The Rains Are Washing Away the Snow! … NOT!

First Trax

It is Wednesday, December 10th and just two weeks until the Christmas / New Year’s Holiday period that is so important to thousands of you guys. It is raining and if you have watched your local weather forecasts we are certain that you are noticing that it is raining. Light-to-moderate rain fell on Tuesday and that continues today. Some heavier rain may fall on Thursday and before this wet system exits the area perhaps as much as 2-4" of rain will have fallen across many of the ski areas of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic. Your emails continue to "pour in" (pun intended) asking all sorts of questions – all related to "how the snow is washing away". Perhaps the funniest (but serious) one that we received came from Shannon W. of Charlotte, North Carolina. She wrote, "With all of this rain washing the snow away, when do you think the resorts will be able to make more snow and get opened back up?" She adds, "…because we’re planning on coming December 26th and want to be able to ski!"

My FIRST thought was that sweet Shannon must not ever watch the weather forecasts in her hometown on WCNC, NBC 6 in Charlotte, NC. If she did, then there is no better spokesperson among the meteorologist of the region (for the Ski Areas) than Brad Panovich. At least once or twice a week, Brad – who is an unabashed, HUGE SNOW FAN – reports on the ski areas across North Carolina and the rest of the Southeast. He also plugs and with great frequency – thanks by the way Brad!

My second thought was, "O-b-v-i-o-u-s-l-y, Shannon is new to our website, because we’ve covered the fact that snow at the resorts does not melt away from a litte rain."

However, we LOVE new visitors to the website AND since I evidently LOST a visitor yesterday (more about him later) I will see if we can’t help Shannon and perhaps a ton of others who emailed related concerns in the last 24 hours.


I like to have fun with my illustrations so let me answer Shannon’s question in a way that I think might be fun and enlightening at the same time. First, after reading my story on Tuesday that spoke about Global Cooling, one writer named Tim – via gmail – wrote, "I appreciate that everyone has their opinion. …I did not appreciate the comment directed towards your own readers, regarding “Put your bongs down and put your back where your mouths are” How ridiculous. I have read and enjoyed your website for sometime. You just lost all credibility with me. You will no longer be my main source for information. I am a professional in my mid 30’s, and because I did not take you up on a roadside cleaning offer, you insult me. I donate thousands annually, and have even donated my time to help clean up area lakes from debris."

(I predicted that we’d have ONE emailer complain about my story and Tim was THE ONE person! Thanks for all of the nice comments we received by the way. Also thanks to John H. who has a BS from Montana State University and an MA from the University of Amsterdam, for your great comments. All views are welcome here. We had some fun yesterday.)

Anyway, let’s say that "TIM" who is NEVER COMING TO THIS WEBSITE AGAIN is 6 feet tall. To answer Shannon’s question about all the snow being gone, etc – let me put things this way. Shannon, right now – this very moment – there is enough snow base on the slopes of Appalachian Ski Mountain to drill a hole six feet deep and stick Tim in head first and cover the tops of his feet with an extra ONE INCH of snow left over! That is 73" of snow for those that don’t want to do the math. If you want to use App’s MINIMUM base depth of 57", it is still enough snow to flip Tim over and bury him up to his shoulders, which wouldn’t be fair because then some reckless snowboarder might come along and knock his poor head off.

By the way, thank you to all of you who read this column everyday and HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR!!! Thanks so much.

Shannon, this illustration should tell you that even though we are seeing some rain, there is STILL a ton of snow on the slopes of all of our ski areas. Most of the ski areas ARE reporting drops in base depth of from 3" to 7" from 24 hours ago. We think that Sugar Mountain’s drop of 7" on both minimum and maximum is probably an accurate reflection of what most ski areas are seeing across the board. You will see some base depth corrections happening across the region between now and Thursday. However the important information that you guys should gain from this report is that the ski areas have gotten off to such an early, fast AND GREAT start with natural snow AND snowmaking that they have much better bases than they usually have at this point in December EVEN AFTER the rain.


2-4" of rain is expected across much of the area with pockets slightly higher than that. Nobody likes rain during the ski season, but as a couple of our ski area marketing people shared on Tuesday – "the snowmakers needed a break". Those crews have been steadily making snow – sometimes around the clock – for much of the last 30 days. Additionally since much of the Southeast is still at substantial rain deficits, let’s not protest too much.

