SUCCESSFUL REBOOT – Story by Joe Stevens

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Hello Everyone –

Recently there was a story that didn’t get much attention from the national media outlets, but it got my attention and I shared it with my computer minded 14-year old son, Christian. It seems that NASA’s Hubble telescope stopped working and why it wasn’t operating correctly was an immediate mystery. To make a long story short, a quick-thinking technician suggested to reboot the big eye in the sky. Guess what, it worked, and it made me feel good to know I’m not alone that when I can’t get something to work, I just turn it off and on to see what happens next and it was great to hear that the geniuses do the same thing.

I checked the Merriam-Webster dictionary this morning and found the following definition of “reboot”:

  1. 1.
    (with reference to a computer system) boot or be booted again.
    “the new value will not be in force until you reboot the system”
  1. 1.
    an act or instance of booting a computer system again.

Well guess what, that is exactly what happened last week throughout the snow sports industry in the southeast region, as a number of resorts were forced to suspend on-slope operations or the majority to only provide limited terrain to slide on for skiers and snowboarders.

From Tennessee to Maryland, mountain operation folks basically were rebooting their snowmaking efforts, while Mother Nature was rebooting the winter season.

There is nothing unusual about thaws occurring during the winter months throughout the southeast region. Everyone in the snow sports industry know that mild periods are going to happen and they try to look ahead and somewhat plan for the challenging occurrence to happen. The way this is accomplished is stock piling snow in important areas of the slopes and then use that snow when the temperature climbs and snowmaking has to be stopped until freezing temperatures return to the area. This year, to get as much terrain open as possible for the holiday crowds some of that “pile” planning had to be put on the back burner.

With that in mind, those who visited ski resorts in the southeast during the holiday period found more trails open than usual and that was a good thing. But when the temperatures climbed above freezing the first of the year, there weren’t as many piles out there to use to make up for the lack of snowmaking. It was one of those classic “Catch-22” situations and the higher temperatures caused the conditions to suffer more than a bit to everyone’s liking.

If you don’t think that every mountain operations manager was looking every hour to the upcoming weather forecasts you would be kidding yourself. I know for a fact that snowmakers were tired of coming to work and working on equipment so when the temperature did drop, everything would be ready to make snow and yes, “reboot” the conditions on the slopes at every resort in the region.

I also know for a fact, resort operators were getting calls from anxious skiers and snowboarders wanting to know why the resorts were closing certain slopes and not making snow. These calls were coming from folks in the metro areas where temperatures were in the 60’s and the resorts were experiencing temperatures in the 40’s and 50’s. If anyone out there knows how to make snow in those temperatures, they could make millions, as every resort would hire you to do so, when the mild temperatures occur.

One of those skiers watching the forecast very closely was the aforementioned son of mine. He had to do a lot of explaining to his classmates when his high school ski club’s resort of choice, Winterplace, announced it was suspending on-slope operations Monday through Thursday, January 7 – 10. He had to tell them (he listens to his dad telling news reporters the same thing) that it was a wise decision by Winterplace because midweek crowds during this time of year are not large and it was time to save the snow that was still on the slopes. Also, the extended weather forecast looked great for snowmaking and the resort’s snowmakers could aggressively make snow and yes, “reboot” the season.

When his ski club arrived at Winterplace for their first trip of the year on Friday they found eight trails open with the snow guns still operating, improving the conditions every minute they were functioning. Some of his friends weren’t totally pleased with the amount of open terrain, but when he reminded them they could be at home instead, if the snowmakers weren’t able to work hard to just get that much terrain open, they understood.

Fast forward to Sunday and that eight-slope offering has nearly doubled to 15, with additional terrain to open as snowmaking continues around the clock. This is the same scenario at all of the resorts in the region. The snowmakers have gotten out of the garages and gotten on the slopes to, yes, here we go again, “reboot” the situation for every skier, snowboarder and snowtuber wanting to have fun at their favorite resort.

Here’s a great BEFORE and AFTER at Winterplace Resort. Photos from Tom Wagner.

Before. Click to Enlarge!
Winterplace Resort looking great after snowmaking! Click to Enlarge!

As another important time of the season for every resort approaches, the Martin Luther King holiday, a time when a three-day weekend allows skiers and snowboarders a chance to enjoy some extended fun, things are going to be very nice for visitors. Mother Nature has also been dropping some natural snow on all of the resorts, which also helps with the, well yes, “reboot” efforts.

I am not going to finish this week’s column without mentioning the efforts of every groomer out there in the southeast. Again, during the mild period, when the overnight temperatures allowed them to get on the slopes during the night, they were able to keep things as nice as possible. Many times, it is their efforts that go unnoticed, but for some of us it is totally understood and greatly appreciated. So, in the end, enjoy the “reboot,” just glad things are working again.

That’s it for this week, of course, there’s more to come as the season continues. Just remember whether it be cold or whether it be hot, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather will be. Think about it! See you on the slopes.

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