Southeast Ski Areas Made it Through the ‘Silly Season’; How Much Winter is Left?

FeaturedFirst Trax

Stay up to date by getting notified of new posts!

I need to go on record to say that as far as I know, nobody in the snow sports industry labels any part of our ski & snowboarding season as the “silly season”. I just kind of made that up on the fly, to describe the mass of humanity and crowds that make up the four major weekends of every ski & snowboarding season. Those are the two weekends on either side of Christmas to New Years week, and then Martin Luther King Jr weekend, and last but not least, President’s Day weekend, which wraps up today.

Photo of the Day: Is from Appalachian Ski Mountain this morning. A closeup of Upper Big Appal.

Those weeks and weekends can make up 40%-50% of a ski area’s skier visits for an entire season. Those important dates can make or almost break a season. Thankfully, all of those dates were “weather cooperative” this season. In fact, as wild and woolly as this season has been, it has been a good one in that we have had NO total rainouts for entire weekends and we’ve had no prolonged thaw that closed resorts for more than a day or so. Typically in most seasons past we’ve had a week or so in the middle of the season where slopes narrowed to the point that you couldn’t ski three people side-by-side.

We’ve had none of that.

In fact, as you click around the Live Ski Cams you’ll see that most all of the ski areas are in remarkably good shape as we now begin to focus on these last weeks of the 2022-2023 Ski & Snowboarding season.

How Long Will it Last?

As we say within the industry, “It’s weather dependent”. Okay it is also “YOU dependent”. Typically, the weather in late February and March can deliver some of the coldest temperatures and deepest snows of the season. Okay, so we’re not seeing any evidence of that in the long range forecasts right now and we’ll allow our own, Meteorologist, Brad Panovich to share his intellect on that subject when he can. However, just how long the ski season lasts is also up to you guys. If you’ll come…the resorts will provide the product.

Of course, some ski areas will also determine just how long the season will last. Most often, weather dependent, Cataloochee Ski Area, Sugar Mountain Resort and Snowshoe Mountain will “dance” right on through the end of March and a day or so into April. April 1st falls on a Saturday this year, so (again, weather dependent), we could see the ski season stretch out until Saturday, April 1st or even Sunday, April 2nd and that is no April Fool’s joke.

That is what TYPICALLY happens. However, this has been anything BUT a typical year.

The First Southeastern Ski Area Calls it Quits for the Season

I received an email from Omni Homestead Resort’s Lynn Swann this morning and she informed us that today, February 20, 2023 will be their last snow sports day of the season. She wrote:

Today is the final day of the 2022-23 season. We have a base of 14” and are open to the top for skiing and snowboarding today. Tubing is open too. Thank you for your support this season!

So they are the first.

I will admit to keeping the Wolf Ridge Resort LIVE camera on-screen since 8am this morning. All the way through 8:45am, there was no movement at the base of their mountain, nor on the lift, but just prior to 9am four guys walked up and started the lift. Two mountain patrol guys rode the chair up, as did one other lift operator. One guy at the base scraped the snow clean under the lift and since that time I’ve seen nobody else on the mountain. Not one. The two patrol guys made their way down, showing the “coast is clear” as far as the slopes are concerned and the lift guy at the bottom dropped the rope to allow people to board. As of 9:22am I’ve seen 6-10 skiers/snowboarders.

Click to Enlarge. Wolf can’t possible keep the lifts turning with this kind of participation at 9:30am.

All of this is to say, it won’t be a shocker to see Wolf Ridge Resort either temporarily close for the week and see what the weekend ahead looks like.

…and Sapphire Valley Resort may do the same.

In fact, with some rain and mild temps in the forecast this week, we may see several ski areas opt to close at least temporarily with an eye on next weekend and beyond.

Today…Looks Pretty Nice…

It’s breezy and mild this morning. It feels like Spring. Those are four words that can sound the ‘death nell’ for ski areas if the weather pattern doesn’t turn cold quickly. Those of us who live in these mountains know that there are (typically) plenty of cold, winter days and nights left. We know that some of the biggest snowstorms in our history have come in late February and March. However, when these mild days start occurring off the mountain, flatlanders begin to turn their thoughts to Spring activities. I watched a fair amount of college baseball this past weekend. I visited the marina where my boats are. I even allowed my thoughts to go to how few days there are until “lake season”.

