We Grade the Season to Date and Share Some HOPE for Better Days Ahead!

First Trax

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It’s Tuesday and we’re in for one more day of milder-than-we’d-all-like temperatures so we’re only doing one combined report for today.

You guys are such a worrisome bunch!

We received a lot of emails overnight asking about what kind of conditions we can all expect for our Christmas to New Year’s getaways. So we try our hand at playing "snow psychologists" – again.

Things are definately looking UP for the next couple of weeks, but we’re going to grade the first few weeks to date.

Snow Psychology 101

I’ve slept at a couple of Holiday Inns in the last month so we’re going to take another stab at reassuring many of our visitor’s fragile psychies about the upcoming Christmas ski breaks. We also received a few emails bemoaning the "season to date" so we’re left with a dilemma – which do we cover first?

We’re going to grade the season first, so we can get the negative out of the way and then try our best to build your confidence.


The best way to grade the season to date would be to talk about how much terrain is open thus far. We could talk about snowfall to date, but the ski areas really don’t depend on natural snow to get terrain open. This "report card" is not grading the ski areas because these guys can’t make snow if the weather isn’t cooperative. So we’re really grading the weather to date. With that in mind, here’s the facts:

Wisp Resort – 7 of 32 trails open – 21.8% open terrain

Appalachian Ski Mountain – 7 of 11 trails – 63.6% open

Cataloochee Ski Area – 14 of 16 trails – 87.5% open

Sapphire Valley – Not open yet – 0 of 2 – 0% open

Beech Mountain Resort – 5 of 15 trails – 33.3% open

Sugar Mountain – 9 of 20 trails – 45% open

Wolf Ridge Resort – 5 of 20 trails – 25% open

Ober Gatlinburg – 5 of 8 trails – 62.5% open

Bryce Resort – 4 of 8 trails – 50% open

Massanutten Resort – 5 of 14 trails – 35.7% open

The Homestead – Not open yet – 0 of 5 – 0% open

Wintergreen Resort* – 0 of 26 trails – 0% open
They were open with 5 trails this past weekend with 19.2% open

Canaan Valley – 4 of 39 trails – 10.2% open

Snowshoe Mountain* – 15 of 60 trails – 25% open
They had more terrain open this past weekend and look for 33 trails to be open this weekend (55%)

Timberline Resort – 0 of 37 trails – 0% open

Winterplace Resort – Not Open Yet – 0 of 28 trails – 0% open

That is 80 of 341 or 23.5% of the trails that are open as of right now in the Southeast and Mid Atlantic.

We’re going to give the ski areas a "A" for effort because every single one of them have been making snow at every opportunity. I’m certain that we’ll get a few emails about how Ober or Wolf didn’t make snow every chance they could have – but if the long term forecast showed opportunities to make AND KEEP snow on the slopes they made it. Several resorts like Cataloochee, Sugar and Snowshoe made and lost all the snow that they made before getting any kind of sustained temps to get where they are now.

So the resorts get an "A". As per Ma Nature? There’s no way to give the weather an "F" because we COULD have had NO cold or snow and NO opportunities for snowmaking. Therefore we’re going to grade things out at a "D-" thus far.

On a state level the percentages open are:

Wisp in Maryland – 21.8%

West Virginia – 19 of 164 trails or 11.5% open

Virginia – 9 of 53 trails or 17% open

Ober in Tennessee – 5 of 8 trails – 62.5% open

North Carolina – 40 of 84 trails – 47.6%

There are several variables in the mix that could be argued about why one state or the other has what they have open thus far, but the fact is that North Carolina has twice as much open terrain than any other state on Tuesday, December 15th.

That will change this weekend with cold and snow coming in. But to date a D- is about as accurate as we can grade things.

Snow Psychology 101 (Class is back in session. Take your seats.)

I know we don’t have metal detectors in this school, but I am going to ask that the more depressed of you put your weapons away. IT ISN’T THAT BAD!!!

