Warm temperatures throughout the middle of November may have squashed Mid-Atlantic resorts’ dreams of capturing a November opening date, but with a sudden drop in temperatures Tuesday, snowmaking is finally back on track, bringing opening days within grasp.
West Virginia’s Snowshoe Mountain Resort first fired up the snowguns on November 6, only to see temperatures rise to unseasonably warm levels. The resort had hoped to open slopes in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, but has now set the official opening date to December 6. (Many off-slope festivities are still planned for Thanksgiving.)
A drop in temperature on Tuesday morning allowed the resort to once again fire up the snowguns, laying a base of snow on slopes such as Skidder and Gandy Dancer. The resort also received about half an inch of natural snow, while light rain fell in Baltimore and D.C. Throughout Tuesday, the temperature at the Pocahontas County resort continued to fall, settling in the low 20’s.
“Nearly one million gallons of water have been converted into snow so far in the snowmaking process,” reported Snowshoe’s Joe Stevens.
“When conditions are absolutely perfect, Snowshoe Mountain’s veteran snowmakers can cover an area equal to four football fields with a foot of snow in just one hour,” he added.
Snowmaking relies on ample supplies of water, and there has been some concern that this fall’s lack of rainfall could stress local resorts in their snowmaking operations.
Snowshoe doesn’t foresee water supply problems, though, relying on a 100 million gallon lake at the main Snowshoe area as its main source of water. Snowmaking will continue around the clock as temperatures permit. The resort recently expanded a lake at the Silver Creek area, increasing the capacity from 12 million gallons to 25 million gallons. Although rain hasn’t allowed that lake to fill to its newly increased capacity, the resort plans to begin opening slopes at Silver Creek on December 14. Cupp Run and Shay’s Revenge, two expert slopes at the Western Territory area, should also become areas of focus once Snowshoe is able to open a number of slopes at the Snowshoe area with strong coverage.
If temperatures remain low, Snowshoe may be able to begin its ski season prior to December 6, but it’s too early to call. The resort - often the first to open in the area - does not plan to open any slopes until they have a solid base. Once the initial batch of slopes opens, Snowshoe will concentrate on expanding open terrain.
Many resorts in the region are now hoping to open by mid-December. Pennsylvania’s Seven Springs resort is planning to have some slopes open in early December. However, continued uncertainty in the forecast for the next couple weeks has prevented most resorts at lower elevations from predicting an opening date. Longer-term, weather models for this winter show favorable ski conditions with the potential for above average snowfall and below average temperatures.
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.