The Weekend Eating Season Continues; However, There is Hope for Winter to Stick Around

FeaturedFirst Trax

Check the SNOW REPORT as all the deets out there today. Suffice to say that there is plenty of snow on the slopes, lots of skiable terrain available to play on as well as snow tubing and ice skating. You’ll need to view the SNOW REPORT to see who has what available today.

We DO provide a few resort notables if you want to scroll below a bit as we are seeing a mixed bag of weather around the region.

Ski Resorts Provide Twenty One Weeks and Up to 152 Days of Winter!

There are officially only 90 days in a winter, although ski resorts tend to stretch that number to 150+ days these days. Many years ago someone came up with the idea of inventing a system that can crank out snow and that allowed ski areas to push the envelope and as that technology improved – so did the length of a season. What was once a twelve week ‘winter season’ is now as many as 21 weeks by the time you consider that some resorts open as early as Halloween or November 1st and stay open until April 1st.

So we now have as many as 21 weekends to play in the snow within the Southeast and mid-Atlantic and THIS is the 11th of those weekends. So we are indeed at about the halfway mark of this most challenging season in terms of the weather to date. The GOOD news (we hope) is that we have 10 more weeks (and 10 more weekends) with next weekend being the second of the ALL-IMPORTANT, traffic-creating, holiday weekends.

Next Friday (January 17th) through Monday (January 20th) is a long, MLK weekend that is traditionally one of three weekends that deliver a LOT of skier visits to the bean counters at all of the resorts in the region. (The other two of those being the Christmas-New Years week and weekends, and President’s Day weekend (February 14th-17th) which this year will include the added bonus of being Valentine’s Day and weekend.

Those three holiday periods can deliver a huge piece of the skier-visit pie to ski areas and while the Christmas-to-New-Years week and weekends were not pristine, they WERE very successful in terms of weather and traffic. Of our (15) ski resorts in the Southeast and mid-Atlantic, perhaps (10) of them would grade their traffic as a “B” or above.

I’ve already mentioned this weekend is the 11th of those 21 weekends through the end of March and depending on the weather we could see a bonus weekend (April 3-5) this year. However, so far, the 2019-2020 ski and snowboarding season has been one that has delivered untimely wetter-than-desired weather on weekends. Hence the “Weekend Eating Season” title to this FirsTrax post.

While the aforementioned holiday periods deliver a huge chunk of the skier visits and budget each season – WEEKENDS are very important to the mix. VERY IMPORTANT, and so far of these first (11) weekends (included the one we are currently in), our weather has not been cooperative as perhaps about one-half of them have included some rain and milder temperatures. That formula is not a good one as it not only eats weekends…it eats snow.

Gone semi-unnoticed (except on this website) – is the fact that our snowmaking crews have had to work harder this season that all but a couple on record. They’ve taken advantage of every MINUTE of those snowmaking windows of opportunity AND the millions of dollars invested to make the conditions that we still have at our reports possible.

As I looked around the LIVE CAMS I saw wet, windy and foggy conditions for perhaps the 5th weekend of these first eleven. About the only good thing I can say about how challenging the weekend weather has been through this first half of the season – is that weekDAY traffic has been up as far as ‘the naked eye’ can see. Often, as I view the LIVE CAMS on weekdays this season, I’ve seen more people in the lift lines than on some weekends and that’s good for everyone involved.

It seems that prospective visitors are paying attention to the forecasts, watching the LIVE cams and then planning trips to their favorite mountain on a moment’s notice.

We’re Halfway There…

If you have followed me over the years, you know that I am a ‘numbers guy’ and to further extrapolate on the fact that we are blessed with not TWELVE, but TWENTY-ONE weeks of ski and snowboarding season now days… we are ALSO on day 72 (today) of up to 152 possible days to enjoy skiing and snowboarding in the region.

Of course, to take advantage of all, possible 152 days you may have to ski or ride at Cataloochee or Sugar – which tends to open earlier than all the others AND then ski or ride at Snowshoe through March 27th or April 3rd weekend. (Sugar and Cataloochee tend to stay open as late as possible as well.)

However, you guys and gals get my drift (I hope). We are indeed at about the half-way mark in what has been a VERY challenging winter to date.

Is Winter About to Make a Prolonged Appearance?

We heard a hint from Meteorologist Brad Panovich on Friday that winter may be here to stick around after this next 5-6 day mild stretch. See that video below.

However, later in the day we received a Facebook post from Meteorologist Ross Ellet. who is fondly referred to as the “Doogie Howser” of the weather industry by people who follow him in the Ohio area.

His post on Facebook was awfully encouraging to say the least. He posted:

Who thought winter was going to be a no show this year? Welp…Old Man Winter is about to make a come back folks! We have another week of mild weather in store, then we should start to make the transition towards more cold with a potentially favorable storm track for snow as well during the final week and a half of the month. Late January is expected to bring below average temperatures. The monthly computer models still indicate the odds are better for a colder than normal February and March. It is hard to say how harsh the 2nd half of winter will become, but I think it is safe to say the next 2 months will be more interesting than the past 2 months from a winter weather perspective.

– Meteorologist Ross Ellet

Well HE just gained more fans, didn’t he?

So I suppose we’ll need to be patient over these next few days of milder temps and light rain and hope that Winter does, indeed make an re-appearance and actually stick around for the rest of the calendar through the end of March. God knows we could use it.