A review of several ski seasons of the past shows that we are not all that behind where we "should be" at this juncture of the season. There is a bit of ski industry history that shows that at this point in time in many previous seasons we’ve only seen 25-30% of terrain open in mid December. Then once the end of the month rolls around we see resorts with 80-90% of their terrain operating. So there’s hope in history. (Bear in mind that we’ve archived EVERY article over the last several seasons and we have a ton of content to pull from!)


John Dickerson of Roanoke wrote us yesterday, "Hey guys, with so many people dependent on the cold weather and snow for economic survival during these months, why doesn’t someone organize a day of prayer for cold temps?"

John – organize it and we’ll pass the word and take part. For that matter ANYBODY organize it and we’re in! I can tell you that I’ve spoken with MANY ski area rental people and there’s a bunch of prayers going up! One Snowshoe area rental company told me on Monday afternoon, "We’ve already pretty much lost one month of the season. We had such a great November in 2008 and this last month has been pretty slim pickings. We’re sure hoping and praying for a great late December through these next three and a half months."

She also shared that rental agencies in that area pretty much make their year in the winter months. That is the same sentiment shared by many across the region. So skiers and snowboarders aren’t the only ones in need of some good news and counseling today.


Every weather guru that we’ve asked has confirmed that colder, more sustained cold temps and even some natural snow is in the forecast not only for the next couple of days, but for the next prolonged forecast period.

The snowguns will be cranked up for EVERY SKI AREA beginning sometime this evening as temps are forecasted anywhere from 25° at Banner Elk in North Carolina to 14° at Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia. There should be some around-the-clock snowmaking ops for some areas and at least GREAT overnight snowmaking opportunities with lows in the LOW 20s all the way through Christmas night for much of the region and even some teens in some locations.

MOST models are forecasting HIGH temps on Monday of around 15° at Snowshoe Mountain and snow showers. Areas into North Carolina should see highs in the upper 20s. That and some natural snow will have everything looking quite "winter wonderland"-like into the Christmas Holiday Getaway period. A lot more terrain will open this weekend and into next week and if the forecast holds you’ll see some ski areas 100% open and many in the 80%-90% range.

Feeling better now? We hope so.

WebCam update

Cams are showing a variety of conditions as some ski areas are fighting thin coverage and bare spots. The truth is everyone’s probably got some thin cover and a bare area or two today. Don’t fret it, they will all be gone tomorrow!

We had a couple of hearty staff members who went up to both Appalachian and Beech Mountain on Monday to tweak our camera setups. We moved the Appalachian cam up a few feet higher to give us a great angle on the chair lift and lodge areas below. That camera is running LIVE at http://www.highcountrywebcams.com/webcameras_AppSkiMtnLIVE.htm  

If you’re riding at App, call home and say "HI" to friends or family. More about that in a bit.

The Beech cam has been a learning experience. After spending $3500 in running electricity and another $2000 in camera and wireless equipment, we now know that you can’t mount a camera ON A LIFT TOWER! There is simply too much vibrating and swaying going on and the camera just stays out of focus. No biggy. We are relocating that camera onto a pole today and hope to get you some AWESOME views of the Quad lift up near the top of Beech and the White Lightning and Southern Star trails. Look for that tommorow.

We also have another surprise camera that should activate sometime today to get you guys a another live view of another of your favorite resorts. More about that later!

We’ve posted a NOVEL today, so let’s wrap up with a resort tour: 

50° – Appalachian Ski Mountain – They look great today. They are still in very good shape despite the last 36 hours of mild weather. They are open with a minumum base of 38"+ and 7 of 11 trails open for day and night skiing and ice skating as well.

Monday, 14th December 2009
Gift Cards Now Available

Appalachian Ski Mtn.’s new gift card is a fast and easy solution for any gift-giving occasion. The new card can be used multiple times and is good on-site for ski tickets, rental equipment and ice skating, as well as restaurant, ski shop or gift shop purchases.

Unlike many gift cards, the Appalachian Ski Mtn. gift card will not have any expiration dates, dormancy fees, service charges, or any type of administrative fee whatsoever. Additional value may be added to the card at any time from Appalachian Ski Mtn.’s Main Office, and remaining balance information may be viewed online.

