First Trax

Story by Mike Doble – [email protected]

When I read the title of Joe Stevens' "Snow News is Good News" BLOG this morning ("Does it Really Matter?") I was THINKING that he was going to be writing about the fact that early season snow quality doesn't really matter all that much because resorts really don't begin to make money until the few days leading up to Christmas and beyond. Any kind of traffic prior to the all-important Christmas-to-New-Year week is kind of a bonus.

Obviously great temps and some snow would be AWESOME to really build base and make for lots and lots of slope openings, but as long as we get some cold and snow in here in the next week or so, this early season, prolonged mild spell REALLY DOESN'T MATTER to the economics of each ski resort.

Joe was writing about ANOTHER reason that the condition right now don't matter and I'll let you guys read that.


Even if I was locked in a bunker with nothing but access to my emails I could tell that it's been a prolonged mild spell early in the season. Every third email I have received lately is about the weather. Everyone is either in a bad mood or asking me if I thought the slopes would be in great shape for Christmas.

The Climate Change and Global Warming advocates are REALLY loving this weather right now. The "Ski is Falling" crowd have ramped up their BLOG intensity to unprecented levels. I am not going to provide them ANY visitors by linking to some of them from this website, but suffice to say that the fever-like temps are causing some dillusional commentaries that weak-minded people will fall prey to.

Evidence of that was in my own skiMAIL INBOX this weekend. One reader wrote me:

"I just read a story from a (UNNAMED SOURCE) who wrote that you guys lose a BILLION dollars a year when the weather isn't good. How can you stay open when the weather is so warm? According to this news story we're going to see temperatures even 4 to 10 degrees warmer soon. What will the ski resorts do?"

I almost feel like quoting Joe Stevens' "Does it Really Matter" BLOG title this morning. No matter how I answer the question, I'm not certain it will matter; but let's try.

First, Negative Nancy, quit reading this crap that isn't worthy of lining the bottom of a bird cage. I know they are teaching this stuff as factual in our schools, but that's a subject for another day. Trust me Nancy, you'll feel better and enjoy life more if you refrain from reading the kind of "We're Killing the Earth" nonsense that you've shared with me today.

Second, there are SOOOOO many things wrong with your questions. The lead fact is that we didn't MAKE a billion dollars last year, much less LOSE a billion. I'm guessing she's referring to the ski industry as a whole…and YES, when the weather is poor over an entire ski and snowboarding season people don't make as much money. Neither do landscape contractors when it rains for three months. If you do business outdoors, the weather will sometimes just not cooperate.

As far as "How can you stay open when the weather is so warm?" have you checked the snow report? Only Cataloochee and Snowshoe Mountain ARE OPEN as of this morning. (Sugar decided to close until snowmaking ops return.)

So you CAN'T STAY OPEN if it's so warm.

As far as that "news story" you shared with me claiming that we'll see temperatures climb 4 to 10 degrees "soon"…I'm not certain you read things clearly. It was one lunatic BLOGGER'S thoughts and he claimed that the temps will rise 4 to 10 degrees between now and the end of the century – which is still some 87 years away if my math is even close to being correct.

Again, I'm not going to PROMOTE BLOGS like the one Negative Nancy shared with me, so I can't really even quote some of the nonsense within it. However I will post this portion of the BLOG which, if you can read between the lines, gets to the heart of subject. They wrote, "Even tougher times could be in store for the industry unless climate change is slowed, stopped and reversed. Without intervention, winter temperatures are projected to warm an additional 4 to 10 degrees by the end of the century, with subsequent decreases in snow cover area, snowfall, and shorter snow season. Snow depths could decline in the west by 25 to 100 percent. The length of the snow season in the northeast will be cut in half,” the report concludes.



Those are the noteworthy comments to the entire BLOG. We, humans, MUST SLOW OR STOP the Climate from…well…being the climate.  We MUST intervene. Of course BOTH of these ventures – the venture of slowing down climate change – and intervening will take FUNDING. We need to get some congress peeps to provide some funding to study how we can do this. Of course the congress peeps should get a small cut of those funds, because we'll want to include them in our study. After all, they create a LOT of hot air, right?

I am certain that we'll see a prolonged period of cold winters in our near future. Until then I'll have to weather the barrage of "the sky is falling" climate BLOGS and questions just like you.


