First Trax

Story by Mike Doble – [email protected]  

Another burst of snow hit the mountains of the Southeast with MOST of the new snowfall hitting Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain overnight. Beech Mountain got another 4+ inches. Areas further north received 1-3" of new snow and all total the area saw from 8-11" of new snow from the three days of snow.

Saturday was simply an awesome day to play in the mountains. I chilled out and simply toured the area with my camera and have to say that I can’t remember having a nicer few hours than just walking through the snow and capturing some photos and videos to share with you guys!

You’ll have to visit the VIDEO link on the front page for what I am calling "Seven Minutes of Heaven". My girls and I drove up above Beech Resort on Saturday afternoon and hiked through about six inches of snow up top and out on the ledge that overlooks the ski resort and shot about thirty minutes of video. I cooked that down to just under six minutes and you can see that at:  

I’m hoping to crank up the snowmobiles today and I’ll get you some cool vids of that today.

While on Videos, MAN OH MAN did Ed Schneider from up at Snowshoe get us some nice video. You can see POWDER snowboarding from there by going to the Snowshoe page on and click on the VIDEO link. I’ll save you some time today – click here>  


I have to tell you that I’ve loved my "job" these last few days! Reporting on natural snow for three days straight tends to pick up the spirits!

(You guys remember that my daughter and I contructed a new SNOW CREATURE and erected that bad boy a couple of weeks ago, right? Since then… I just sayin!)

Beech Mountain got another 4.5" of snow overnight. That’s 7.5" in the last two days and 10.7" since Thursday! They are now up to 29.6" on the season! Beech also opened Lower White Lightning for today and that leaves only Upper White Lightning and The Oz Run left to open! For those counting, that’s 13 of 15 trails.

One quick negative comment…and then we’ll get back to our regularly scheduled lovefest…

It’s been a challenging season and ANY snow is great, but we’re thinking that its been so challenging that Sugar Mountain’s snow reporting has gone back to being a bit overzealous.

While Sugar is reporting 14" in the last three days, bear in mind that nobody else in the area is reporting anything CLOSE to that. I can promise you that I toured up top of Sugar on Saturday and then headed to Beech and whatever IS on Sugar is less than up at Beech and Beech is reporting 10.5" . CoCoRaHs and our reporters are saying 10" for Sugar in the last three days. This is not a "hit" on Sugar, and they’ve been GREAT for the last few seasons about reporting. We’ve given other resorts heck when they’ve mis-reported so we have to call a spade a spade.  This time around, it’s Sugar that’s substantially off.

By the way – hat’s off to EVERYONE ELSE for reporting dead on. We have eyes at every ski area and with that, NWS reporting stations, CoCoRaHs and fans with cams…we’re getting an overload of input these days!

Fair’s, fair.

Conversely, we can’t get Canaan Valley to report ENOUGH snow! They routinely under report. Case in point is that they are reporting 8" of snow from the storm and only a couple of inches from yesterday. Instead, the official reporting up there is 3.2" in the last 24 hours, 8" in the last 48 and 11.4" since Thursday. That takes Canaan Valley (and Timberline) to 66.6" on the season.

My peeps at Snowshoe always get it right as well. They are reporting 1" officially in the last 24 hours and 11" since Thursday.

Mark Glickman reports, "Eleven inches of new powder over the past two days or so has made for some absolutely phenomenal skiing and riding! Across 155 acres of terrain, you’re going to find the best conditions anywhere in the region right here at Snowshoe Mountain!"

Ed Schneider posted an AWESOME video and you guys can see that at:  

FYI – you guys can ALWAYS visit the resort page via that you LOVE. Click on the VIDEO link on that page and you’ll always see the latest vids uploaded FROM the resorts! This is a GREAT way to see what’s happening!

