This Weekend Marks the End of the Christmas-to-New-Year Holiday Period

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…and even though Friday was a soaker of a day to be on the slopes, the important, Christmas-to-New-Year Holiday week was a major success across the board. Every resort in the region enjoyed capacity crowds and brisk-to-potentially record numbers of skier visits.

Photo of the Day compliments of Appalachian Ski Mountain from the fireworks show!

I was in a unique position to experience the wet & wholly weather that ran the entire length and breadth of our ski area coverage on Friday.

I checked in on all of the rain gauges available across the region from the first day of the year (Friday, January 1st, 2021) and I saw anywhere from 0.60″ to 1.06″ of rain that fell at every ski area in the region. To be honest, it FELT like a whole lot more than that!

I started my day at Snowshoe Mountain, packing up my truck to head home after a wonderful ski getaway that composed of 5 of 7 days of skiing about two hours a day and sleeping much of the rest of it as I was fighting a cold during the entire stay. Due to the heavy attendance on the mountain, my truck was parked about as far away from The Highland House as it could have been, so I was soaked by the wind-driven rain on my walk to get my truck. By the time I was able to pack it up for the return trip home, I FELT like 2″ of rain had fallen.

The drive back featured buffeting winds, heavy fog and moderate rain and soaked roads the entire drive back. Snowshoe Drive was still framed by big piles of snow, as was the forest until we got about half-way to Lewisburg. When we arrived in the High Country, coming in from the Damascus, Virginia side of the area, I could not believe how much water was on the road and roadside. It was raining even harder in the NC Mountains and needless to say, I was soaked yet again UNPACKING my truck.

After drying off a bit, we decided to head over to Bodega’s in Banner Elk for an early dinner and it was so foggy and rainy that you could barely see Sugar Mountain as we passed by.

It Was A Wet Friday Everywhere in the Southeast and Mid Atlantic Mountains

In fact it was so wet, that David Lesher of Canaan Valley Weather posted, “A warm soaking rain yesterday and increasing winds overnight brought to an end 20 consecutive days of measurable snowcover.”

It is Now Saturday and All Ski Resorts “Weathered the Weather”

I don’t gripe that much these days about ski resorts and base-depth reporting – but I will complain just a little that after all of that soaking rainfall on Friday – and dense, snow-eating fog – that only three of the sixteen ski resorts in the region reported ANY reduction in base depths!

Kudos to Cataloochee (dropped 3″-4″), Sapphire Valley (dropped 2″) and Sugar Mountain (dropped 2″-4″) for reporting in. Trust me, they all saw base depths take a bit of a hit from the last 24 hours.

…and There’s No Packed Powder Anywhere in the Region Either

Our resort’s maintenance crews do an amazing job of grooming and “conditioning” snow. They are often out on the slopes late in the evening and very early in the morning (before the sun comes up) pushing snow around and packing the base to make for the best conditions available on any given day. Without question, every resort in the region is looking at PLENTY of good base depth and by the time you guys are reading this post, the slopes open at each ski area have been worked and in great shape for the day.

Expect a mix of groomed corduroy; soft due to the 40° readings this morning; and starting out as a packed, frozen granular – that will transition to loose granular as the day goes by.

A couple of ski areas are reporting “packed powder” conditions, and the last natural snowfall we had in the region was on Christmas Day and the 26th. Ski areas HAVE been able to make snow even over the last 48 hours, so there was some “packed manmade”, but Friday’s rain took care of those conditions.

So expect “Loose and Frozen Granular” conditions wherever you hit the slopes today.

Also Expect Crowded Slopes and Trails

We’re still getting news and reports from most of the resorts in the region – reporting being sold out and/or limiting lift passes and ski & snowboard rentals. I am also getting emails from those of you asking about crowds and what to expect in terms of Covid-19 safety, etc. The “tone” of many of those emails are such that I know that there are many travelers who are extremely concerned over the risks of contracting covid from being in and around any crowded establishment or activity. I get it.

Many of the emails I have received lately seem to suggest that with resorts limiting ticket sales, that the slopes and locker rooms won’t be crowded or they will somehow be LESS crowded. That isn’t happening anywhere in the region. Every ski area has a capacity that their lift systems and slopes can handle to maintain safe operations for any day, within any year – with or without the concerns for the spread of a virus.

We’ve been reporting on HOW BUSY our ski mountain communities have been since EARLY, EARLY this past Summer. Hiking and biking trails, the Blue Ridge Parkway, our highways and byways, and all attractions – lakes, etc., have all been packed all last Summer and Fall. Demand has been high and people are flocking to the mountains in heavier-than-usual numbers. Hotels and cabin rentals are in HIGH DEMAND and hard to get – even in the middle of the week in many ski areas.

December was cold and snowy, which added to that demand and despite what you are reading in terms of “limited tickets sales” and “capacity limits” the resorts in the Southeast and mid-Atlantic have been packed so far this season.

Some resorts ARE limiting ticket sales in the sense of having a few less people on the mountain on busy weekends or Holidays than they might in a non-covid year, but that isn’t the case at every ski resort. In fact, it isn’t the case at most resorts. What you’re seeing in many cases is that ticket sales are being “LIMITED” in the sense that resorts can’t take on any more traffic than they can take on…with or without the concern of a virus.

It is THAT busy and visitors are flocking to the mountains in THOSE kinds of numbers, that resorts are SOLD OUT, and not because they are only selling “50-60% of their usual lift passes”.

Translation: Go to any ski area in the region on any weekend or Holiday right now…and after about 10:30am, the slopes and lift lines will be packed.

I am only sharing this message, because there seems to be a perception on the part of a lot of people who are emailing, that each resort is only operating at 30-40-50-60% of capacity, and that isn’t what is going on.

Ski areas are SELLING OUT individual days right now, because they are packed to the gills with people wanting to ski and ride. Snow tubing parks and the slopes can only hold so many people, and the demand is so huge right now, that every resort is “limiting ticket sales” and not simply letting any and everyone who might want to attend, attend.

Editor’s note: While most resorts are operating at “sold out” capacities, (whatever their level of ‘sold out’ is), most are seeing very heavy,  holiday traffic. If the weather continues to cooperate, we’d expect that trend to continue for each weekend ahead…and particularly the MLK Holiday and President’s Day Weekends ahead. (Some resorts are ALREADY sharing those dates as “sold out”.)

To our knowledge, only Appalachian Ski Mountain has implemented a program that disperses those sold out, traffic days over the full period of each ski day. To learn more about what App is doing, click here

For those of you concerned…

Skiing and Snowboarding is an outdoor sport. It is an activity that is as “covid-proof” as you’ll find. What I am seeing and hearing is that the vast majority of guests are honoring the call to “mask-up”. Lift ops at every resort are doing their best to patrol lift lines and politely asking the few who forget – to “pull ’em up” and I have not once seen or heard even one person complain or resist the request.

That’s it for me today…enjoy your weekend. It should be a relatively nice one on the slopes as the forecast is for little to no rain except overnight. We might even see some natural snow showers here and there at the higher elevations. We should see some return to snowmaking temperatures Sunday night and into Monday and Tuesday, so expect the good-to-great conditions to continue.

…and expect the heavy skier interest to continue as well!

email me as you like at [email protected]

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