I got a tweet from Joe Murgo, who is a meteorologist from central PA and an avid skiing weather man. I skied with Joe, his wife and kids and they enjoy a day on the snow as much as anyone I know. Back in November Joe had produced his long range forecast which called for a COLD, MID December and then a VERY HARSH winter from January on.

Fast forward to this morning and now Joe questions, "Have we missed the boat?". He then answers his own question by saying that he thinks we have indeed missed out on an extremely harsh winter. You can see where his desires are as he'd LIKE an extremely harsh winter cause that means lots of cold and snow. His BLOG from Sunday states, " I believe that because December is going to be mild on average, that we are still going to have our up and down stretches through the rest of the winter. While the snow pack is primed to give us some pretty good blasts for the winter, overall I think the temperature for the entire season is going to end up a little above average."



Our buddy Brad Panovich and other meteorologists were forecasting that cold temps would begin opening the flood gates of winter around the middle of this week. Now, every weather guy out there seems to be hedging their bets. These guys don't want the world sceaming at them so they're mostly in a wait and see mode. It's made everyone else wait and see. We were speaking with a prospective advertiser last week and they actually said, "I WANT to advertise with you guys but I think I'm going to wait until we get some snow and winter weather in here and THEN call me and I'm in."

You can't blame them can you?

On Sunday I was looking at Dr. Ray's forecast for JUST the couple of days ahead and whereas the National Weather Service and others were calling for mostly borderline nighttime temps for snowmaking around Beech Mountain – Dr. Ray was calling for temps around 22-23° for two nights this week. One day later, those overnight lows for the next few nights are 29°, 29° and 26° (tonight through Wednesday night).

Thursday through Sunday, November 16th? No snowmaking temps.

It's enough to make a grown skier cry!

Dr. Ray writes this morning, "We are in the process of pattern change, but don't expect the bottom to fall out any time soon. This week we get closer to normal for December."


Bear in mind that those forecasted temps are for the 5000' elevations of Beech Mountain.  The Tennessee and Virginia (and other North Carolina mountain) forecasted temps look a bit milder and that is NOT good news for the snowmakers who are sitting around waiting on a job/paycheck.


The West Virginia Ski Resorts (and Maryland) will see slightly colder temps from now through December 19th with NINE out of the next TEN nights with snowmaking temperatures and that will make for some sweet conditions up that way over the next week and change.

Compare that to FIVE of TEN for the High Country of NC ski areas and things will certainly be a little more challenging for us.

Madison County, NC (home to Wolf Ridge) will only see THREE nights of snowmaking temps from now through December 18th. It's debatable as to whether or not Orville will flip the switch on their snowmakers until PERHAPS December 17th when temps look to be dropping some to the mid 20s. SNOW is in the long range forecast around a week or so away, but we all know how those long range forecasts are. Don't we?

Kenny Hess and my friends at Massanutten and the rest of the Virginia ski areas have to be wondering why they aren't feeling the love from old man winter because the long range forecast up in the "Lovers state" only shows perhaps one decent night of snowmaking temps between now and December 16th.


Look at the calendar. It's the 10th of the month. We have 15 days til Christmas. F-i-f-t-e-e-n days. Now it appears that the really cold air for all of the ski area communities south of Winterplace will not come in until around the 17th. With only a few nights of snowmaking in the next week, that leaves us about a week (from December 17-25) to make a ton of snow.

Can it be done? OH YEA.

The system in a good-sized ski slope can convert 5,000 to 10,000 gallons (18,927 to 37,854 liters) of water to snow every minute!

When I first began writing these BLOGS back in 1996 I remember some of the snowmakers telling me that they could cover and open a trail in 3-4 days. With temps in the mid 20s, ski areas can blanket as much terrain as they want nowadays and with focused, top-to-bottom snowmaking they can open a trail in ONE FULL DAY of snowmaking.

With the weather being so marginal, resorts will want to focus a LOT on building strong bases on each of the trails they wish to open, so it isn't likely that we'll see resorts 100% open by Christmas unless some REALLY cold temps hit around the 17th and stick with us around the clock through the Holidays.


We'll keep an eye on the forecast for you and keep you updated with when and where the snowguns are blasting this week. Snowshoe and Cat are IT for today and Snowshoe has 15 open trails right now and more than a third of their 60 trails open for the weekend…with more in the offing with overnight cold temps.

That's it for me today.


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