight Zone and it is January 15th or so. We can hope that these weather peeps are wrong and that the conditions will continue snowier than the peaks of Mount Everest, but what if they’re correct and January is mild. Some of you very same people will be wondering "why didn’t Sugar, Beech, etc make snow when they could have?"

Ski area management people HAVE to plan ahead. They cannot count on perfect snowmaking temps all of the time. Look back to early November when Sugar and Cataloochee only had a day and a half of snowmaking ops. They opened, but then Sugar had to close up after about a week and change of skiing and riding. Only ten days ago there was NO SNOW on the ground up at Sugar. It had all but disappeared.

The GREAT thing is – as we have documented around here for years – there are NO BETTER snowmakers in the United States than we have in the Southeast and Mid Atlantic. That is NOT an exaggeration. They HAVE to be and they are!

Some of the snowmakers within our region have been at their respective resorts for more than 25-30 years. They could make snow with a blender and about 36° of temperature. These people can perform near magic! Give them some of the best technology known to snowmaking and they work mere miracles. That’s a story for another day, but some of the ski areas of the Southeast hosts some of the best snowmaking plants around…anywhere. All of the ski resorts invest vasts portions of their capital improvement budgets on snowmaking system additions and improvements.

So when those guns, fans and towers are blasting snow – just chill. Put on your goggles. If you don’t have a good set, they are worth investing a few extra bucks in a good pair. Buy yourself a nice balaclava. Some of these great ski masks might set you back all of maybe $25. They’re worth it. You might have to wipe your goggles more on some of the heavier snowmaking days, but you’ll have a great time no matter what is happening around you.


More than a few times recently, we’ve received some emails claiming that we’ve gone soft on the ski resorts. Case in point:

Margie S from Washington, D.C. wrote, "I used to count on you to really take it to the ski resorts when they misreported base conditions and other false information. Not anymore. You guys seem more of a promotion FOR the ski resorts than you provide good, accurate information anymore. Why the change? Was it the money?"

Man I wish it WAS the money! Come to think of it, if all of the ski areas were really smart they’d be paying us lots of bucks so that they could threaten to take away our funding if we didn’t report precisely what they asked us to.

If you guys want to see what a lot of money gets the ski resorts check out:

The 17 member ski resorts of the region pay A LOT OF MONEY ($30,000 or more per year) for that sweet website. At it’s peak traffic last December it pulled a "massive" 375 visitors for the entire month! Those were no doubt the ski areas posting their own snow reports – which is the reason the website never has accurate information. For example, as of right this second, they show:

Sapphire with a base of 10-12" and open for night skiing. They don’t open until December 17th…hopefully!

Canaan Valley shows 39 trails open. They don’t open for the season til later in the week.

Timberline is showing a 3-68" base and 37 trails open. They’ve yet to open for the season either.

I know there’s some angry industry people upset at spending $30,000 or so a year for a few hundred unique visitors.

So I think you’ll find our AMAZINGLY accurate compared to ANY other reporting service out there. We’ll put our reporting up against any national website and certainly against anything else in the region – whether independent or associational.

As per "going soft" – I don’t think so. While MOST of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic ski resort owners, managers and marketing people love us – some only like us – some only "tolerate" us, and at least one wishes that we’d drop dead…literally. I’m really working out hard and eating better so as not to let that happen…thank you very much.


In the time that it has taken me to respond to these emails, write this story, take a few phone calls and balance our company checking account – it has been PUKING SNOW. All day.

Shouldn’t you people be in a better mood!?!?! I know I’m loving life today. I can’t imagine what kind of trash I might have written if it was 80° out today. You guys need to be careful!

Until next time…


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