December may have rode in with record-breaking warm temperatures, but it will ride out into the new year with appreciably chilly temperatures. And these cold temperatures couldn’t come a day too soon; snowguns are now beginning to fire up at ski areas across the region, as resorts frantically scramble to open some slopes in time for the all-important holiday week between Christmas and New Year’s.
The first resort to open will likely be West Virginia’s Snowshoe Mountain Resort, which has set Saturday, December 22 as its official opening date. The resort will open with seven trails serviced by three lifts, spread across the main Snowshoe area and Silver Creek.
Other resorts may also try to snag opening dates sometime this weekend, including Wintergreen in Virginia.
The snowguns are now flying at resorts across the region.
Pennsylvania’s Seven Springs Resort recently began making snow, and Liberty Mountain, Ski Roundtop, and Whitetail Resort all planned to begin their snowmaking operations with an expected drop in temperatures Thursday night. These resorts hope to open sometime next week - possibly sooner in the case of Seven Springs.
West Virginia’s Canaan Valley and Timberline Resorts are both making snow now, and will open soon. Western Maryland’s Wisp is also laying down snow.
The forecast shows nighttime temperatures staying below freezing into January. Resorts at higher elevations may be able to run the guns around the clock, but all resorts in the region should find acceptable snowmaking conditions at night. With these favorable conditions, resorts should be able to open quickly and fortify and expand their available terrain. However, for the holidays, expect resorts to have limited terrain available - mostly beginner and intermediate trails.
The warm start to the season may have stolen several weeks from resorts used to opening in late November or early December. For example, Snowshoe’s Saturday opening represents the latest date the resort has opened in its 28 years of operation.
“The recent warm spell put a virtual halt to our snowmaking efforts in November and earlier this month,” explained Ed Galford, Snowshoe Mountain’s Vice President of Operations. Snowshoe took the unusual step of renting additional compressors to supplement snowmaking efforts in a bid to get terrain open as quickly as possible. In addition, the resort received several inches of natural snow yesterday.
Opening dates are always subject to conditions, so be sure to call a resort for the latest status before making the drive. Stay tuned to DCSki for the latest opening information and firsthand trip reports from readers.
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.