Snow Fever 14
Author thumbnail By John Sherwood, DCSki Columnist

I got my flu shot recently, but I’ve recently come down with a disease known only to skiers and riders: snow fever! The symptoms include severe moaning and groaning every time I see a weather forecast, and seasonal depression caused by long periods of warm weather. What I need to kick this bug is some snow. Warren Miller films just don’t cut it. I need the real thing: either from nature or the guns. Is there any hope that any Mid-Atlantic resorts will be able to open for skiing during the next few weeks?

Snowshoe Mountain, which originally targeted November 21 for its opening date and then moved it to December 6, will again be re-considering its opening date early this week. According to Snowshoe’s communications director, Joe Stevens, “Snowshoe will make a final decision on the issue this Monday night and will broadcast its decision over the Snowshoe web site as soon as it is made.”

Timberline, which has promised to open on 13 December, may also move its date up. According to its communications head, Tom Blanzy, “We hope to see some cold in the next 7 days, but at this point we may not be able to open until the 20th at the very earliest.”

Groan!!!! Is there any good news out there? My fever just went up a couple degrees.

Actually, there is some good news. Although water levels in many snowmaking lakes are still lower than they should be, the recent rains did help alleviate some of the drought conditions in the Mid-Atlantic.

Joe Stevens assured me that Snowshoe has more than enough water to blanket their main mountain in snow as soon as the cold returns.

“4 years ago we increased our holding capacity at Shaver’s lake from 40 million to 100 million gallons. We’re in fine shape as far as water is concerned. At Silver Creek we increased the capacity from 12 to 25, and that has been a challenge, but these rains have definitely been a help.”

Tom Blanzy concurs, but warns that more water is still needed.

“We get our water from Spruce Island lake, the Blackwater River, and some lesser streams. Spruce Island Lake [owned by Timberline] is looking better, but Blackwater River [which is owned by the state of West Virginia] could use some more water before we’re finally out of the woods as far as the drought is concerned. West Virginia is very generous with its water, but I would still be happy to see some higher river levels.”

The other speck of good news on the horizon is the long-term forecast for the areas of the Mid-Atlantic west of the Eastern Continental Divide, also known as the Allegheny Front. According to Herb Stevens, the “skiing weatherman,” “In a nutshell, it appears as though most of the eastern 2/3 of the country is in for a colder than normal winter. The northern branch of the jet stream will be dominant, and displaced further south, which will move the primary storm track further south, as well. This is good news for Snowshoe, which can expect above normal snowfall, and plenty of cold air to flex its snowmaking muscles. It may not turn out to be the wall-to wall packed powder fest that we enjoyed last winter, but the prospects for this winter are pretty darn good.”

Herb Stevens goes on to point out that while the East Coast may have to wait awhile for cold weather to arrive, when it does arrive, it will be intense due to the recent and future snow storms in the Midwest and West. Cold air stays cold when it moves over snow. In short, be happy for the West and all of its snow because from that snow, our cold air and snow will eventually arrive.

About John Sherwood

John Sherwood is a columnist for DCSki. When he's not hiking, biking, or skiing, he works as an author of books on military history.

Author thumbnail

Reader Comments

John Sherwood
December 3, 2001
Joe Stevens of Snowshoe passed the following information along this morning:

"As promised, a Monday morning update.

We have rescheduled our slope opening day to Friday, December 14. More to
follow soon."

