First Trax

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What the heck does this lead title mean? Be sure to read the full story this morning…

All resorts are in GREAT SHAPE today with tons of terrain open. Check the SLOPE REPORT page for details. Lots of fun activities are happening around the region today – check Friday’s post for those details.

Before we get going this morning, we want to give a hearty shout out to Todd Mingus over at Wolf Ridge. Todd lives and works over that way and has sent a bunch of phenomenal photos showing how great Wolf Laurel was looking on Thursday and entering the weekend. You can see all of those awesome photos by clicking here> Wolf Ridge Ski Resort Photos 

Todd’s really giving Wolf a "shot in the arm" in providing these great shots. They’ve been busy wearing other hats over there and as these photos show, they’ve been busy providing a great product to ride as well. Todd shares, "Hey Mike! I skied nearly wire to wire on Thursday at Wolf Ridge. Let me tell you, the conditions after the fresh 8” was as good as North Carolina gets. The ski report was saying 10 trails – but 11 were open, including the Howling, giving three distinctly different and long runs to get down from the top."

He adds, "I know folks are saying 11 of 20 is not a lot of terrain, but I’m here to tell you, it is! The other trails not open are not but about 20% of the terrain and The Bowl is set to open soon."

(12 trails are open at Wolf Ridge today…)

If you’re wanting to see Photos of the Day for any ski area, remember that you can simply click on the resort link on the front page of the website and then on that resort’s page there is a "Photos of the Day" icon. Simply click it to see photos from this and past seasons at your favorite ski area! There is no better way to see what conditions look like NOW at any ski area.


I was speaking with a long time client on Friday who owns two amazing vacation rentals that are located on beautiful Seven Devils! Her business is off a good bit this season for numerous reasons, one of which is obvious – Hawksnest is no longer a golf and ski resort. However, her rentals up on Seven Devils are immaculate and offer some outstanding views and yet they are still only 15 minutes away from Sugar Mountain Ski Resort and only a short drive further to Ski Beech. If you’re thinking about booking a ski getaway over the next few weeks, do her a favor and give her a look and if you’re looking for a great getaway, book with her. Mona would appreciate it and we’re glad to help her out! You can see the rentals by clicking here> Sugar Mountain Area Vacation Rentals 


Blake Couch (JBC28 on the messageboard) emailed me that he and others were heading out this morning for the SkiNC / Utah Summit. They will be playing in Utah from yesterday through February 14th. Blake was leaving out from Atlanta this morning and they are staying in Midvale which allows them to ski ALTA, Snowbird, Solitude, and Brighton (among others) that are all 20-45 minutes away. Blake posted his last update on the messageboard "from stall number four" at the airport bathroom! These guys are excited! MikeBopp made it there on Friday, MBlacky, TeleDave and others were headed that way on Friday as well. You guys have a great trip and we’ll see most of you at the Ski Beech and Snowshoe Mountain Summits!


Let’s get down to some news and other ramblings.

The temp this morning was 42.4° at Sugar Mountain’s base. It was 39.5° at Beech. It’s been 33 days since we saw a 40° morning low or 16 days since the highs reached into the 50s. January 6th was the last morning low temp that registered that mild (based on Banner Elk archives). We’re getting both today and Ma Nature is going to raise us another 6-10° as the expected highs for today will be in the mid to upper 50s across the region with some areas maybe touching the 60° mark. Snowshoe and some of the West Virginia mountains will see highs in the upper 40s to 50° today.

It will be an awesome weekend of skiing with plenty of snow, tons of base, great temps and lots happening at your favorite ski hill! Things will turn a notch cooler on Sunday and through the next week, but we won’t see cold air return for about a week. We reported on that yesterday and to quickly repeat that news – from Valentine’s Day forward in February things look exciting, cold and snowy again! You can go back and read yesterday’s story if you’d like to see the details, but suffice to say it will be a mild stretch for a few days and then a return to a cold and snowy pattern of weather for the second half of February!

As we also reported yesterday – we have a ton of base depths at ALL of the region’s ski areas so all of the ski resorts are in fabulous shape to carry them through this short stretch of milder temps with very – VERY nice conditions for the next week.


First let me repeat – every resort has a ton of base. Lots of snow! Truckloads and mountains of it! …and for those of you who have visited this column for years and seen me rant on the over-reporting of base depths – chill-ax – that’s not what I’m getting ready to write about. (I just felt a few marketing and ski area management staffers take a deep breath and re-adjust themselves in their seats.) No, I’m not going there this morning.


Say it ain’t so Jim!?!?!

Around 10:30pm Friday night I happened over to THE WEATHER CHANNEL and there’s Jim Cantore actually focusing on a short segment talking about snow base depths at mountains all across the United States. I got kind of stoked to hear about how great things are and then it hit me that while he MENTIONED that things were good around the Southeast, the focus of his segment seemed bent a whole lot more towards "shaming" the ski resorts around the Southeast (and particularly those in North Carolina) about their base depth reports. I’ve skied with Jim Cantore at a couple of resorts and I know that he is a fan of our region (although he does more skiing out west) but his report last night took on a tone that had ME squirming for our ski areas a little bit! Again, I know Jim Cantore would argue that his intentions last night were not meant to chastise the Southeast’s ski areas, but if they want to check the segment’s transcript I think they will see that most of this short segment ended up "tap dancing" (that was his words) around the fact that our ski areas tend to inflate base depth reporting.