The bad news is that we’ll have to "weather" a bit more rain today and Thursday but the GREAT news is that the cold temps will change that over to some SNOW at some point on Thursday or Thursday evening! Some areas are expecting light accummulations of snow and others a bit more. Behind that on Friday and into the weekend, it will be cold and clear skies. That means a great weekend for skiing and riding no matter where you choose to visit. (Just watch out for Tim’s head if you’re planning to ski or ride at App! 🙂  )


Despite the rain that is expected over the next 24 hours across the region – A LOT is going on as resorts prepare for what should be a GREAT WEEKEND on the slopes.

Let’s give Shannon a tour of the resorts…

Wisp Resort – 47° this morning or 22° warmer than on Tuesday AM – They have 16 trails open today and their "Pro Park at the Face" terrain park. The mountain coaster and their Bear Claw Tubing Park are both closed. Wisp is day skiing only today until 5pm on Groomed and Wet Granular conditions.

Canaan Valley – 46° – They are putting the final touches on preparations that will allow them to open for the 2008-2009 season this Friday, December 12th. HOWEVER, if you’re planning on being near the Tucker County, WV area on Thursday we can tell you guys that Canaan will be offering a FREE SKIING DAY to all visitors.

I spoke with Lenora Testerman on Tuesday about preparations and she told me, "Yes, Mike – to celebrate our 37th anniversary of the ski area, everyone who shows up on Thursday will get a FREE LIFT TICKET to ski from noon until 4:30pm!"

Additionally, guests can stay at the resort for just $37 per night Dec. 11-14, 2008. For further information – call (800) 622-4121.

Timberline Resort – 49° – They haven’t updated their report just yet this AM, but the word is that they will have 15 trails open today with the same wet granular conditions that you’ll find no matter where you ski or ride today. Jessica Scowcroft did want us to share that Timberline will have some great entertainment this weekend that will feature a return visit of the Saddle Tramps appearing in the Timbers Pub Friday and Saturday evening starting at 4 pm. Saddle Tramps Willis, Joe, Bill, and Dee will perform contemporary and traditional country western music.

Late night entertainment on Saturday, December 13th, will be dancing to rhythm and blues and variety by James Michel Woodyard. There is no cover charge for any performance. There will be a seafood special every Friday and award winning ribs every Saturday night during the entire ski season along with a complete menu at the Fireside Grill.

Jessica also writes, "The excellent weather has allowed for more trail openings than in many previous years. We just opened Salamander and expect to open a lot more trails as we build our well known deep snow bases."

Snowshoe Mountain – 37° – They have 25 trails open today. Laura Parquette writes, "The Western Express Lift and Cupp Run will be CLOSED today as we perform some routine lift maintenance. The on and off rain that began yesterday continues this morning, and we should see pretty steady "underdeveloped snow" throughout the day today. While no one likes to see rain during the ski season, with the amazing base depths we’ve already built up, this warm, wet weather really shouldn’t hurt us. Our snowmakers should be off through tomorrow night, but cold weather will return and we could see some significant natural snowfall Thursday night. With a night or two of colder temps, we should open some significant terrain this weekend, which will put us more than 50% open. Silver Creek will make its season debut on December 19th, and may open at 100%. Regardless, with some cooperation from Mother Nature, we should be able to be 100% across our three areas by the Holidays. And there’s still availability during the festive Christmas and New Years Eve periods, including our great Smart Ski Escape Packages. But these deals expire on Dec. 15, so make your plans today!"

I really enjoyed Snowshoe’s Surface Conditions statement this morning. They posted, "Soft, Wet Snow and Groomed". You know that about sums up what you will find most everywhere that you choose to ski or ride today…but leave it to Snowshoe to come up with the term. Way to go SS!

Winterplace is closed until Friday and there’s no news to share as far as we know. We can tell you that we dropped by Winterplace on Sunday afternoon and they were literally making some amazing clouds of snow across much of their mountain. There were some massive, tall mounds of snow where they were focusing some snowmaking and the most impressive mounds and clouds of snow were over on the side of the mountain at the base where "Plunge", "Nose Dive", "Wood’s Run", "Turkey Chute" and "Snow Bowl" meet at The Mountain House. Look for more terrain to open at Winterplace over the next week.

