The roughest part of the mid-Atlantic ski season is now upon us, and that is awaiting the arrival of cold air. Unlike the majority of western ski resorts, some of which are already receiving snow, the mid-Atlantic does not wait for the arrival of snow, we make it. However, the weather has not been kind to the East so far this year, and it seems like a long wait before Killington fires up its snowguns -; and Killington is often the first in the Northeast to make snow. It is awaiting these cold temperatures and watching the West beat us to the slopes year after year that makes the days of October and early November the hardest for mid-Atlantic skiers and riders to bear.
I guess the worst part of the entire process is that there is nothing we can do to speed up the ski season. With most of the resorts in the East basing their opening dates on man-made snow, increased snowmaking is important, but pales in comparison to the need for cold weather. Cold weather has been somewhat fickle in the East these past couple of years.
Sometimes the East will hit a lucky patch of cold air early in the season, allowing Killington to crank up the guns and vie for an opening date before or shortly after western resorts. Such was the case in 2002 when Killington opened on October 29, a mere 12 days after Loveland. This was the first year in which they could open an entire run from top to bottom for opening day, and they have tried to do this ever since.
Sometimes the mid-Atlantic gets a surprise burst of air in which some of the area resorts “test” out their guns and tease area skiers and riders with the hope of an early opening. For example, when Snowshoe resort experienced an unusual cold weather air-inversion on October 9, 2000, temperatures dipped below zero and the resort was able to test out its guns. However, these hopes always seem to be short-lived. As the season arrives, early snowmaking efforts that were to open the resorts in time for Thanksgiving are slowed down by warm air, and few resorts in the mid-Atlantic actually make that opening deadline. I don’t wish to be the bearer of bad news, but there is still hope for us yet.
Earlier this week, on October 11, 2005, resorts around Denver saw their first major snowfall of the season. Denver itself received over 7 inches, while mountain areas such as Breckenridge received considerably more. The best news for snow fanatics like me is that just days ago, Loveland and Arapahoe Basin started up their snowmaking equipment in earnest. I have looked at their pictures online, and they have produced impressive amounts of snow, in addition to receiving natural snow from the early storm and continued cold temperatures. This should allow them to continue their snowmaking through the nighttime hours and quickly approach their opening dates. A-Basin has already announced a tentative opening date of October 21, 2005 -; less than two weeks away.
Seeing these pictures will only help to increase the desire of the mid-Atlantic skier or rider to jump onto their skis and snowboards and begin riding. However, it seems that the torture will continue for a good while. Temperatures in Vermont are forecast to dip into the upper-30’s only a little bit over the next week. Temperatures in the mountains of the Northeast are mild or seasonable so far this year, and may not provide an incredibly early opening date as they have some years in the past. However, there is good news. Temperatures in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, the areas where most mid-Atlantic skiers and riders visit, are right on their seasonable averages, and even lower in some places. If these temperatures continue to drop with the averages, then skiing and riding on Thanksgiving is not out of the question for Snowshoe, Wintergreen, Seven Springs and Wisp, the areas in the mid-Atlantic most likely to have the earliest opening dates.
Until then, the only thing that we can do is wait and agonize. We will most assuredly see the opening of Western and Northeastern resorts way before the mid-Atlantic resorts even get a hint of snow. We will continually tease ourselves by dusting off and trying on our equipment while waiting online late at night at the end of November to see if those Pennsylvanian resorts have fired up the guns and officially ended our wait for the winter season. It is unfortunate that we live in one of the mildest areas in the Northeast, but we are lucky enough to get in a solid 3.5- to 4-months of skiing and riding a year. I have repeatedly counted my blessings for being able to ride Pennsylvania’s Camelback Resort on Good Friday of last year on fresh snow, and that memory is the one that I will keep banking my hopes and prayers on until I hit the slopes again in early December this year. For me, the mid-Atlantic ski and snowboard season begins on the first of December. I have been keeping a count of the days until this hypothetical starting date, and at this time the count stands at 48.
Brenton Archut lives in the tourist town of Bethany Beach, Delaware. He spends his summers working at Fisher's Popcorn. He enjoys bodyboarding and snowboarding and snowboards mostly in the Poconos, but loves to explore new places. Brenton is currently attending school at Lehigh University, where he is pursuing a business degree.