Ice and Rain Hammer Region, Causing Temporary Stress for Resorts 1
Author thumbnail By M. Scott Smith, DCSki Editor

Guests tread carefully through the ice Friday at Snowshoe’s mountaintop village. Photo provided by Snowshoe Mountain Resort.
“Mixed precipitation” is a term familiar to mid-Atlantic skiers and boarders, and many resorts prefer to use the phrase to describe snow that might have a little sleet or rain mixed in, but an ice storm moving through the region Thursday and Friday brought a refreshing dose of honesty from area resorts.

On Friday, the snow conditions report for Pennsylvania’s Seven Springs Resort noted two inches of sleet/ice overnight, and all trails were listed as having icy patches. Timberline Resort listed trail conditions as “frozen granular.” Some mid-Atlantic resorts primarily received rain, resulting in loose granular conditions.

Other resorts did not attempt to open the slopes on Friday, due to treacherous road conditions and unfavorable slope conditions.

Pennsylvania’s Whitetail Resort noted on its web site Friday morning that it would be closed for the day, pointing to difficult travel conditions and mixed precipitation. “Also, it is simply not a very nice day to be outside,” the web site said, matter-of-factly. Sister areas Ski Roundtop and Liberty Mountain Resort were also closed on Friday. All three resorts planned to reopen Saturday.

With temperatures below freezing on Thursday night, precipitation did indeed start in mixed form: some snow, some sleet, some rain. But for many resorts in the mid-Atlantic, the precipitation quickly turned over to freezing rain. The freezing rain continued throughout the day on Friday, coating slopes and lifts with a layer of ice.

Although the conditions didn’t make for a great day of skiing on Friday, ironically, the freezing rain may have protected snow bases. After a month of sub-freezing temperatures and several snowstorms, area resorts have built up a strong base on all trails -; often exceeding four feet of packed powder. Freezing rain quickly generated a layer of ice on top of this base, protected the packed powder underneath. Rain then flowed over the ice and off the slopes.

Resorts are now concentrating on grooming the slopes, breaking up this layer of ice and tilling it into the snow underneath. With concentrated grooming efforts, even resorts facing the worst of the storm should be able to bring back good snow conditions within a day or two. And continued cold temperatures over the next week will allow snowguns to come on-line and undo any remaining damage from the ice storm.

The ice storm presented many challenges for resort personnel as they woke up Friday morning and assessed the damage.

Snowshoe employees spent Friday painstakingly deicing the Ballhooter high-speed lift, chair by chair. Photo provided by Snowshoe Mountain Resort.
West Virginia’s Snowshoe Mountain Resort was particularly hard-hit, receiving 5.5 inches of mixed precipitation, much of it in the form of ice. Lifts at the resort were covered in ice and unable to operate on Friday. According to Snowshoe’s Joe Stevens, the resort dispatched 200 members of its Mountain Operations team on Friday to work around the clock undoing damage from the ice storm. In addition to deicing lifts chair-by-chair, Snowshoe faced many downed trees from the ice storm and glazed-over roads. Coordinated efforts by Snowshoe’s team allowed two lifts at the Silver Creek area to reopen by Friday evening, and Snowshoe planned to open all of its terrain on Saturday morning after a major effort from its grooming team. Snowshoe issued lift ticket vouchers to all guests who had purchased lift tickets for Friday, redeemable any day this season or next.

Because of temperatures that hovered just above or below freezing during the storm, Friday’s rain did little damage to resort bases. In past years, heavy rain combined with unseasonably warm temperatures have nibbled away at resort bases mid-winter. Due to grooming efforts and the return of cold nighttime temperatures Saturday night, DCSki expects snow conditions to return to good form in the next day or two. Skiers and boarders visiting the slopes this weekend could find surprisingly good conditions and small crowds, but DCSki recommends contacting any resort prior to visiting to verify operating status and slope conditions.

About M. Scott Smith

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.

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DCSki Sponsor: Canaan Valley Resort

Reader Comments

Connie Lawn
February 7, 2004
I commend Scott for the excellent article, and thank the areas for their condor. It is a valuable public service, and engenders more respect and loyalty in the end. A bummer, but the sun is shinning now and it should be a great weekend!

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