Will a few ski areas decide to "bag it"?
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Mountain Masher
January 2, 2007
Member since 03/13/2004 🔗
541 posts
I was just checking some of the intermediate and long-term weather forecasts, and things still don't look very good for snowmaking, particularly South of the PA border at relatively low elevations or all areas South of DC and East of WV. If the weather doesn't make a HUGE turn-around (meaning an EXTENDED cold period is predicted) by mid to late Jan., I believe that we're going to see one or two ski areas close (or decide to stay closed) for the season. Although such an event isn't unprecedented in the mid-Atlantic, it would be highly unusual.
wgo
January 2, 2007
Member since 02/10/2004 🔗
1,360 posts
Interesting question. Lets take a poll, and after the season ends we can look back and see how we did. For the purposes of this poll, lets declare NC, Virginia, West Virginia, and Penn. to be in scope. In order to count the area must close and not reopen for the season
Mountain Masher
January 2, 2007
Member since 03/13/2004 🔗
541 posts
Since NC is included, I believe it's extremely likely that one or more of the smaller NC ski areas will decide to close for the season by the end of Jan. Of course, it would be far more significant if a mid-sized ski area within the mid-Atlantic decides to close. A lot of what happens might depend on $$$$ rather than the weather.
kennedy
January 2, 2007
Member since 12/8/2001 🔗
792 posts
I'd hate to think that such an occurance would be the case but I could see it happening. If temps don't drop significantly by the end of the month I think the Snowtime resorts would have to make a hard call, after that pushing into February with no base and having to start from scratch would make it tough to open. My concern would not be the attendance from hardcore skiers but from the fairweather ones who are not even considering skiing right now because it's so mild out. What would be a big rescue is if you got a significant snow event, and by significant I mean enough to put 4-6 inches on the ground. This is the exact same scenario as we had about 4-5 years ago where it was mild all winter. We had 1 snow event around MLK weekend and as a result Whitetail was at and even beyond capacity. It sucked to be there as the lifts were stopping and it was just a complete mess, but in retrospect it's probably the best thing that could have happened for the place because it at least took some of the dent out of an otherwise terrible season. If you had a snow event it would at least remind folks that it's winter and there is skiing to be had. If they can't open for MLK this year, which is looking likely, then this is going to be a tight season.

Much as I love going to Wisp and 7 Springs those are not my staples. Whitetail is my regular go to and when it can't open my season suffers something terrible.
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wgo
January 2, 2007
Member since 02/10/2004 🔗
1,360 posts
Quote:


Much as I love going to Wisp and 7 Springs those are not my staples. Whitetail is my regular go to and when it can't open my season suffers something terrible.




Yeah. For me Tline is a trip I make a couple times a year at most. Wintergreen/Massanutten are less than an hour away from me and as such are my bread and butter resorts. If they can't get fully open that puts a serious dent in my season.
kennedy
January 2, 2007
Member since 12/8/2001 🔗
792 posts
As much as we may moan and gripe about some resorts versus others I hate to see any resort have a bad season because it impacts all of us a s a community. Every year we look forward to the new season and wait to see what upgrades resorts have made. These upgrades are usually not cheap so when a season sucks it really kills their bottom line which only ends up hurting us more. I really have to take my hat off to the operators who take the chance and make it work around here. Especially the guys like Snowtime, Bryce, Massanutten and Wintergreen because they really operate on a very fine line. I've got fingers crossed and I hope that at sometime soon something breaks loose and we see some colds temps return but my feeling is that this season is going to be a bust. If the season has been warm longer than it's been cold to date then it's a bad sign. If we started strong then had a warms spell for a few weeks then you'd figure it would break but that hasn't been the case so far.
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
January 2, 2007
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,926 posts
I think it's safe to say that unless a resort chooses to go into chapter 11, it will try and open for as many days as possible this season. Why? Season passes and advantage cards!!! If we get any type of sustained cold weather, resorts will have to make a valid attempt to open or else face a lot of credit card disputes from season passholders, who could legitimately claim that they did not get any services for their money.
pagamony - DCSki Supporter
January 2, 2007
Member since 02/23/2005 🔗
838 posts
Start strong then have warm spells - that was last year, with just enough cold spells to keep going.

I just checked the Wisp ski report and you have to grimace and admire it at the same time. Only 9" of real snow so far this season, an honest 4 trails with bare spots, another temperature inversion, and just cold enough to question making snow. Sort of a microcosm of the season so far.

I also see that Massanutten dropped the cross trail (it was literally 2 feet wide in one place on Friday) and Rebel Yell (which I thought looked better than Geronimo). Wintergreen dropped lower cross trail (which I thought looked ok on Thusday) so now they have two totally disjoint slopes.

