First Trax

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It is MID JANUARY. The 17th day of January to be specific. We’re on day 52 of the 2009-2010 ski and snowboarding season today. The season got cranked up a little later than we all would have liked with Sugar Mountain starting things up early in the day on November 27th.

One look at the calendar tells us that with any luck we’ve still got anywhere from 63 to 84 more days of skiing and riding left here in the Southeast and Mid Atlantic. So even for ski areas that will most likely choose to close ski ops in mid March – we’re not yet at the halfway point in this season. We already know that at least Appalachian Ski Mountain has plans to ski and ride right up to Sunday, April 11th this season so there’s a lot of season left. If the weather holds then we may still have another 84 more days in what will potentially be a 136 day long season here in the region…even with the somewhat later-than-desired start. That is a crazy testament to the amazing capabilities of our snowmaking teams, plants and technology in place these days.

All of this is brought to the attention of our readers which includes not only those of you who are visiting the ski resorts but also ski area management crews and ski shop owners, etc. We bring it up as an attempt to keep any of the latter two groups of people from sending signals to those visiting our area that the season is winding down.

IT ISN’T! We’re not even half way!

Looking back over our archived content for this week LAST season we noticed three different comments and posts by certain ski areas and ski shops that will go unmentioned here that referenced "end of season discounts" or something related to promoting Spring skiing discounts and conditions.

We see that in other business venues where retail stores begin promoting Christmas on about the day that "back to school" specials are ending in August and September. I kind of liked it in the old days when we didn’t begin seeing Christmas decorations in the stores until about Thanksgiving or just prior.

With the way the economy is and the way that buyers act and react to trends you can’t blame stores for getting their message out as soon as possible. However, when ski and snowboarding shops begin promoting end of season sales in mid January, they are sending signals that we’re wrapping up the season. Flatlanders don’t need any excuses to begin thinking about bathing suit season. Ads are already getting into my INBOX about how NOW is the time to trim up that flabby belly to "look my best" for the upcoming summer!

First, I’m putting duck tape on that little camera on the top of my laptop because it gives me the creeps to think that I’m being watched like that! I might need to drop a few pounds but emailing me about it is kind of creepy.

Second, Summer doesn’t begin until June 21st and Spring is not occurring until March 20th this year. That means that we’re 62 days away from Spring and it also means that I can still indulge in my mom’s Christmas fruit cake for a bit longer before worrying about dropping a few pounds!

So spread the word that conditions are phenomenal and we’re not even to the halfway point of the 2009-2010 ski and snowboarding season. We still have a couple of holidays ahead of us in President’s Day Weekend and for the romantics out there – Valentine’s Day is on a Sunday this year. Come ski and ride that weekend and treat yourself to a romantic ski getaway and indulge yourself on that special Sunday.

Oh B-R-O-T-H-E-R, did I just say that? Maybe I was caught up in the fact that I’m wanting to really emphasize that there’s a lot of season left. Maybe it was due to the fact that there were five emails in my skiMail INBOX asking me about "wanting to get that one last ski trip in before the season ends". Regardless, why limit yourself to a trip or two? Resorts are offering some great stay and play discounts and coming to the mountains for a couple of days can be very affordable right now.

I also received a few emails from readers asking if XYZ ski resort would be open in late March, etc. I know that we get a lot of that kind of email and we’ll always provide the answers…but we’re not going to participate in "end of season" talk around here until we get a lot of closer!

We’re on day 52 and there are 84 (EIGHTY FOUR) more days of opportunities to enjoy the snow!


Saturday was a great day to ride. Sunday will be yucky at times…and yuckier depending on what part of the ski area you’re in today. There’s TONS of snow and conditions (although wet) at the ski areas will be GREAT. LOTS OF SNOW and TONS OF BASE DEPTHS! However, Sunday will be wet, to icy, to wet to whatever!

MLK Monday looks to be pretty good for many of the ski areas. There’s some slight chances of some snow falling around the mountains of North Carolina although no accummulation is forecasted. That is for early on Monday AM as the high in the Western NC Mountains is forecasted to reach the mid to upper 40s with the sun coming out around mid day or so. The forecast further north into the WV resort areas is for a little cooler highs (around the mid to upper 30s) with 1-2" of wintry accummulation possible Sunday night into Monday AM.

BASE DEPTHS DROP…but only in North Carolina.

Some people in the news media and many of our readers have commented on the fact that base depths are always exaggerated at ski resorts nationwide. We’ve previously documented on how some in the national media have even referenced that fact and singled out our Southeast resorts when talking about over-reporting snow depths. Even some brother ski resorts have commented on the giant numbers post by North Carolina ski resorts. Some NC ski resorts are reporting 42" more snow base that the highest maximum total being reported at any other state’s ski area. Is there anything to their raised eyebrows? I don’t know.

