Wednesday RANT! –

First Trax

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Okay B-r-a-d, R-a-y — you got some ‘splainin’ to do! I was on the messageboard for most of the night last night (more about that in a moment) but meteorologist Brad Panovich and a couple of weather practitioners were alluding to the snows that would be blanketing our area overnight when I looked out of my front window and lo and behold…it started snowing. It was kind of cool that I was sitting in my living room and it took Brad, who was preparing to do his on-air weather segment on WCNC NBC 6 in Charlotte, to tell me that light snow was already falling in portions of the mountains. I had no idea until he said it on the messageboard. So I went off to sleep comforted to know that I would awake to another wonderful blanket of white. I’d be able to write about all of the snowtotals so far…chastise one or two areas for overstating it (laugh here) and then move on to resort happenings. WRONG!

I woke to "under-developed" snow. Rain for you flat landers. I flipped on the local mountain television channel to hear Ray Russell explain that thunderstorms to our south robbed us of the moisture that was to provide us with snow. Huh???? We HAVE the moisture! What we don’t have is the COLD.

Anyway it IS still supposed to snow. According to Ray Russell this morning, we could get 1-4" and that it should all end by noon. Um…it’s NOON here and it hasn’t started where I’m at and one look at the webcam midway up Ski Beech…Mr Kennedy might have 1/2" of snow on his deck. (I panned the camera down since you can’t see anything up there right now.) Hey maybe that’s the snow! Oh well…such is life with this roller coaster winter we’ve had.

I’m pretty swamped with other business this morning so we’re going to just say that conditions are going to be VERY NICE no matter where you choose to ski today. The Virginia and West Virginia mountains are looking quite nice with variably cloudy skies and lots of snow. The North Carolina mountains may see some light snow today…then see a brief break and then we may get another burst of snow tonight through Thursday.

We’ll wait and see what Brad says is in store for us. He’s batting 4 for 6 in storm forecasts of late and that’s pretty darn good…so we’ll go easy on him 🙂

Now I’m going to rant… – Buoyed by a vote of confidence from an undisclosed source…I am going to complain a little. I’m in a bad mood because of the tease that Old Man Winter through me this morning. I’m in a bad mood for other reasons…and since I do most of the writing for this website, you guys are just going to have to listen…or quit reading now. If you keep on reading don’t get mad at me…you could have stopped.

This may be a tired old subject to some people, while others continue to thank us for continuing our efforts to see that all ski areas report accurate and timely conditions. Contrary to what a very few say, we are not, nor have we ever called out a ski resort for lying. One local ski area manager recently complained to one of our On-Snow Reporters, "Why does your buddy (me) consistently make us the first resort that he calls out as inaccurately posting snow totals?"

First, we can’t help it if one or two resorts post marketing measurements and the rest do not.

Second, we’re going to report what we know and are being told by trusted sources.

There’s an outfit in Vermont that makes a living of reporting what they call, "No Bull Ski Reports" and they actually charge a suscription to get visitors that information. Here’s the way they promote their services:

"Welcome! During the normal ski season…about December to March, this is New England’s one and only independent Vermont ski report.
With the cost of a ski weekend in Vermont easily topping $1,000 don’t you owe it to yourself to get, an independent opinion about skiing conditions? Can you really trust the reports from your favorite mountain or are they just clever pieces of marketing? A subscription to Vermont’s No Bull Ski Report gets you:

A series of no holds barred, daily reports about skiing conditions throughout Vermont.

Verification and tracking on snow fall amounts, surface conditions and weather at almost every VT ski area.

A daily commentary

Advanced weather reports

Coverage of cheap little resort irritants.. Example: Jay Peak blocks toll free calls in Vermont despite its advice to check by phone for lift closures on windy days.

Information on grooming and snowmaking: We’ll tell you why grooming abruptly ceases sometimes.

We help you pick your days and become an informed skier. Think of us as a friend you can call upon in Vermont to give you the real skinny!"

Now first of all, we’ve been doing that same thing LONGER than they have up there. They began their service to skiers in October of 1999, and SkiNC was formed in September of 1996 giving us three more seasons under our belts.

We can tell you that we think their approach is very much "No Bull saving its visitors from the big bad lying ski areas."

There are a handful of people that have emailed us, and a few messageboard posters…and two Southeastern Ski Area managers that would have you think that is SkiNC’s approach as well. FAR FROM IT.

We WORK WITH and ARE ON THE SIDE OF every ski resort that we cover (19) in the Southeast. We’d grade out MOST as being wonderful at "telling it like it is". I’m planning on giving GRADES to all of the ski areas when this season is over and whether a small few don’t agree with our assessment doesn’t bug us in the slightest. You are not privy to the same information that we are, you do not have the resources in place that we do and we’re going to grade every resort on:

1. Timeliness of reports (posting on their own websites, by faxs, emails or calls.)

2. Accuracy of reported information on their reports (base depths, snowfall totals, weather forecasts, etc.)

3. Snow quality – Snow Making – Grooming

While some would like us to grade the on-the-mountain people, such as management, lift operators, ski patrol and ski instructors…we really can’t because first of all we are treated great by everyone that we run into. Also, we think that all of the staff of all of the resorts are good, hard working people and the patrol and instructors (many of whom send us reports and images) are all great at what they do. You will not find a better group of people that the ski patrol and instructors at every single resort in the Southeast. Grading them would be useless because with minor exceptions they would all get A’s.

SkiNC and SkiSoutheast has the support and interacts with of almost ALL of the Southeast’s resorts – We get a lot of email from our On-Snow Reporters. We receive a lot of images, events, news, etc…and we receive a fair amount of contact from the resort operators themselves. UNLIKE the "No Bull" guys and gals…we will tell you that our network WORKS WITH (or attempts to) all of the ski areas and we have great relationships and receive calls and contacts from many almost daily. While we have always said that our website is first and foremost for OUR VISITORS…we work with the ski areas management to broadcast this information out to more than all of the ski area’s websites combined…or at least very close to.

