Hello skiers and riders of the southeast!
Humans are creatures of habit in which routines rule the schedules that we go by. We do them out of necessity. We do them out of comfort.
However, there are times in which an opportunity presents itself that breaks up the norm, and it is up to you to take advantage of that moment. One of those chances for a weekend-warrior is the midweek ski session, especially during the afternoon and early evening hours. If you have yet to try this out, I can assure you that you are missing out.
For starters, snow conditions after lunchtime usually soften up and tend to be more playable. That notion holds true for most of the time, even if Mother Nature has not been fully supportive. While the recent forecasts have been abnormally warm and stupid for this time of year, we still have deep enough snow depths that the snowmakers and the cat crews can spread it around each night. I will detail what the snow situation was like in a moment, but I can confidently report that it is better than expected, so thank you to all the hard workers that make this happen.
Next, the crowds during the workweek are much smaller than what we experience on Saturdays and Sundays. If you are a fan of finding a parking space right away, or perhaps lift lines that are incredibly short or nonexistent, then this time slot is for you. Same holds true for extra elbow room while descending down the terrain.
Let’s not forget about the cost of lift tickets either, because that too is less when compared to the end of the week. On Wednesday I made a trek to Beech Mountain Resort and arrived around 4 PM. to a sunny, warm, and windy welcoming. I was an hour early for Men’s Night, which is a recurring weekly event in which tickets are $15 for slope access between 5 PM and their 9 PM closure.
Beech also provides this same nighttime discount to Students on Tuesdays and Women on Thursdays throughout the season.
Before I go further, I would like to mention that Beech Mountain Resort has a very charitable cause coming up called “Buns For Runs” which is an annual fundraiser benefiting the Colon Cancer Coalition.
They will have several things occurring at once, starting with an online auction that will begin on Saturday February 25th. That will be followed by their inaugural “Not So Gala, Gala” on Friday March 3rd that will feature blues grass music from Sam Bush. Following that up is skiing and riding all weekend with chances to donate and raise awareness. Registration is $45 for General Admission, but there are VIP slots for $125 available too. More can be found at beechmountainresort.com under their Events tab.
Fortunately, the sun does not set until after 6 PM in late February, which means that you are able to gear up and be atop the 5,506’ summit before darkness. If you time this right and go on a sunny day, you will notice that each chair lift ride will be more colorful than the previous one. Mother nature likes to paint the sky with some of the more vibrant hues during dusk after all.
It should be noted that you might want to have more than one set of eyewear tints on hand during all of this, because your goggles or sunglasses that do well midday might not be the best choice at night. It has been argued that red shades, such as Rose colored, are not the most ideal under the lights due to the shadows created by the lights which can hide surprising features. Yellow or clear work best then, so I opted for wearing sunglasses during times of daylight and then switched to appropriately tinted goggles for afterwards.
As for the snow conditions, my expectations were for super soft, super wet slush that resembled mashed potatoes with extra butter. Instead, it was quite firm due to some icy patches underneath and loose granular pieces that resembled mini ball bearings on top. This is because the snow base is like a cold cake in which numerous layers froze before more snow was sprayed above it. Some of those sheets are starting to resurface and are helping to prevent a total meltdown, for now.
Nonetheless, there were some bare spots to contend with and a few narrower paths to navigate, but nothing that was completely unfortunate or extremely dangerous. I found the higher elevated portions of terrain was more solid, such as Upper White Lightning and Upper Southern Star, and that a lot of that melting runoff was hindering trails at the base such as Lower Powder Bowl. You could not go wrong with a trek down Robbins Run or Shawneehaw either.
The artificial lighting at Beech Mountain Resort is spectacular too, which is a big plus for safety. I have laid tracks at some other places that made this an afterthought, and I can assure you that skimping on this causes reconsideration to further visits. Beech is not one of them, and in fact I only found one spot on Lower White Lightning that was dark. My suspicion was a burnt-out bulb, but the video below shows how small of a spot that was, yet how dark it can be.
More than anything though, twilight skiing and riding is a relaxing thing. I conversed with a few people throughout and found everyone having a good time. Sure, there were grumbles about whether the season would last into late March, but optimism for cold to return was abundant.
All the region needs is one or more cold snaps to occur so the trails can be covered again. There are good signs of this occurring again, so keep the gear tuned and ready to go because we are hoping that this season is not sunsetting quite yet.