Joe Stevens
Director of Communications
Snowshoe Mountain
December 3, 2001
Move north.
December 3, 2001
I just got finished checking the New york resorts and the Vermont resorts and the best I can even find there is Killington with 5 of there 160,000 trails open!
I think we need to start a petition to outlaw black pavement. If all the roads were cement and white that would lower the global temperatures and we could be skiing sooner.
Get those pens and papers ready and start writing your congressmen.
Though he may not open it until it's been radiated which probably causing even more global warming.aaaaaaaaagh!
There's no way out
December 3, 2001
It has been my experience, with more than 20 years of skiing, that when we get a slow start like this ...... we often end up with extended cold weather in the spring. Let's just add these missed days at spring break time!! ... Well, anyway .... It makes me feel better to think that way and when the school systems have late spring breaks everyone can find my family and me at Snowshoe!!!! Let's go for it!
December 4, 2001
My family (14 in all) have a trip planned for 12/20-12/26 to Snowshoe. Some of us have never skied, others have skied CO. the kids have never seen snow. Should we postpone our trip? What's your best advice. The car trip will take us 16 hours.
John Sherwood
December 4, 2001
Tough question! I would not want to be in your shoes (Snowshoes or otherwise).

Joe Stevens, the communications director at Snowshoe, says that the mountain will start blasting snow as soon as it gets cold-hopefully later this week! The first priority of the mountain is to open some green terrain on the main side of the mountain. That's probably good news for the beginners in your group: these types will get a wonderful top-to-bottom experience with excellent instruction provided by Snowshoes magnificent staff.

The experts, however, may be disappointed. I would hope that the mountain has the Western Territory open by Christmas. Am I optimistic? You bet. Most destination mountains in the Mid-Atlantic can cover 90 percent of their terrain with snow given cold temps. We need sub 28-degree temps at night for optimal snowmaking and daytime temps below 40 to sustain the nights hard work (clouds and relative humidity play a huge role in the process). But if the temperature stays below 28 for both the days and nights, the mountain can really lay on the white stuff and sustain it as well.

Timberline, a quick 1.5 hour day trip from Snowshoe, plans to open one expert top-to-bottom slope as soon as cold weather allows them to make snow (White Lightning, which is actually black for the first half and blue for the bottom). That might be a good bet for the experts if Snowshoe doesnt have any expert territory open by 20 December. Timberline also has good NASTAR skiing.

Family reunions can be tough to re-schedule. Better to have the reunion with marginal snow conditions than no reunion at all. Warm fires, good books, the village nightlife, and alternative activities like ice skating and hiking will probably keep the most adventurous busy. Who knows, WV may get socked with a 12-inch storm the first day you arrive. You never know.
John Sherwood
December 4, 2001
More confirmation that things might be ok by the holidays from the Skiing Weatherman, Herb Stevens:
Anne Fitzpatrick
December 5, 2001
Certainly the warm weather and lack of snow is frustrating for us skier-types. As a result (and ok, because of my job relocation) I'm moving to northern New Mexico to ease the pain a little on the sunny slopes of Taos, Telluride, and Wolf Creek. Ya'll are welcome to come visit anytime, ski your hearts out this winter, and lose those East Coast skier blues.
Dan Howe
December 5, 2001
I am going to 7 springs on Dec.27 do you guys think there will be snow there to ski? Or will the whole Front and North Face be open. Please post below.
December 6, 2001
I have just gotten offline with the powers that be and have been assured that there will be plenty of snow for the holidays. They did not however mention where that snow may be. I would expect there to be aproximately 90 - 95% terrain availability.
I have been assured that all of snowshoes terrain will be 100% there.
However due to the location of the east coast fault line some of 7 springs may be missing.
I have also been informed that the weather for the beaches on Memorial day weekend looks bad so you may want to cancel any reservations for that weekend.

Good luck and remember, if you don't like the weather, just wait and it will change.
December 10, 2001
I am visiting snowshoe Jan 15-20, Is this a good time to visit, as far as snowfall is concerned. Has anyone seen an extended forcast.
John Sherwood
December 10, 2001
Stay-tuned: Scott will be posting an article on this very subject SOON.
December 12, 2001
I live in Florida!!! How much more depressing can it get for a snow-lover like me!!!
October 29, 2002
I'm planning on going to vermont over Christmas break. I can't wait for snow!!! I'v been looking on the forcast for this winter, and God willing, some forcasters are saying we'll have a cold winter!
Let's all put out a positive vibe and think SNOW!! Can't wait to feel the cold wind in my hair speeding down those slopes!

Ski and Tell

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