Why Are We Saying This Today? – Because while we DO WORK WITH and attempt to promote the ski areas…we are ALWAYS going to strive to see that they all do a better job (as a group) to provide timely, accurate information. If there are one or two ski operators that don’t like that…we’ll live with it. If there are one or two "noisy" messageboard critics that make false claims about our efforts…we will respond…and rather than responding in separate emails…we will address the masses. Like it or not…this is how we built our popularity to the point that today SkiNC and SkiSoutheast is THE MOST VISITED ski website east of the Mississippi. We can thank you guys and all of the television stations, newspapers and magazines that have promoted us.

It is our hope that by bringing things to everyone’s attention…we will see change. Good change. There is no question in our minds that more resorts now report thin coverage and bare spots than ever in the past…because we are going to report it and show it via live cameras. There is no question that the resorts individually with only minor exception support our efforts and tell us to keep up our good work. Tens of thousands of emailers "have our backs"…and we will continue to report what we nicely call anomalies. What a nice world this will be if all of the ski areas did the kind of job that we have seen from Cataloochee, Ski Beech, Wintergreen, Snowshoe, Winterplace, and Ober Gatlinburg. Each of those resorts will tell you if a pebble is showing through the snow…and they report pretty decent and relative base depths and they post reports early and often. While most of the rest do a very good job, some do a terrible one.

Resorts like Sugar and Appalachian would get high B’s for timeliness and reporting surface conditions…and Sugar would get a High "B" for base depths…and only fall slightly in reporting natural snowfall and for failing to consistently mention when rain is in the forecast…whenever possible. Appalachian would get an "A" for reporting everything perfectly…including mentioning when rain is in the forecast…but falls a little short for overstating their base depth. They simply do not have an AVERAGE MAXIMUM BASE DEPTH OF 130" ACROSS ALL NINE SLOPES. They DO have 130" in a few places…but not AN AVERAGE….so we’d deduct a few points and give them a "B".

Canaan Valley is a good example of a great resort that does not recognize that they need to keep their fans informed properly. They don’t update their own website well, and the Southeastern Ski Areas has not reported on them one day this entire season. In fact for the first half of the season they reported them as "reopening soon". There are others and we’ll cover them all soon.

An example of how our staying "on point" does make for change is Timberline Resort. They were terrible about updating their reports only sporadically once or twice a week for the first half of the season. They blew their season snow totals often and finally because of efforts like ours, simply quit posting their season snowfall and now they are posting VERY TIMELY, DAILY updates to their ski report. By the way…WE can tell you that they’ve had 108" of snow this season…thank you very much.

Let’s finish this rant! – By all accounts conditions are great over at Appalachian. One astute observer emailed us this morning. David Despain wrote, "I noticed the new trend feature on your ski report and saw that App has lost 6" of base in the last five days when temps were in the 40s and low 50s. At that rate it will take more than 125 days (or mid July) before all their snow is gone!"

Of course David wasn’t taking into consideration that temperatures into April, May and onward will warm some with some days getting in the 60s and 70s…and it would take a scientist to enlighten us as to snow melt based on all of the variables. However I think David’s point was a good one…and we’re thinking he had his tongue firmly implanted in his cheek! Regardless though of the cynical humor intended at Appalachian’s reported average maximum base depth of 130", the resorts WILL have pockets of snow in the shaded, protected areas of their mountain well in April and May. I remember playing golf at Hawksnest one May a few years ago and looking up at what was still a substantial knoll of snow near the top.

Tia Sladen of Timmonsville, South Carolina wrote, "SkiNC, you should be ashamed for providing links to data when a resort is trying to tell us that they have almost 11 feet of base on all of its slopes."

We started to argue her point, but she’s correct. App is actually saying that on all nine of the slopes and trails, that they have a minimum average of 45" and a maximum AVERAGE of 130" of base.

We catch some heat from a few people for bringing up this "tired old subject" and we’re accused of calling some resorts liars (although I challenge anyone to show us a reference of that) however, what you guys have to understand is that we get so many emails from people ASKING US about this stuff that we have to respond. Rather than responding to 52 emails referencing this…we write about it here to save time and energy. Plus, if a couple of handfuls of people are thinking enough about it to email us, then you have to figure more people are looking at it as well.

Jasen Vioral, who goes by "Mellow Yellow" on the messageboard actually did a little homework and compared base depths with resorts in PA, NY, MD, WV, VA, VT, and NC and what he found was that Appalachian is reporting base depths that are more than TWICE as deep as all but eight of those state’s 33 ski areas. We’re talking TWICE as deep as 25 of the 33 resorts. There’s a fair amount of small resorts in those 33 and some located in areas that have received much more snow than the 33" of snow that App has seen this season. So while App MAY have more base depth than all of them…we think it’s unrealistic to say that they are TWICE as deep as most all of them…and 44" deeper (AVERAGE) than that of the second place base depth.

And NOW WISP, and Timberline provide a little MAGIC for us – Those two resorts did NOT make snow yesterday…and it did not snow overnight…and Timberline has RAISED it’s base depth by TEN INCHES since yesterday. WISP has had the very same base depth listed for all but four days of the entire season and without any help from machines or Mother Nature raised their base depth by 4". Tired old subject? YES…but come on! We’re watching people…. HELP US HELP YOU BY KEEPING UP DAILY and these strange occurances will cease to baffle people!

Okay I’ve done it. I’m through. I’m going to go take a nap now…I’m tired. What’s that? The phone ringing?

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