2003 is upon us, and as I write this, a light rain is falling outside my window.
But oddly, it’s not discouraging. By any measure, the 2002-2003 Mid-Atlantic winter season is off to a great start, and if Mother Nature feels the need to shed a bit of rain, so be it. She did give us a White Christmas, after all, and cold temperatures are in the forecast.
This is the first season in recent memory where early-season weather has been kind to all resorts in the region: small and large, at high and low elevations. The mercury dipped below freezing in late October and hovered there, allowing one resort after another to claim early opening dates. For most of December, conditions were in mid-season form -; and that’s not common for the Mid-Atlantic. There could easily be three solid months left in the ski season.
How have resorts been faring? Most resorts in the region have logged a healthy December -; no record-breaking crowds, but numbers that leave little room for complaint.
“Canaan Valley Resort has done exceptionally well so far this ski season,” noted Bryan Brown, spokesperson for the West Virginia resort. “Skier visits, lodging, dining sales -; all numbers so far this season are up over last year,” he explained.
Brown noted that guest feedback has been positive, with visitors appreciating the new Bear Paw Lodge and the services it provides. Visits are slightly below the 2000-2001 ski season, one of Canaan Valley’s best seasons since the early 90’s, but were up approximately 25% over last year in the days following Christmas.
North Carolina’s Sugar Mountain Resort is cautiously optimistic that conditions will remain healthy for the remainder of the season.
“If an early season start, consistently good slope conditions, cold, snowy weather, big crowds and happy customers are any indication of the future we’ll take it,” explained Sugar Mountain’s Kim Jochl.
“Skier visits are in line with previous good seasons,” she added.
West Virginia’s Snowshoe Mountain Resort has already received 69 inches of natural snow this season, compared to just 16 inches by this time last season.
“We have been very busy this season, right on the path we projected to be at in terms of visits,” said Snowshoe Mountain Resort’s Joe Stevens. “Getting open 100% before the first of the year is awesome and having Cupp Run open top to bottom by the first week of December set a record,” he said.
And what of visits to DCSki? DCSki is enjoying its healthiest season on record, although on powder days, visits are conspicuously down. (No, I don’t blame you for ditching the computer for the slopes.) Yesterday, DCSki logged over 59,000 server hits in a single day.
A drought may have settled over much of the country over the summer, leading to fears of a dry winter, but those fears have been put to rest in places such as Colorado.
For example, Vail Resort has already received 179.5 inches of natural snow this season, allowing the resort to open over 5,000 acres of skiable terrain in record time. I think the best word to describe Colorado visitors right now is “giddy.”
I plan to visit my birth state of Colorado later this month, so expect a full complement of trip reports from places such as Vail and Steamboat Springs as I embark on my first Winter Road Trip. (Yeah, it’s a long drive…)
For many Mid-Atlantic resorts, a healthy season is long overdue after a series of “climatologically challenging” seasons the past few years. I have several friends who have given up skiing in the Mid-Atlantic, and this is unfortunate; they have forgotten that ski conditions locally can be very good in “normal” winters. We just haven’t had many normal winters lately, but things are looking pretty normal so far. This area is blessed with over 25 resorts within a few hours drive -; each with its own character.
Special thanks to DCSki’s Columnists and guest authors, who have provided a healthy selection of excellent firsthand reports in recent weeks. If you make it to the slopes, be sure to post about the trip on DCSki’s Message Forum, or drop me a note or guest report and I’d be happy to publish it.
See you on the slopes!
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.