Speaking of God Knows….

You guys remember those signs where ‘messages from God’ were being posted around the country? You know like, “If you MUST curse, use your own name.” – signed God.

Well, I’ve heard from a ton of you guys about burning wooden snowmen (that’s one I’ve done a few times), offering up snow dances or fires to ULLR or the Norse gods and goddesses of mythology – Skaði. SOMETHING to get winter kickstarted.

Speaking of ‘kickstarted’ I thought about starting a kickstarter drive to see if I could get tons of you to donate money to ME so that I could finance a global refrigeration system. I figured only one or two of you would go (fall) for that one. Haha.

But seriously, I am going to place a billboard on Hwy 105 and Hwy 184 that says the following:

You guys with me? No, I don’t need your donations. We’ll do this on our own. It will be fun to see the remarks we get, if any. Stay tuned as I will have it running by Monday…in time for the MLK Weekend.

Saturday Resort Notables…

CANAAN VALLEY RESORT
They went from 12 slopes open to 17 today!
Lower Valley Drop, Upper and Lower Ramble, Ramble Cutback, and Upper Valley Vista are now open!!!

They posted: With the arrival of the weekend comes lots of new terrain to ski and ride on! We will operate today with 17 slopes to ski and ride on, and our mountain will remain open until 6pm. Upper and Lower Ramble will be closed for part of the day while we host the Collegiate Race Series, but head over there after 3pm to catch some sweet lines. Our tube park will operate until 9pm, and our ice skating rink is available until 10pm this evening. There are plenty of activities to choose from, so enjoy another winter day in Canaan Valley!

SNOWSHOE MOUNTAIN – 11″ of SNOW in the last 7 days helps…but…
Playing on 169 acres! New Terrain Alert – Singletree, Skip Jack and Widowmaker are now open.
Happy Saturday from the top of Snowshoe Mountain!

They posted: We’ll see some not-so-wintry temperatures today, with the chances of precipitation and high winds increasing as the day goes on. Our advice is to get out early and often this morning before the weather turns ugly tonight. Mother Nature and our snowmaking team really put in some work this week so there is plenty of snow out there and conditions are going to be soft and fun for everyone. Bear Claw will open around 11AM following ski team practice. The Bear’s Den is open at Silver Creek with food for the whole family! Stop in and refuel.

Speaking of Snowsnow – here’s a teaser. We will hosting the SkiSoutheast Summit at Snowshoe, the weekend of February 28-March 1st so plan to join us. More next week!

WINTERGREEN RESORT – LOVED their BLOG this morning! They posted:

Fun No Matter What Mother Nature Brings
That four-letter word surfaced this morning – rain. But there is a sunny side to rain so let’s choose our attitude and make some fun. Here’s the upside to a day with some drizzle.

The snow will be softer, so practice your turns and technique. We have a great base, so the snow isn’t going to disappear.

If you decide to take a lesson, chances are the group will be smaller and you’ll get more attention.
Temps will be warmer and you won’t be bundled up in layer upon layer.

Speaking of dressing for the weather, it’s a great opportunity to test out that high-tech wicking jacket and pants you got for Christmas. Remember, GORE-TEX is your friend!

Your friends may think you’re crazy when you tell them you had a great time, but you know any day on slopes is better and being stuck inside. Let’s have some fun!

LOVED THAT!

CATALOOCHEE SKI AREA
We talked about how challenging it has been for resorts and snowmaking this season. Cataloochee has done a remarkable job in terms of making snow. However, an example of some of the challenges is the fact that just at the bottom of the ski mountain they operate Tube World and Although while they have begun snowmaking at Tube World, located in Maggie Valley, four miles from the ski area, they will not be operating there this weekend 1/11 & 1/12. They will resume snowmaking there as quickly as possible and begin operations there again as soon as they can.

OBER GATLINBURG
Ober has the reverse of what’s happening at Cataloochee at the Smoky Mountain resort. They have a unique system for making a limited amount of snow to operate their tubing hill, however they can’t get their ski hill open. It HAS been open a couple of weekends….however, they posted:

Sorry, ski & snowboard activity are suspended temporarily until temps allow enough snow-making to reopen.

Unfortunately we have not been able to make enough snow to reopen the slopes yet. We hope to reopen as soon as possible…we just need Mother Nature to cooperate. So, please keep an eye on the forecast, stay tuned to this page for updates and keep your fingers crossed.

MASSANUTTEN RESORT
Mostly cloudy with highs near 60. They posted: While we hope this weather doesn’t stick around too long and the forecasters say it won’t, you might as well get out and enjoy some soft snow turns while it’s warm. The park crew has some Freestyle features on Easy Street today.

JMU football watch party in Encounters lounge on Sat. Come get some morning turns in and cheer on the Dukes as they compete for the FCS National Championship against NDSU at 12:00pm. Mention the Dukes at the ticket window before the noon kick off and recieve a College Discount on Slope – Use tickets and equipment rental rentals.

We will be open from 9 am – 9 pm for skiiing and riding, open 9 am – 10 pm for snow tubing.

OMNI HOMESTEAD RESORT
They posted that their snow sports area is holding on and we remain open to mid-station for skiing and snowboarding.

Base: 6-10” of groomed conditions
# of Trails: 2
# of Lifts: 2

Hours of operation:
Rental Shop 8:30AM-5PM
Lift access 9AM-4:30PM

That will do it for today.

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