…and now back to the LOVEFEST…

Here’s some official numbers on the season:

24 hrs | 48 hrs | 72 hrs | Season

Appalachian – 2.2"| 2,2"| 4.2" | 12.4"
Beech Mtn – 4.5" | 7.5" | 10.7" | 29.6"
Cataloochee – 1"| 1"| 2" | 9"
Sugar Mtn – 4.5"| 6.5"| 10" | 23.2"
Wolf Ridge – 2"| 3"| 3" | 8"

Bryce Resort – 0" | 0" | 0" | 3.4"
Massanutten – 0" | 0" | 0" | 3.4"
Wintergreen – 0" | 0" | 0" | 2"

Canaan Valley – 3.2" | 8" | 11.4" | 66.6"
Snowshoe Mtn – 1" | 6" | 11" | 69"
Timberline – 3.2" | 8" | 11.4" | 66.6"
Winterplace – 1" | 3" | 8" | 31.5"

Wisp Resort – 1" | 7" | 7" | 44"

Ober Gatlinburg – 0" | 0" | 0" | 2"

You guys probably noticed that this latest snow system completely dodged the Virginia and Tennessee ski areas – again. It has been a crazy season to say the least.


First, let me state CLEARLY that I have not spoken with any ski area management contact to gain any numbers and it’s too early to get that kind of data anyway. (Plus most ski area top brass are pretty hesitant to share numbers anyway!)

However, my experienced eye tells me that at least from what I saw at Sugar and Beech on Saturday…I’m going to say that Friday and Saturday offered BRISK TRAFFIC, but without question we are seeing a fair amount less traffic than normal in the parking lots, in the area restaurants and at the local hotels.

My girls and I hit up Fred’s Backside Deli at 5pm-6pm and there were only three tables taken in the place. Usually on MLK weekends that place is buzzing. Ditto the parking lots. All of them at Beech had plenty of space to park. The Best Western in Banner Elk was about one-half full and numerous of the restaurant parking lots like at Banner Elk Cafe and Stonewalls were only about one-third to one-half full at 6pm-7pm.

Sugar Mountain is usually parking people out on the highway and even bussing people to other lots away from the resort on big Holiday weekends and although there WERE vehicles parked out at the lot on Hwy 184, all of the lots closer to the resort had open space and the 184 parking area was only about one-third full.

Again…GOOD numbers but from what my sixteen years of experience has taught me I’m going to forecast an MLK crowd that is down considerably from the top skier visit years despite the GREAT conditions and recent snows.

There’s no question that the message didn’t get out to the masses that would normally make the trip for the four day weekend – that conditions were looking great. Bear in mind that just a couple of days prior to this three day snowstorm, we had rain and deteriorating conditions. Some ski areas were only open with 5-7 trails open.

Despite our best efforts to educate and promote, the skier visit number will come in a bit off of the BEST skier visit seasons for this weekend.

Here are some notables for today!

Beech Mountain Opened Lower White Lightning and now they are only short Upper White Lightning and The Oz Run from being 100% open!

Cataloochee Ski Area has 15 of 16 trails open today.

Bryce Resort was able to lay down about 3" of new, manmade snow across their trails and have 7 of 8 slopes open today!

Massanutten opened ParaDice, Pacesetter and Easy Street taking them to 10 of 14 now open. They are looking awesome now! They have 8 sweet lanes of their tubing park open as well!

Wintergreen Resort also added three trails and now have 11 of 26 operating. Their terrain parks and tubing parks are open as well.

Winterplace Resort is looking sweet after 8" of natural snow in the last three days and awesome snowmaking ops. Travis and the guys up there report, "We anticipate opening Buttermilk, Milkshake and Snowfield later today! We’re Open to the Top of the Mountain with something for Everyone from beginner to expert! Check out our Cool Deals and how YOU can Ski Free on Monday, January 16th, 2012!!"

Email me your comments, thoughts, photos, vids or anything else you like at [email protected]  

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Check out this Aerial Photo from Over Beech Mountain on Saturday and Be SURE to Click on the VIDEO Link on the Front page for 7 Minutes from Up Top!
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