We need more webcams at more of these places.
Mountain Masher
January 2, 2007
Member since 03/13/2004 🔗
541 posts
Yes, Snowtime, Bryce, Massanutten and Wintergreen have done a great job of offering some excellent skiing over the years. Also, they've done a good job of protecting the environment. In fact, Ski Liberty and Massanutten have both received awards for their sensitivity towards the environment, although Massanutten was given it's award before it went completely wild with it's timeshare development. At any rate, these resorts have well maintained ski slopes and first rate snowmaking equipment, so they can really put the snow down when cold weather arrives. However, it might be case of "too little, too late" to make trying to stay open a financially sound decision.
Mountain Masher
January 2, 2007
Member since 03/13/2004 🔗
541 posts
A good point....regarding the credit card disputes that a ski area is likely to face should they decide to close by the end of Jan. However, credit card disputes might be the "least of the evils" when compared to the massive electric bills that often result from even a moderate amount of snowmaking and/or night skiing.
wgo
January 2, 2007
Member since 02/10/2004 🔗
1,360 posts
I *think* I recall Wintergreen dropping all the way down to one slope last season by Mid-January, before recovering to finish out the season fairly strongly. Can anyone verify this? If so then that gives me some hope for the local scene, if (and this is a big if) we get a change in the weather pattern by mid-Jan.
Mountain Masher
January 2, 2007
Member since 03/13/2004 🔗
541 posts
I think that you might be right regarding how few slope(s) were open at WG as of Mid to Late Jan. 2006. However, by then, WG had already enjoyed a strong early season, so they probably had plenty of money in the bank, which isn't the case this year. It's likely that only a few ski areas are in-the-black for the season right now.
JM1
January 2, 2007
Member since 01/2/2007 🔗
1 posts
From USA Today, Jan. 12, 2000: "An unusual lack of snow in many of the nation's winter wonderlands is surprising climate watchers and deflating skiers who prefer natural flakes to man-made snow." My point: The winter of '99-'00 started out as badly as this one, and ended fairly well.
Scott - DCSki Editor
January 2, 2007
Member since 10/10/1999 🔗
1,139 posts
It's way too early to write off the ski season. We could be digging out of a 3-foot blizzard in late January, and the season could push into late March or early April as it often does. Yes, the long stretch of warm temperatures is alarming, and is hurting local ski areas. But when temperatures dip down -- and they will -- I believe every local resort will tap into their modernized snowmaking systems and push forward very, very aggressively.

February is prime season for Mid-Atlantic resorts -- it's when they schedule the majority of events and receive the majority of visitors. If it's February 1 and we still haven't seen snowmaking temps at the lower-elevation resorts, there will be definite cause for concern.

Looking back through DCSki's archives, this kind of warm spell is not unprecedented. But the timing is a bit unfortunate. Most resorts didn't have a chance to build up strong bases before the warm weather hit. If they had, things wouldn't be as bad. By and large, it hasn't been very warm, it's just been slightly too warm for snowmaking. So snow has stuck around a long time, there just wasn't much to start with. I remember many seasons when the mercury climbed above 70 degrees in January. The past several weeks, the temperature in lower-elevation areas has generally peaked in the 40's or 50's, settling into the mid- or upper-30's at night. That nibbles away at the base, but when the base is small to start with, groomers run out of options and two weeks of constant nibbling takes its toll.

On balance, though, resorts have done an admirable job staying open, and I think they have continued to attract new skiers and boarders, who don't mind the limited terrain or lower crowds. Some areas, like Snowshoe, don't seem to be hurting one bit (but they're lucky to be at 4,800 feet above sea level.)
Mountain Masher
January 2, 2007
Member since 03/13/2004 🔗
541 posts
Scott, with all due respect, I beg to differ with you. I believe that this warm spell is unprecedented simply because, by the time it's over, it will have lasted far longer than ANY similar warm periods that have occurred during past ski seasons. Of course, I agree with you that the weather hasn't been exceptionally warm in the mountains, but just warm enough to restrict snowmaking at most ski areas.
Ullr
January 3, 2007
Member since 11/27/2004 🔗
531 posts
Warm spell? What warm spell? I froze my but off this morning scraping ice off of my windshield! It was 27F according to the thermometer in my truck at 7:02am. There are parts of the South that are very cold right now, it's just really flat here too!
kwillg6
January 3, 2007
Member since 01/18/2005 🔗
2,034 posts
The main thing keeping the snow around so far is the angle of the sun and the fact that it doesn't hit the north facing slopes at this time of year. That will change in a few weeks. Unless this mild pattern changes soon, we will see a marked degeneration of the man made currently in place. I agree that most places will make snow into and past february, but don't expect them to open much new terrain if it is not yet open by mid feb. By that time, the typical weekend crowds will be busy planing potatoes and peas and any thought of a ski weekend will be for planning one next season.
Murphy
January 3, 2007
Member since 09/13/2004 🔗
618 posts
Quote:

Warm spell? What warm spell? I froze my but off this morning scraping ice off of my windshield! It was 27F according to the thermometer in my truck at 7:02am. There are parts of the South that are very cold right now, it's just really flat here too!




Unfortunately there have been some extremely strong inversions this winter. 16 in Marlington this morning but 39 in Snowshoe.

It was 21 while I scraped the ice off my windows this morning but it might hit 60 by the end of the day.
k_alice
January 3, 2007
Member since 11/22/2005 🔗
92 posts
Quote:

I *think* I recall Wintergreen dropping all the way down to one slope last season by Mid-January, before recovering to finish out the season fairly strongly. Can anyone verify this?




I'm pretty sure it was January 2005, not January 2006, when WTG was down to one slope. I have pictures of my son learning to board on Dobie, and it was just a narrow stretch of snow down the middle. They had closed Eagle Swoop to preserve what was left of the base. Also, in January 2002, WTG had to shut down entirely for one day, on a Saturday.

So the dismal weather is not entirely unprecedented, but definitely a downer. WTG has made such investments in improving the infrastructure, I know they want to recoup some of those expenses. And they just had over 100 students from the southern hemisphere who arrrived a few weeks ago to work for the season, lodged in the brand new "student housing."
skier219
January 4, 2007
Member since 01/8/2005 🔗
1,318 posts
Quote:



I'm pretty sure it was January 2005, not January 2006, when WTG was down to one slope. I have pictures of my son learning to board on Dobie, and it was just a narrow stretch of snow down the middle. They had closed Eagle Swoop to preserve what was left of the base.




I recall that it was 2005 as well, when they went down to a single WROD (white ribbon of death). They had to scavenge snow from other trails/locations to even keep that going.

My ski notes for 2006 (first year I kept them) indicate spring conditions and bare patches on 1/19/06. The Big Acorn lift was closed for repairs.
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