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by Joe Stevens

Hello Everyone –

As the days of the year come to an end, I am writing my final column for 2023 on the final day of the year and with that said, still looking for my first turns of the season.

It has been one of those, one thing or another scenarios, for not getting out on the slopes just yet.  Usually, our kid is the one getting me together for those initial turns of the season around Christmas break but getting four wisdom teeth extracted put a pause there, and other things have made it tough to hit the slopes.

With all that belly aching aside, I am glad to see as many of you have been able to get out and enjoy the early season conditions at all the resorts in the southeast region.  I have been enjoying the writeups from the Skisoutheast.com crews, enjoying some TOTH (Time On The Hill) at both Snowshoe and Timberline Mountains.

In years past, the family and I were able to make it and join them for a couple of days, but things and priorities change as we all know, all too well.

It was pretty cool the other day when I reached out to the president of the West Virginia Ski Areas Association, Tom Wagner and he answered his phone while traveling on a lift at Winterplace Ski Resort.  Wagner didn’t rub it in that I wasn’t with him, and I guess that’s what friends are for, at the end of the day.

Again, just happy that some good friends are making some holiday turns and hopefully they are making a couple for me.

As we get further into the 2023-2024 season, it looks like my first turns will be coming pretty soon as the West Virginia Ski Areas Association will be doing a media Snowmaking 101 Clinic at Winterplace on January 9 and what better time to let “Gravity Be My Friend” coming out of the 2024 shoot.

While on that subject, ever since the last Winter Olympics, which were held in China and during the games during the on-slope events, every announcer described the competition surface as either “Fake” or “Artificial” snow.  You can only imagine how that set with yours truly fully knowing that is nothing fake or artificial about the surface the skiers and snowboarders were competing on during the games.

It was decided at that time that an educational process needed to take place to make sure, at least the weather folks in this region understood that the product that comes out of snow guns is not in anyway fake or artificial, just plan old “Real” manmade snow.

The National Ski Areas Association produced a “Whitepaper” outlining the snowmaking process and what goes into the overall product that is produced and the paper did a good job in its description.

The members of the West Virginia Ski Areas Association thought there was one item missing from the report and that was being able to see snow being made up close and personal and so we came up with the Snowmaking 101 seminar/clinic.

Let me just say, this is not something that is going to say only in West Virginia is snowmaking taking place.  On the contrary, it is going to be an opportunity to educate weather folks from throughout the southeast, why this region does it better then any other region in the country.

Yes, I am biased because the southeast is my home base, but when other resorts around the country want to know how it is done, they inquire with one of the mountain ops teams in the southeast region.

If you need to ask the question, why do I think that southeast snowmakers are the best at what they do?  I am here to tell you that without the snowmaking systems at every resort in our region, there would not be the ski industry as we know it today.  Yes, there would be some days going downhill when there is a dump of natural snow, but at this time, those days would be few and far between.

The snowmaking 101 event is going to be a great opportunity to not only educate the folks that understand weather the most, but again also give yours truly and hopefully his kid the opportunity to make our first turns of the season.  It’s really nice when you can mix business with pleasure.

I have mentioned the following on numerous occasions in this space, but I just think most of you out there in skiing, snowboarding and snowtubing land appreciate just how much capital (money) has been invested by every resort in the region.  It is easy to see the investment, when adding up every resort’s share of the pot is in ten figures and that is with a B.  Folks this is not chump change in this day and time.

Don’t even get me started on the electric bill, every resort gets directly related to making snow.  It makes yours and mine look down right pale in comparison.

The days of snowmakers standing under a gun and letting the manmade flakes bounce off their jacket sleeve to test the water content is basically a thing of the past, with many of the systems in the southeast now computerized.

Now back to turning the page into 2024, if you haven’t made those first turns of the season, let’s make a pact together, that it is going to happen sooner rather than later.

I still to this day remember the first turns, if you want to call them that, I ever made on a ski slope, on January 1, 1985 at Massanutten Resort in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Ever since then, I mark my seasonal first turns in my memory, memories I hope will never go away.

That’s it for this week. Just remember whether it be cold or whether it be warm, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather will be. Your favorite slope is now open, so go make some turns and let gravity be your friend.

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