Snow, SNOWMAKING, and COLD TEMPS – that’s the top story for today.

First Trax

Resorts opening for today and this weekend as well. We cover that and more today.

On Thursday morning’s Firstrax update I pretty much stated the forecast according to the NWS and others. Then I saw the Brad Panovich was over on the messageboard (he’s WXBRAD) posting maps and updates for the ski and snow enthusiasts in all of us.


While talking about the messageboard, there are 117 people over there posting LIVE right now. That is a great place to communicate with fellow ski and snow lovers. Visit and JOIN the messageboard! It’s FREE, it’s fun and you’ll learn a lot – Ski Forum and Messageboard

(Back to our regularly scheduled update!)

The buzz was already building about the approaching weather. The National Weather Service was moving closer to Brad’s earlier forecast for a 2-4" kind of snowfall. (Brad was the first to say that we’d get 2-4" of snow out of this system.) Other messageboard members were apologizing for doubting good old Brad. Still others were posting their own interpretations of the systems and models. At that time, Dr. Ray’s Russell’s website was down so we couldn’t get his take on things. As of this morning Ray is agreeing that this snow event should produce 1-4".

My SkiMail INBOX was flooded with "why aren’t you talking about the big snow coming in?" type emails. One reason was that this won’t be a "big snow event" and the other reason was more of a superstitious reason. Frankly I didn’t want to jinx Brad’s forecast and our chances at snow. That sentiment was echoed by several ski area peeps that I spoke with. One young lady in Virginia told me, "You know Mike I WANT to believe that we’re going to get 2-4" of snow but lately everytime I get my hopes up we don’t get it lately." (After she shared that bit of depression, she asked that I not share who said it.) Just so that she and the rest of you guys know – she isn’t the only one whose been thinking along those lines!


There’s a lot of excitement about the approaching storm around the Southeast and Mid Atlantic says Meteorologist Brad Panovich. Brad says this particular storm won’t be one that dumps over six inches across the region, but according to Panovich it should bring up to 4" of natural snow in the mountains and higher elevations around our ski mountains.

Even MORE important to the ski area operators – it will be PLENTY COLD enough to make snow and we saw that begin in earnest on Thursday afternoon as first Sugar Mountain started and then many others followed suit. We saw snowmaking going on at Beech, Cataloochee and others.

To set the stage for God’s own snowmaking system we had to get the cold air in here and that began filtering in on Thursday evening as we saw snow flurries for a good bit of Thursday evening and the ground was white when I left out this morning. The second player in this storm system is a low pressure system that is coming up from the South throwing moisture up and over that cold air. (Told you, God knows how to make snow!)

Initially today we should see snow developing on this northwesterly flow and it should really pick up in intensity early Saturday morning with the bulk of the snow arriving around 4am or so Saturday morning. That won’t stick around long but after the snow moves out the really cold air will come in behind it and that should make for around-the-clock snowmaking temps for the ski areas.

Panovich says if this was a slower moving system we could easily see 6-8" of snow, but due to the speed of this particular system he expects a quick burst of heavy snow and that should bring 3-4" across much of the area.

The natural snow is great for creating fever, but the ski resort management teams are a LOT more excited about the snowmaking opportunities ahead. In checking the long range forecast we’re seeing lots of great ops for snowmaking with perhaps around the clock snowmaking at some locations on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. As we move into the first of next week things look plenty cold enough for snowmaking Monday night (maybe all day in a couple of locations) and then again Tuesday and Thursday nights of next week.

Those kinds of temperatures are what ski area staffers have been looking for to allow their talented snowmaking teams to go to work with some consistency that will really begin building base depths to move them into the meat of this ski and snowboarding season as we head towards the all-important Christmas Holidays.


Let’s cover the OPEN ski areas first and then give you the details on the rest.

28° – Sugar Mountain – They were the first to crank the guns up again on Thursday and they are reporting 2 slopes open and the one lift again today. They are blasting snow right now and the word is that Sugar plans to be open to the top on Saturday or Sunday. They do have some thin cover at the base area but look remarkably well compared to Thursday!

30° – Cataloochee Ski Area – Their camera is so fogged over we can’t see what’s happening this AM, but they are making snow and planning to be open at 1pm today ski through 10pm. Tammy Brown writes, "On Friday, we will offer two sessions of skiing, twilight skiing from 1pm until 10pm and night skiing from 6pm until 10pm with an afternoon half day rate also available. Don’t forget that midweek season passes will be valid everyday through Friday, December 18."

Also, don’t forget to save your cans and coats for Cataloochee’s 8th annual Can- U-Ski Food and Coat Drive on Sunday, December 6. In conjunction with Haywood Christian Ministries, Cataloochee Ski Area seeks to help with the increase need for food and warm winter coats for special families. We ask all Cataloochee skiers and snowboarders to bring at least 10 cans of food or a winter jacket of any size that is in good condition to the ski area on Sunday, December 6th and you will receive your lift ticket on that Sunday from 8:30am-4:30pm for FREE! It’s a $53 value.

