You Blinked, Didn’t You?

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By Joe Stevens

Hello Everyone –

Because of one of my real day jobs with the West Virginia Ski Areas Association, I have participated in a weekly Zoom meeting with members of the other state associations across the country. I can recall during a meeting back in September that there was some doubt if there was even going to be a ski season this year due to the uncertainty at that time of where the pandemic was headed and how it would affect the season.

Don’t look now but for the most part we have made it as the month of March is now upon us. That means we will soon be hearing from the resorts in the region as to when they are going to be pulling the ropes across the slopes for the final time.

Most folks who know me, know that I pretty much look at things with a glass half full. But back in September after that Zoom meeting I just was not sure where we were headed. But it was agreed by all involved that we had to just keep pushing forward and get ready for whatever was ahead of us as the 2020-2021 ski season was quickly approaching.

That’s when I came up with the mantra of “Just put the plow down and keep pushing.” Those around me will tell you that has pretty much been the case for your truly this season.

When the states in the region got their operating plans approved by state officials, the writing was on the wall that the ski season was going to happen. Everyone was going to be able to make some turns this season in a safe fashion. Not like we have experienced in the past, but a little different so that we could have some fun in the outdoors. I continue to say that Mother Nature provides the best social distancing possibilities.

It does not matter what season it is, and back before this season started, the biggest question, other than COVID-19, was what the weather was going to be for the region. Many of you learned in this space that the weather forecasters I depend on pretty much thought this season was going to have above normal temperatures and the precipitation level was also going to be down. As we now look back to that, boy am I glad they were for the most part incorrect. However, sticking up for them a little bit, forecasting weather a few months out is basically a crapshoot and I for one am not going to hold their forecasts against them. Sometimes it is good to be wrong and that is the case this time around.

With all that said, the point that I am attempting to get to this week is the fact that if you haven’t made any turns this season, your time is running out. Meaning time is a wasting folks to be able to say you skied or snowboarded during the crazy COVID-19 season.

Luckily, I have a son who loves the winter months and loves to ski. That means I get to tag along and also make some turns on the slopes. We have done just that this season and have more trips planned as the end of the season approaches.

As I write this week’s column, it is raining throughout the state of West Virginia and in some places, like out my back door, small streams are over their banks. I know what this kind of rain does to snowpack, but you know what, once again my glass is half full because I know just how much snow is on the slopes right now and that is a lot.

Without a doubt, the bases are going to take a bit of a hit, but at last look the majority of the slopes are in good shape. I was speaking last week with a resort official about the mild days we were experiencing in the lowlands and how the slopes were holding up. He reminded me that I have been off the mountain for too long and haven’t been looking at the overnight temperatures. You know what, he was right as he informed me that the overnight temperatures were in the 30’s, allowing the snow to stand up and the groomers to get on the trails and get everything in shape for a day of skiing and snowboarding. Boy, how quickly we forget when it isn’t right in front of you. Geez, what was I thinking?

Oh, before I forget, as you plan your future skiing and snowboarding pass this season, you may want to prepare for capacity management (restricted lift ticket sales) practices to continue for seasons to come. The procedure has been accepted for the most part by the skiing and snowboarding public. Yes, there have been complaints, but the management practices look to be with us for a while.

Now back to the message at hand, if you haven’t made turns for this season or are wanting to make a few more before the season comes to an end, you need to make plans now and not hold off much longer.

There have been some thoughts that some of the resorts may be extending their seasons because of the conditions being favorable and the crowds have been strong this year. I know that the ones I have spoken to are planning to stay the course and not look a gift horse in mouth.

Remember this time last year, the term COVID-19 was new to all of us and social distancing was giving the downhill skier enough room to make crazy moves in front of you. Needless to say, it’s been one crazy trip so far and those last turns of the season await everyone. So don’t blink, because it may soon be gone.

That’s it for this week, thanks for joining me. Just remember whether it be cold or whether it be warm, we will weather the weather, whatever the weather will be. The season has been challenging but fun so far and it is going to be a lot more fun the rest of the way. Remember, Mother Nature provides the best social distancing these days.

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