Massanutten Resort is the only report open in Virginia on this wet Wednesday. They are reporting 43° and 6 trails open AND TUBING for day sessions today.

Bryce will reopen on Friday.

Wintergreen Resort is reporting temps that are 30 degrees milder than yesterday morning. They are at 50° this AM and closed until Friday. Anne Marie Jones (Wintergreen’s Director of Marketing and Communications) wrote, "We’re having a brief warm up today and tomorrow followed by more snowmaking temperatures for skiing and riding Friday morning at 9am. We have made great snowmaking progress in the last few days and plan to open Upper Tyro, Tequila, Upper Sunrise and Lower Sunrise on Friday. We are shooting for Upper Cliffhanger, Hydraulic, Lower Wild Turkey and Potato Patch to open Saturday. This weekends open trail and lift count should jump to 13 trails and 4 lifts. The Plunge will re-open for tubing sessions starting on Friday from 4PM – 11pm."

Ober Gatlinburg has 5 trails open for skiing and riding from noon til 10pm. However, Kathy Doyle of Ober writes, "Due to Heavy Rain & Gusty Winds, Slope Hours Today Subject To Change! Upper Half of Bear Run Open. Today – Friday Slopes open Noon – 10pm with $30 Lift Ticket. Weeknight 6pm – 10pm Lift Ticket Only $15!"

You Ober fans may want to call ahead just to be sure what’s going on over there today.

Appalachian Ski Mountain – 48° – (Keep an eye out for Tim.) It is 17 degrees milder than 24 hours ago and light rain is falling today. (Some heavy rain is expected.) Appalachian is reporting a 2" drop in base due to the rains thus far, but bear in mind that they have a base of 57-73"! To put that in perspective – instead of having a maximum base that is 2" OVER MY HEAD, they "only" have enough to meet the top of my head! Their MINIMUM BASE is a whopping 57" or enough snow to bury the two aggravating emailers that I had yesterday in enough snow that we wouldn’t see them again until sometime in April (or maybe May!)

App is 100% open with 10 trails, both terrain parks and ice skating to boot!

Cataloochee Ski Area – 51° – They plan on being open with 9 trails for day skiing AND night skiing tonight.

Ski Beech – 46° – Beech has closed the Upper Shawneehaw slope for today. They are reporting wet granular conditions on 4 trails, serviced by 4 lifts. They are day skiing until Friday.

Sugar Mountain – 45° – Sugar is reporting the biggest drop in base depth of the North Carolina resorts. They are reporting a 7" drop from Tuesday AM. (Editor’s note: Sugar’s drop is probably an accurate reflection of what all the resorts are experiencing.) Howver, again, we want to draw attention to the fact that Sugar has a GREAT base right now and it is basically 1.5 to more than four feet of snow. They offer 12 trails for day and night sessions today.

Sugar also posted, "Only three more days until SugarFest, and the forecast is calling for great weather this weekend! Temperatures today are expected to be in high 40s with some mild rain throughout the afternoon. Snowmaking will resume as conditions allow. Green lift will run today as needed. The outdoor ice rink is closed today. It will re-open Thursday, weather permitting."

Sugarfest kick starts the winter season with a weekend of pure winter fun! Sponsored by the Village of Sugar Mountain Tourism Development Authority (TDA) and hosted by Sugar Mountain Resort, SugarFest will be held December 13th and 14th, 2008. The two-day festival is packed with a long list of winter activities. It coincides with Sugar’s 15th Annual Adult Preseason Ski Clinic where 1994 Olympic Gold & 1992 Olympic Silver medalist Diann Roffe and two-time (1992 & 1994) Olympian, Krista Schmidinger will both be special guest coaches.

Wolf Ridge is closed until Friday. No other news from them as yet.

Hawksnest Tubing – Just "tubing in the rain", just "tubing in the rain". (Sung to the tune of "Singing in the rain…". Actually Lenny posted, "Well unlike singing, you cannot snow tube in the rain. It is forecasted to rain Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week, therefore we will be closed until Friday. On Friday the snow tubing sessions will be at at 12pm, 2pm, 4pm and 6pm. The weekend forecast looks good for snow tubing. Hope to see you soon."

That’s it for today folks.

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