GO HELP THE LESS FORTUNATE! That’s what Christmas is all about – giving. Go give a gift and receive one back from the Chris Bates and the staff at Cataloochee!

Next, the resorts to OPEN on Saturday!

27° – Snowshoe Mountain – They made and are making snow in preparation of their Saturday morning opening. They picked up a trace to one-half inch of new, natural snow and more snow is on the way as well. They are reporting an 8" average base depth and plan to have a lot open for Saturday’s opening day. You could almost hear Laura’s excitement as she writes, "TOMORROW IS OPENING DAY! Snowshoe will drop the ropes on the 2009.2010 season tomorrow morning at 9am. The annual rope drop ceremony will take place atop Heisler’s Way, just outside the Shavers Centre. Current plans call for 7 slopes and 3 lifts open between the Snowshoe basin and Silver Creek areas. Silver Creek will be open for night skiing Saturday night until 9pm. With Mother Nature’s cooperation overnight, we may be able to open additional terrain tomorrow morning, as well as add terrain park features to the mix. The snow guns have been working their magic since 1pm yesterday, and we may be able to continue to make snow straight on through to tomorrow morning. Saturday’s forecast calls for another cold day and 1-3" of additional natural snowfall. We will continue to make snow–including on open terrain–as much as possible this weekend as we try to establish a sustainable base for the season. Village dining and shopping options are open, as are the Split Rock Pools and Big Top entertainment center. Lift tickets are $55/day this weekend, with Saturday’s night session available for just $25. Lift and lodging packages are still available, and our early season Ski Free/Stay Free Package expires Dec 6th! Snowshoe looks forward to the start of another wonderful season! Think snow!"

Ski Beech is PLANNING on being open tomorrow, so here’s the latest.

<View from the new tower cam atop Beech’s Quad tower

28° – Beech Mountain Resort – Rime ice began forming early on Thursday and some added snow flurries has left Beech looking gorgeous this morning. They began making snow again on Thursday evening. They will be blasting the Upper and Lower Shawneehaw terrain as well as Powder Bowl, Freestyle and the Playyard to get it all open by Saturday morning. That is the plan and we haven’t heard anything to postpone that as yet. Stay tuned for updates.

Appalachian plans to open on Sunday…

< (Live shot this AM from our new tower cam up there!)

28° – Appalachian Ski Mountain – They are focusing snowmaking ops right now on the upper half of the mountain. Temperatures are not quite where they need to be yet at the base, but they will have plenty of snowmaking ops to get them open on their intended opening day (Sunday). Remember the first 100 guests ski or ride with a FREE LIFT PASS on Sunday and everyone else gets it for $5!

Here’s the news on the rest in no particular order:

32° – Wolf Laurel – They have not seen temps quite cold enough to make snow yet. We spoke with Betty over there and she said she thought they were going to be able to make snow last night but that she felt they would be making snow later today or tonight.

32° – Sapphire Valley – We spoke with Gloria over at Ski Sapphire’s community center and she said that they had not had any snowmaking temps as yet. They have a target date to open by December 18th. That is the normal opening date for them, so we’ll keep you posted when they get the snowguns running.

<Bryce making snow at night

37° – Bryce Resort – It is 21° colder this morning than 24 hours ago at Bryce but still not cold enough to make snow. They plan on beginning their snowmaking on Saturday with a tentative opening date of December 12th.

32° – Massanutten Resort – Ditto the 20° difference from 24 hours ago at Massanutten. They say that they plan on making snow this weekend and if the forecast holds true they will open for the first time this season between December 9th and 12th!

32° – Wintergreen Resort – They are MAKING SNOW this morning. Woohoo! Anne Marie Jones writes, "MAKING SNOW! The 09/10 snowmaking season has begun and we are pumped to start sliding very soon. The 09-10 ski and riding season is less than 2 weeks away with opening date scheduled for December 12th. Cross your fingers and toes for cold weather. If Mother Nature cooperates, we will try and get you on the snow before the 12th. Weather forecasters are already talking about the likelihood for a great winter!"

29° – Canaan Valley Resort – They are making snow and preparing for their December 11th opening. David Lesher’s weather station reported 1" of new snow this morning and that will help the snowmaking ops! That takes the Tucker County West Virginia ski area to 12.6" of snow on the season.

29° – Timberline Resort – They have not updated their snow report since September, but I spoke with Yolanda up there and they ARE making snow this AM and they got about an inch of natural snow as well and plan to open December 10th!

30° – Winterplace Resort – According to their website they are not making snow. We’ll get an update from them ASAP, but we have to believe that they will be making snow later today and over the weekend to open ASAP.

32° – Wisp Resort – They too are not making snow this AM. Looks like things are just out of range for that and they too will be cranking the guns up asap.

36° – Ober Gatlinburg – They are still waiting on the cold air to make it into the Smoky Mountain resort. That should happen this weekend and they’ll fire up the snowmaking system and open ASAP.

THAT’S ENOUGH FOR TODAY. Enjoy your day and let’s all THINK COLD AND SNOW and it will

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SSAA: 0 for 8 4/2 cat/Bch ReOp so/not 1 s

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