It’s hard to believe that conditions can be this good in the Mid-Atlantic in December, but they really are.
With continued cold temperatures, ski resorts have been blasting the snowguns, covering acres upon acres of terrain with packed powder conditions. After three mild winters, some trails are being skied on for the first time in several years - trails that never quite made it open in recent winters.
It’s looking like no trails will be left out this winter. Resorts are clamoring to get 100% of their terrain open, a record first set locally by West Virginia’s Snowshoe Mountain Resort on December 19. Since then, numerous other resorts have joined the ranks. Resorts that currently have 100% terrain open include Blue Mountain, Bryce, Camelback, Ski Denton, Hidden Valley, Shawnee Mountain, Snowshoe, and Wisp. Resorts that will join the ranks soon - possibly by the time you read this - include Liberty, Roundtop, Seven Springs, Whitetail, and Winterplace. Across the region, the vast majority of trails are ready and waiting for skiers and boarders.
And what of the conditions? A few inches of natural snow have been scattered about, but the real story lies in snowmaking. With dry temperatures staying below freezing around the clock, resorts simply couldn’t ask for better snowmaking conditions. Even better, the extended forecast shows no immediate change in store - just continued low temperatures.
These temperatures are obviously critical for making snow, but they also help keep the snow in tip-top shape. Most resorts in the region are reporting packed powder conditions - not the typical loose or frozen granular so often associated with the east coast. Loose and frozen granular conditions are sometimes caused by “freeze-thaw” cycles - where temperatures climb well above freezing during the day, and then drop below freezing at night. Low temperatures day and night might make for a chilly day at the slopes, but they keep the snow in pristine shape.
Although no warm spell is in the forecast, it seems inevitable that temperatures will buck the recent trend and climb upwards - even briefly - before the season is over. That shouldn’t be a problem this year, because resorts will have been able to build up healthy bases that can sustain some mild days. In recent El Niño years, many resorts had to temporarily shut down in January after watching their thin bases melt. You won’t hear many complaints from resorts this season.
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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