I listened as several people shared that the temperatures this next week will be soaring into the mid-to-upper 60s at places like Snowshoe and into the 80s in Charlotte, Columbia and all points south.

That is all it takes and people start thinking of just about any Spring activity other than skiing & snowboarding. Of course, I’m not talking about the diehards in our sport. You guys will hang in and ride the last sliver of snow that’s left on a hill to get in that last ride of the season. However, the masses start thinking of Spring cleaning, golf, tennis, hiking, biking…and lake season.

I’m guilty of it myself.

Each morning, as I take a virtual tour around all of the ski mountains of our region, I enjoy watching David Lesher’s (of Canaan Valley Weather) little camera shots of his view out of his window. He visually documents snowfall all winter. As you can see in the three photos below, the last trace of natural snow disappeared overnight. David also posted this morning:

Feb 20 update: The shortfall of snowfall since the beginning of December has now reach an astounding 72 inches. There is still no sign of any significant change in the current snow-less weather pattern through the end of the month.

Click to enlarge

Here were the 8am temperatures across the region:

55° Ober Mountain
46° Wisp Resort

41° Canaan Valley Resort
36º Snowshoe Mountain
41° Timberline Mountain
40° Winterplace Resort

42° Appalachian Ski Mountain
39° Beech Mountain Resort – West Bowl open
44° Cataloochee Ski Area
40° Sapphire Valley Resort
38° Sugar Mountain Resort
43° Wolf Ridge Resort

43° Bryce Resort
43° Massanutten Resort
44° Omni Homestead Resort
43° Wintergreen Resort

As I looked around the region, all of the North Carolina, West Virginia, Tennessee and Maryland ski areas – not named Wolf Ridge – look really quite good with lots of side-to-side coverage and good bases. In fact, there’s little in the way of “base discoloration” or thin areas. Some but not bad.

The Virginia ski areas have just not had the same cold temps that the rest of the region has had. As challenging as it has been for the entire region, it has been even more challenging for the Virginia resorts. Massanutten Resort is showing signs of thinning and narrowing and ditto Wintergreen Resort although they look a notch better.

No Weather Help in Sight for the Rest of February

As I shared earlier, we’ll ask Brad Panovich to step in and give us his expert, professionally opinion but from the tools that are available to us the end of February is looking a bit wet and with no snowmaking temperatures for the next 7-10 days and nights.  We are seeing highs forecasted to be 71° in Boone on Thursday of this week. The only snowmaking temps we’ve spotted MIGHT hit at Snowshoe, Canaan and Timberline on Thursday and Friday nights of this week and those are borderline right now.

Soooooo, THIS could be the dreaded “thaw” that we usually see once each season. They rarely hit in late February, so now we will just have to see what ski areas decide. Timing is everything. The timing of this thaw COULD prompt some unusual decisions on the part of ski area mountain managers. Many ski areas close around mid-March anyway. I’ve heard from a couple of insiders that if things melt down to a degree where the resorts would have to completely build back bases…you could see some earlier than usual season closures.

All of this is to say – go get it while it lasts. Speaking of getting it…THIS is the time of the year to consider buying your season passes for next year. Every ski area offers HUGE discounts (we’ve seen 40% off) on season passes for next season and all of them allow you to ski the rest of this season on it as well.

Closing Chuckle…

Snowshoe got me for a millisecond this morning. Today IS President’s Day. They posted:

Happy Presidents Day from the ‘Shoe! 

Did you know that the “Pursuit of Happiness” Thomas Jefferson once mentioned was actually a reference to skiing the Western Territory here at Snowshoe? Ok so we haven’t actually been able to prove that, but it’s fun to think about.

I will admit to momentarily thinking, “how about that?” only to snap back to reality a second later. Way to go Snowshoe!

That’s it for me today. Go get ’em.

Feel free to email me: [email protected] Also follow us on Twitter, Instagram and/or Facebook.

Previous Post
Next Post
Calm Vibe For Tuesday
Related Posts