The deepest base depth being reported in West Virginia is at Winterplace where they are reporting a 36-76" base. The deepest in Virginia is at Bryce with a 48-76" base. Wisp Resort with their top ranked snowmaking plant and their 85" of snow on the season and 40" since January 1st is only reporting a base of 24"-48".

Only Wolf Ridge Resort in North Carolina is reporting LESS than 76" of maximum base and they are reporting 55-75". So some are arguing that since ALL SIX NC areas are reporting at least 75" of base that they MUST be exaggerating. Cataloochee Ski Area and Appalachian Ski Mountain (both in North Carolina) are reporting more than 110" of maximum base. Cat is reporting 111" and App is reporting 118". One reader pointed out this morning that, "Hey guys, have you noticed that Appalachain and Cataloochee are both reporting more minimum base depth than most all of the other ski areas are reporting for maximums?"

Actually Appalachian’s reported minimum base is 91" which is 15" MORE than any other state’s maximum reported base. Bob Timbs wrote, "I know that you guys only report ski slope’s (resorts) minimum numbers these days which is actually cool in my opinion, but have you noticed that Appalachian’s minimum is actually 21" more than the second highest minimum reported (which is at Cataloochee)?"

No, Bob, we hadn’t noticed. But you guys notice everything!


I remember a few years ago when I would let base depth reporting get under my skin more than I do these days. I wrote about them all too often and I received an email from Steve Stanley, the long time Appalachian Ski Mountain – mountain manager. Steve invited me to "come on up and measure all you want". He was good-natured about his remarks but basically told me in a very nice way that App was willing for me or anyone else to come up and "we’ll have a measuring party". He alluded to the fact that Appalachian had a bunch of places on the mountain where snow was more than ten feet deep. They’re approaching that now with their report of 118" or 9.8 feet of average maximum depth.

I know that I received an email from David Watkins from Accident, Maryland last week where he reported to us that Wisp Resort had many swells on the mountain where snow was ten feet deep. That reminded me of a photo that Marketing Director, Lori Epp sent me a few years ago that showed a promotional shot of a giant SUGAR hill that they had made where the snow literally was more than 12′ tall and came to a POINT at the top. Some brave skier was seen soaring over the shot, but that was a lot of snow! According to Wisp they are only reporting a base of 24-48".

How does that work? That is the question posed by many who email us regularly.

Man I don’t know.

That IS why we’re only reporting the minimum number these days and we LOVE it when we see Snowshoe and sometimes other resorts join us in doing the same. By the way, Snowshoe is reporting an average base of 50". With awesome snowmaking since early December, 103" of natural snow since then and 53" since January 1st, I don’t think anyone would argue with them reporting a 50" base. I know I saw ten foot whales at Snowshoe a week or so ago.

We’d like to see all ski areas do away with base depth reporting and maybe one day they will. How about just report something like, "We have more than two feet of snow on our 20 trails". A good accurate picture and there’s no room for argument or arbitrary numbering. For now, how about a movement to one number that AVERAGES all of the snow on the mountain? That is what Snowshoe is doing these days. Good for them. Hopefully we’ll see many more join them soon.

Go enjoy your day. If you’re on the mountain on this semi-rainy Sunday, make the best of your day. If you’re waiting on the crowds to head home…we’ll see you in a couple of days…on the slopes!

WE’RE ON DAY 31 and 52!

We’re tracking how many days in a row that we’ve experienced measureable snow pack in the area. We’re not talking snow base at the ski areas. They’re loaded with snow! In this case we’re talking snow pack in the communities around the ski resorts.

In the Mountains of Western North Carolina (we’re tracking the High Country specifically) we’ve now had natural snow on the ground for 31 straight days. It has now snowed 18 of those 31 days. (There’s lots of snow around Banner Elk, Blowing Rock and Beech Mountain as well as many of the surrounding communities.) If you’re headed to Wolf Ridge or Cataloochee you’ll find the same is true!)

David Lesher’s Canaan Valley / Tucker County, WV weather center has reported 52 straight days with snow on the ground and snowfall on 35 of those 52 days. That record is dittoed at Snowshoe, Wisp and Winterplace Resorts!

Check out the Snow Report at https://www.skisoutheast.com/skireports.php  and please send us your favorite ski photos, ski videos, trip reports and comments to [email protected]  

SSAA: 0 for 52/saphmadesnowNOT/timbnotnightARE/self 50/52

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