It may not be over till it’s over, but it’s all but over here. A salute to the one standing resort, Appalachian Ski Mountain, which is still open with a respectable close of the season trail count; if I lived closer I would be heading there for afternoon fun and sun and mashed potato turns.
It’s not unusual for the season to be winding down the last weekend of March, many resorts close with high trail counts now because of reduced traffic; but this year is different because most had little option, temperatures and rain conspired to keep the 2015-16 season in the record books for all the wrong reasons.
A season of superlatives?
Well we all know that this has been a uniquely queasy roller coaster of a season with nauseating dips and troughs, but the slow grinds up have been exceptional as well, thanks to southeast snow making which is the only reason slopes were open at all for more than a couple of weeks. Some notable ups and downs:
Superlative Low: Christmas and New Year 2015. By the end of the week every resort except one closed their mountain for skiing, ping pong and Parcheesi remained widely available.
Superlative Recovery: One week later all local resorts had hit the fifty percent open mark again. It was a brand new winter, for a little while.
Lesson: Never give up and as a skier/rider, cherish the snowmaking windows when they open, it is like instant magic. Do not miss out on the voodoo that these resorts can conjure up even in a bad year.
Superlative prediction: A wildly popular weather phenom, known as El Nino, was going to create sweet glorious powder events throughout the southeast peaking somewhere right about now. Do you feel the thrill?
Superlative disappointment: by January 1st streets throughout the region were already choked with fat rockered skis and boards that had been thrown out and piled on suburban sidewalks. Thefts of backyard kayaks spiked. And P-tex futures collapsed.
Lesson: Never listen. I am not piling onto the weather forecasters, making your weekend outdoor plan is much easier now than it used to be thanks to new and superior modeling techniques but our mutual confidence in the possibility of predicting a ski season on these models is clearly delusional. I hope El Chucucabra devours El Nino next year leaving not a bone to pick over and predict.
Superlatively stupid statement: My own pre-season prediction about the Pacific Northwest: Dry as a small Texas town I predicted, but they are doing great and we are already eating pine pollen.
Superlative solution: I am heading West to personally apologize to the lift operators and bartenders whose livelihood I may have impacted by parroting all those mistaken predictions. I will be starting my apology tour of Oregon and Washington this week and I hope they get another epic snow storm to accentuate my point.
Lesson: Always save a wild card at the end of the season
An end of the season pitch for next year
Invest in next year now at low, low rates (some risks may apply). Yes I am the same huckster who assured you last September that you could not go wrong with a season pass investment; and anyone who followed that advice probably still broke even, on average I think that took 5-7 days on the slopes (my research assistant is not in the office). Many resorts have put together some really steep discounts if you get next years pass now. It’s a little hard to fathom right now after this wringer of a season but it really is worth looking at; and keep this in mind, it was during the off season that our resorts made the improvements that allowed us to get in some great skiing despite the atrocious weather. Some early season pass revenue I’m sure would help them continue building the infrastructure we increasingly rely on. If you like skiing around here, recognize and reward them now for what they do.
As I mentioned I’m heading to the Pacific Northwest this week and hope to post some stoke, which is to say I hope to be a little lost in some pristine trees but not upside down in a tree well. My son will keep an eye on me.
Meanwhile, some closing thoughts and thanks.
Thanks to everyone who meets on the slopes, texts, posts and sends private messages and participates on the messageboard, it all helps form a community of like-minded skiers. A lot of us have skied together for years and a lot of others have joined in; let’s keep that going and build on it. Thanks to all the resorts for making something out of nothing and allowing southern skiers to stay on the slopes. And Mike Doble, thanks for this opportunity, I’ve loved writing these articles and hope some of you have enjoyed them… is that a fragment?