Gift Cards are available for any amount $ 25 and up. Online ordering is available

48° – Cataloochee Ski Area has the most open terrain south of Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia and the most in the state of North Carolina with 14 of 16 slopes and trails open for day and night skiing and snowboarding. They are reporting a minimum base of 24"+.

45° – Beech Mountain Resort – They are looking a little "worn" this morning and the cold temps and snow chances could not be better timed. They will operate with 5 of 15 trails open for day and night skiing from the top. They have plenty of good snow and they are doing some grooming this morning that will make for a good day today and snowmaking temps come back in tonight! Ice skating is open as well.

43° – Sugar Mountain is actually looking pretty good from top to bottom this morning. They have 9 of 20 trails open from the top of the mountain for day and night sessions. As of 8am Sugar’s "Snow making in progress" icon is flashing as if they are making snow. They are not. It is a mistake and they’ll catch it soon enough. It’s kind of like when we flip our turn signals on in our cars and forget to turn it off. Someone will beep them and they’ll turn it off.

48° – Wolf Ridge Resort has not updated their website in a couple of days, but they are reporting 5 of 20 trails open for day and night sessions on Tuesday with snow tubing open as well. Wolf looks darn nice this morning via their webcams.

47° – Bryce Resort is reporting 4 of 8 trails open for day sessions only on Tuesday. They are not reporting their tubing park as open today so we’d say to call ahead if you’re interested in tubing as it does not appear that they are open for tubing today. Bryce dropped their reported base depth by 5" this morning to a minimum of 10". They look pretty good though and the cold and snow coming in will make for some nice conditions for this coming weekend.

38° – Massanutten is open with 5 of 14 trails and four lanes of tubing as well. They are open for day sessions this week and night skiing and snowboarding will start on Friday. They too are offering gift certificates for those on your Christmas list who could use some freebie skiing and riding!

46° – Wintergreen Resort – We remind you that Wintergreen is closed until Friday. They will be focusing on opening more terrain for this weekend once the cold air returns this evening. 

46° – Canaan Valley is reporting 4 of 39 trails open for day sessions on Tuesday. They are looking a little thin in some areas and the snowmaking ops coming in tonight could not be better timed. They have plenty of good coverage to ride though on Valley Vista and Face, as well as the beginner terrain on Bunny Buster and Sissy Schuss.

39° – Snowshoe Mountain – It’s VERY rare that The Shoe doesn’t update their snow report, but that is the case as of 8:34am this morning. We checked with the SSAA, Snowshoe’s site, their snow line and even placed calls in to Laura Parquette and we’re guessing there’s some technical difficulties happening. Based on Monday’s report we’ll guess that they have about the same terrain open today (15 trails) with variable conditions and some thin areas out their. They are forecasted to see temps into the mid teens tonight and some snow is in the forecast so things will look awesome for this weekend.

Update! Laura called and informed me that more than half the mountain is without phone service and they’re sitting around drinking coffee because they couldn’t check email, call out or update content on the website. As of 9:50 they got that fixed and they’re up to date. Laura also told me that they are expecting to be able to be open this weekend with 33 trails for the weekend!  Look for even more as we close in on Christmas!

45° – Timberline Resort is closed until Friday. They report, "Timberline will be closed Monday, December 14th – Thursday, December 17th to allow time for our snow makers to build our base. We will reopen on December 18th at 9:00 am."

46° – Winterplace Resort is closed until December 18th when they plan to open for the first time this season.

37° – Wisp Resort is already seeing some cold temps this morning and snow is in the forecast for the Garrett County ski resort. They are playing on 7 of 32 trails for day sessions only with some thin areas as well.

52° – Ober Gatlinburg is reporting some thin coverage and bare areas on 5 of 8 trails for sessions from noon until 10pm. Colder temps are on the way so they should look in nice shape by the weekend!

You can check the snow reports for all of the ski resorts of West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee and North Carolina via https://www.skisoutheast.com/skireports.php  as well as videos, photos and more.

Send your comments, videos, photos, trip reports and questions to: [email protected]  

SSAA: 0 for 18 app8not7bchpackedpow/wolfpackedpow/self 18/19

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