First he posted up Heavenly Mountain’s (Tahoe) base and fixed up Cataloochee’s beside it and then made a couple of remarks about how Cataloochee probably had the "measurement stake right next to the snowmakers".

Heavenly’s base depth measures 38-54" compared to Cataloochee’s reported 48-102". Cantore then popped up Appalachian’s 95-120" report and Sugar Mountain’s base report (60-93") and then mentioned that Appalachian was reporting a report comparable to Mammoth’s (California) 85-130". At first I’m saying to myself "YEA BABY" but then he made another couple of remarks about how all of our snow was manmade and he’d rather ski Mammoth. Well duh! He then ended the segment with the cameras panning back to the news desk and then he said, "Could you tell I was tap dancing around that report." He added something in the way of "Hey I like the Appalachians but…" and then said something again about the base depths being over reported.

What should have been a segment that reported about how great the conditions ARE around the Southeast and Mid Atlantic ended up taking on a more negative tilt! Let me repeat that I like old, , "I-spend-more-time-in-the-tanning-bed-and-gym-than you do", Cantore – but he should have simply commented on how GREAT the conditions ARE and left it at that.

The truth is he could have brought up some weather FACTS that are pretty impressive. Facts like ALL of the Southeast’s ski areas have had more natural snow than Heavenly in the last week. Some of our ski areas have seen a FOOT of snow in the last seven days as compared to Heavenly’s ONE INCH. He could have mentioned that since JANUARY 1st Snowshoe, Canaan, Timberline and Wisp Resort have seen 76-83" of natural snow and that compares pretty well with MAMMOTH’S 70" of natural snow! Heck the season’s snowfall for Snowshoe (154") actually isn’t too bad either when you look at Mammoth has had a bit of a "snow drought" at 244" on the season.

It seems that this was direction that Cantore and THE WEATHER CHANNEL crew MEANT to go in, but instead it came off kind of offensive to the ski areas of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic.

Look, I’ve written and complained about the base depths reported around our region for twelve years and I think we’ve made some headway. We already have seen ski areas moving towards a single number average snow depth reporting number. Hopefully more will do that and maybe at some point in the future we’ll see all of the ski areas reporting more TRUE numbers rather than what I have called "marketing numbers". While Cantore’s statements were not inaccurate, they were not well timed and seemed to say more than our numbers were not indicative of how conditions really are around here. That is unfortunate because I don’t think that was Cantore’s intention. Without question – we have some AWESOME base depths and great conditions around the region right now. Base depths – no matter what the numbers say – are in GREAT SHAPE and we’ve got plenty of snow to carry us through any kind of mid-range stretch of mild weather.

The unfortunate thing about the segment last night is that the intended focus seemed to get lost and that is that conditions are great around the Southeast and Mid Atlantic and they compare very favorably with some of the resorts out west. In fact, we have had more snow and better conditions than many ski areas west of the Mississippi this season. However, instead, the segment came off as critical of the over inflated numbers and that our numbers should be taken with a grain of salt.

I guess that is what our resorts deserve, but it’s a shame that it gets mentioned on a national broadcast. Maybe this kind of thing is what resorts need to create an impetus towards more accurate numbers, more actual measuring, etc. Maybe they can meet up as a group and actually address this subject rather than "tap dancing" around it in future association meetings. Maybe they can come up with some kind of mutual and consistent measuring agreement.

In closing, there are some numbers around the region that are DEAD ON with their reporting and I’d bet on them. …and there is no question that all of the resorts have the minimums and maximums that they are reporting. However there is also no question that SOME resorts are reporting that they have a MINIMUM of x" across all of their slopes and they simply don’t. When THE WEATHER CHANNEL talks about it…that’s kind of uncool.

Now you guys see why we went to our own BASE DEPTH LEGEND STYLE OF REPORTING.

As many have said, skiing on top of anything more than 6-10" is a non issue anyway. Whether there is 10 feet under you or another inch over that 6-10" makes no difference in your experience. Maybe one day we’ll get all of the ski areas on the same page.

Jim – we know you didn’t mean to sound critical, but it sure came off that way.

Here’s the reported base depths as of this morning:

Heavenly at Lake Tahoe – 38-54"
Mammoth 85-130" (70" of snow in January)

Appalachian – 95"-120"
Cataloochee – 48"-102"
Sapphire Valley – 40"-85"
Ski Beech – 42-75"
Sugar Mountain – 60"-93"
Wolf Ridge – 56-76"

Bryce Resort – 46-72"
Massanutten Resort – 50"
Wintergreen Resort – 50”- 70”

Canaan Valley – 20-40"
Snowshoe Mountain – 56" (72" of snow in January)
Timberline Resort – 35-65"
Winterplace Resort – 40"-80"

Wisp Resort – 28-60"

Ober Gatlinburg – 60"-88"


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Yet another sweet photo looking down the bottom of "Broadway" and the Lodge area at Wolf Ridge Resort on Thursday! Click to enlarge for full
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A Mild Day on Sunday with VERY NICE Conditions at ALL of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic Ski Resorts!
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