Story by Joe Stevens
Hello Everyone –
As I sit down and start striking the keys on my computer, I sit back to reflect on the fact that this will be the 17th year of writing my column “Snow News Is Good News” column for SkiSoutheast.com. During that period of time, I have had not only the pleasure of sharing hundreds of thousands of words with you, but also being part of the most active ski industry website.
Let’s start off this year by recapping last season and I can do so in three words, “challenging and pivot”. Due to the pandemic, every winter sports lover was challenged to enjoy the ski season safely, while every ski resort operator learned to pivot with every inside curve ball tossed at them during the season. But in the end, we all made it, with a number of ski areas in the southeast reporting record visitation. The Pent Up Demand factor was strong, as lots of folks just wanted to get out of their cities and head to the mountains.
One thing we saw last season that we probably will be seeing again this year is some resorts that “managed” on-slope capacity. In other words, controlling the number of lift tickets sold to skiers and snowboarders on expected busy days. Some resorts performed that operation last season, while others didn’t go that route. The resorts that did heard back from their visitors that they appreciated the less crowded conditions on the slopes.
I have already heard from some resorts in the region that the control capacity operation will again happen this season. Along with the control capacity scenario, advanced or presale of lift tickets through the internet will be taking place. Just thought you might want to know as you make your plans to play on the slopes during the 2021-2022 season.
It never ceases to amaze me what pushes people to comment or take notice of a post on social media. Full disclosure here, I handle the content on the West Virginia Ski Areas Association’s Facebook page, through my position as the association’s Executive Director. So, to tell you the truth I wasn’t totally surprised by the reaction to a picture of snowmaking taking place at Snowshoe Mountain in early October.
The post got hammered with likes, loves and wows and was shared by many followers of the page. This was a prime example of it’s all about the snow. That’s all it takes to get every skier and snowboarder out there to get excited about an upcoming season. Some folks want to make this industry out to be so difficult, but as those who have been doing this for decades know, it’s all about the snow that is below your skis or snowboards. It’s not rocket science, is it?
It also never ceases to amaze me when I see forecasts, many months out of an upcoming season and how people hang their skis and snowboards on those advanced forecasts. Seriously, I have had very smart meteorologists tell me for the most part, what we are seeing months out are just educated guesses. It’s just like forecasting the winner of a World Series during spring training. A lot of things can change between now and then. Just think how many times during the middle of the week have you decided to put off going on a ski trip because the weather forecast at the time indicated “underdeveloped snow” and when the time came that you wanted to go, it actually snowed, and you were left sitting home.
If there is anything I have learned in my 37-years associated with this industry is that things, especially weather can change on a dime, and you just have to ready. By the way, I also realize there are times when snow was in the forecast from the days you are planning to be on the slopes and yes, it rains. This situation, without a doubt, goes both ways.
Looking ahead a bit, may I suggest that you pull those skis and snowboards out of the corner in your garage and get them ready for the upcoming season. You don’t want to get caught waiting to the last minute and be told at your favorite local ski shop that they are backed up and can’t get to your equipment for a couple of weeks. This would be good if snowmaking conditions were in place and your favorite resort was about to open. It’s always nice to have freshly tuned equipment to make those first turns of the season.
While we are looking ahead, I am recommending that everyone check with their favorite resort again this year for guidance on what is expected of visitors to the resort as the pandemic continues to create to challenges as I mentioned earlier. Just like last season, all of the resorts will be posting again any safety requirements expected from each and every visitor to the resort. I am here to say, no two resorts are going to be the same when it comes what will be expected of visitors. You don’t want to be surprised upon arrival and you are not prepared. That would as they say, make for a bad day.
Many times, last season during a couple of my visits to ski areas, I watched resort employees be unfairly treated by guests, who didn’t want to comply with certain guidelines and took it out on the employees. This season please remember that they are only doing what they were directed to by their superiors. In other words, they were only doing their jobs. Step back, take a breath and move forward. We are in this together.
That’s it for this week and first column of the season. As always, thanks for joining me for my weekly thought process. Just remember whether it be cold or whether it be warm, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather will be. This season is going to be a fun one if we all play fair in the sandbox. I look forward to seeing you on the slopes.
Feel free to email Joe at: [email protected]