Update on How the Season is Going…

First Trax

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We’ve been alluding to how SKIERS and SNOWBOARDERS measure the success of a season and obviously we all want more snow and more trails. Thankfully with the weather now changing for the better and snowguns firing everywhere…we snow lovers will get more snow with each passing day.

However in terms of the way that the ski resort operators measure the success of a season things are being reported as "surprisingly good" all across the Southeast. Before I get thousands of emails from those of you who are conspiracy minded and think that the resorts might just be putting the best spin on things…consider the following.

Although the season got off to a somewhat slow start – the resorts only count on a slow-to-steady trickle of business prior to the Christmas/New Year Holiday anyway. Weekend traffic was up to par across the region prior to the holidays.

Then the cold and snows hit a week or so prior to Christmas making for beautiful conditions at all of the resorts. Even though most resorts didn’t have all of their trails open…skiers came in HUGE numbers.

The couple of weeks after the holidays (particularly the weekdays) are always a little slower anyway…which coincided with the period that we have just suffered through with all of the mild temps.

So this NEW, COLD spell is perfectly timed to hit for the Martin Luther King weekend and the subsequent period that we normally call our "mid-season". Though conditions are FAR from mid-season form…and we have a long way to go to get more trails open at all of the resorts, but the timing is near perfect to coincide with good weather and increased traffic…particularly on the weekends. ALL GREAT NEWS TO SKIERS AND RESORT OPERATORS ALIKE!

So while we ARE in the midst of a prolonged, almost three week warm spell, the holiday period was good for everybody. We were talking with Lenny Cottom of Hawksnest and he mirrors pretty much what all of the resort operators are saying, "We’ve seen winter warm-ups before but one of this caliber is rare," says Cottom.

What makes this warm period more noticable is the fact that normally we’ll see colder, snowier conditions and THEN get the warm snap. This season started with a slow start, and then we saw the short, two week cold snap…followed yet again by this three week warm spell. So resorts have never really gotten the chance to build up the slopes quite the way they’d want.

Apart from the warm spell, Cottom said Hawksnest has, so far, had a “real good” season, particularly over the Christmas holiday.

Appalachian Ski Mountain terms the season to date as being, “Surprisingly good, considering the weather being a little unseasonably warm.”

Moretz qualifies the season as being “above average” with an outstanding Christmas turnout.

Over at Sugar Mountain things may not be looking so "sweet" right now but management reports that the season has been "positively on track" so far.

We spoke with Gil Adams up at Ski Beech last week when they only had a couple of slopes open and he said, "People that have been here this week have been having a pretty good time, despite the bare areas and conditions,” Adams said. “We’re plugging along, but we’re in desperate need of some snowmaking weather.”

Ober Gatlinburg in Tennessee is much the same position that the North Carolina resorts are in. They need a good finish…but this season has been okay…to date.

Resorts further north into Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia have had it somewhat easier regarding slightly cooler temperatures…and for the most part all reports are that the season is going pretty well despite milder than normal temps and conditions. I was up at Snowshoe Mountain over the Christmas Holiday and can tell you, first hand, that they had RECORD crowds on the mountain.

So while the weather has been sub par…the timing of the weather has been such that resorts are seeing "pretty good" seasons thus far. If we can get through a decent MLK weekend and have a strong finish things will be just fine.


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