Local resorts are yearning to open for the 2011-2012 winter season, and they could soon get their wish. On Wednesday, December 7, rain changed over to snow at higher elevations throughout the mid-Atlantic region.
“After a morning of steady under-developed snow, by 12:30 p.m. it had developed into full fledged huge white snowflakes!” said Lori Wisp, Director of Marketing at Maryland’s Wisp Resort.
Epp reports that 5 inches of snow had fallen by 4:15 p.m. on December 7.
“Our team is watching the temperatures closely but it has been too humid to begin making snow this afternoon,” said Artie Speicher, Wisp’s Director of Mountain Operations. “I am anticipating the wet bulb will reach optimal conditions for snowmaking in the late evening to early morning hours,” he added.
Currently, Wisp anticipates opening for the season on Saturday, December 17, weather permitting. Wisp has moved its 56th Birthday Celebration, originally scheduled for early December, to Sunday, December 18 and Monday, December 19. On those days, Wisp will be selling $10 1-day lift tickets with 1/2 price rentals and lessons.
As the week proceeds, temperatures are expected to dip, opening up the possibility for snowmaking at mid-Atlantic resorts.
In Pennsylvania, Hidden Valley Resort is planning to open limited skiing on its Valley-side slopes on Saturday, December 10 and Sunday, December 11, 2011, weather permitting. The resort then plans to close midweek, re-opening for the season on Friday, December 16.
“With snowmaking in progress, we are ready to begin another successful season,” said Scott Bender, VP of Operations at Hidden Valley.
West Virginia resorts also plan to begin opening over the next two weeks, weather permitting.
Snowshoe Mountain Resort currently plans to open on Friday, December 9 with five trails and three lifts at the Snowshoe area and three trails and one lift at the Silver Creek area.
Canaan Valley, Timberline, and Winterplace Resorts are currently aiming to open on Saturday, December 17.
The White Grass Touring Center received enough natural snow earlier to begin offering cross-country skiing last week.
“It looks like winter is finally arriving and our snowmakers are ready to get the slopes covered,” said Terry Pfeiffer, President of the West Virginia Ski Areas Association.
“Mother Nature has thrown us a bit of a curve ball this season, but we can handle it with the upcoming cold temperatures for our snowmaking systems,” he added. With snowguns running at maximum capacity across West Virginia’s alpine resorts, over 20,000 tons of snow are produced an hour - equivalent to covering 20 football fields with a foot of snow each hour.
North Carolina’s Sugar Mountain Resort has been one of the few resorts able to open for skiing, although its opening has been in fits and starts. Sugar Mountain has opened and closed several times, periodically making enough snow to open limited terrain, only to watch the snow melt as colder temperatures recede. Sugar Mountain re-opened for a third time on Wednesday, November 30, but then closed again. The resort is currently making snow and plans to re-open soon.
As always, DCSki recommends contacting resorts directly prior to making a visit as early-season conditions and operating schedules can change at the last minute. All opening dates mentioned in this article are tentative and are based on favorable snowmaking conditions continuing.
M. Scott Smith is the founder and Editor of DCSki. Scott loves outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, kayaking, skiing, and mountain biking. He is an avid photographer and writer.