How might this all shake down for a potential ski area opening?

Now our focus turns to THIS WEEK and how much snow might we get this weekend. 1″-4″ of snow might fall according to most forecast models – with the 4″ falling north into the Snowshoe, Canaan, Timberline and Wisp areas. Snowshoe’s been making snow on and off since this past weekend. Our buddy Laura Parquette has been busy, busy, busy of late but she had a new member of their team, Sarah Eilers, email us yesterday (Tuesday) that they made more snow yesterday and will continue to do soas temps allow. Snowshoe began snowmaking efforts over the weekend with plans to open for its 37th winter season on November 24th.

OUR focus is a little more short term. Yes, the heavier snow and more snowmaking ops ARE going on further north, but so far there’s been NO snowmaking or flakes to speak of in the North Carolina mountain region. However that should change any day now and that’s all it takes for Sugar or Cat to pull the trigger, drop the ropes or whatever phrase you want to use for OPENING DAY.

According to the weather forecasts for Thursday night – Sugar Mountain might get just cold enough to make snow. We’ve seen Gunther run those guns up there at 36°. They are typically able to make snow up top even when its too warm down at the bottom of the mountain.

Temps will be borderline Thursday evening with lows near 30° at Sugar, Beech and Appalachian. Cataloochee is expected to be a “tick” milder and maybe a snowmaking temp of 32°. With those kinds of temps everything kind of depends on the wet-bulb.

FRIDAY is a different animal. Highs are expected to be in the upper 30s Friday and low 40s on Saturday at Cataloochee. More importantly the LOWS both Friday and Saturday night are expected to dip down to around 22° at Cat. They’re expecting a chance of snow on Friday and not-so-much on Saturday with a bit more snow over towards the High Country.

Sugar, Beech and App are expecting highs in the low to mid 30s both Friday and Saturday and lows around 20-23° and a bit more in the way of natural snow both days. That APPEARS to work in the favor of Sugar to crank up the snowguns and open earlier than Cataloochee. (It’s always a race between those two to be the first in the Southeast and Mid Atlantic to open.)

Obviously if any ski area is to open this weekend it will ALL be about timing. According to most models – the low temps won’t actually filter into the area until Friday morning around sunrise.

There’s going to be a lot of wind associated with these systems and that isn’t great for the snowmakers in the region so we’ll just sit back, wait and see – and enjoy the fact that we’re talking about cold and snow. If any ski area is able to blast a slope or two with snow and open – great. If not, it will happen soon enough.

We don’t want to be a “buzz killer” but if any ski area IS able to make snow and open, it looks to be pretty short-lived as the long range forecast through November 15th is showing highs and lows around Beech Mountain that won’t allow for snowmaking. Beech is the highest elevated ski area in the east, so those conditions apply to all of the NC, TN and Virginia ski areas. Snowshoe, Canaan, Timberline and Wisp will be a tick colder but pretty borderline for the next couple of weeks after this short term burst of cold and snow. Laura Parquette of Snowshoe told me that their team is eyeing November 12th as the next snowmaking opportunity.

FYI, the Old Farmer’s Almanac accurately forecasted this burst of cold and snow – back three months ago! I don’t know how they do that!

Don’t get too bummed out if we get back to a little mild weather over the next couple of weeks. Remember that Sugar Mountain opened first last season and that was the day after Thanksgiving. Things were a little sketchy after that for a week or two and we even resorted to asking for snow dances to jump start winter. Of course we all know now that once we got into mid December things were cold and snowy the rest of the way with the most powder conditions that we’ve probably seen around this region in decades.

Keep the faith…THINK COLD AND SNOW!

Meteorologist Brad Panovich has already shared his 2010-2011 Winter Forecast with us. Click here for the forecast video

MORE ON THE WINTER FORECAST according to Brad Panovich

We’ve now released all of our official and not-so-official winter forecasts and they all seem to convey that nobody REALLY knows what to expect for the 2010-2011 ski and snowboarding season for the ski areas from North Carolina up through Maryland. Most of the professionals seem to lean towards an average temperature that should put things ever so slightly milder than normal (about 1°). Most are forecasting precip that is about normal to perhaps an equal chance of being dryer than normal or wetter than normal whatever that means. The dividing line seems to be hovering right over the Appalachian Mountain range around the Tennessee/North Carolina line.

The key according to all of the top weather peeps in the region is the fact that our great, snow-loving friend El Niño has turned things over to its weaker sister La Niña. Meteorologist Brad Panovich says that there are signs that the currently weak-to-moderate La Niña is strengthening. Those kinds of winters tend to be milder and dryer for the Southeast.

The good news, according to Panovich, is the North Atlantic Oscillation (N.A.O.) could be strong or active enough to counteract the La Niña. 

During a TYPICAL La Niña you’ll see the kind of storm track that pushes milder and dryer air into the southeast while the colder and wetter storm track stays just north and west of most of our Southeast and Mid Atlantic ski resorts. Even during those kinds of winters we’ll see bursts of snow and cold that are forced further south and east to bring snows to all of the mountain areas. The area shown in the middle of those tracks on the first map tends to be a mix of about normal weather for the average winter around here.

Brad feels that things will setup such that we have a bit flatter storm track that keeps the milder/dryer air south yet allows for the polar and tropical jet streams to send clipper systems of colder and wetter systems into the southeast. Usually we like to see those Nor’easters that send huge snow systems into our areas. This winter he feels that we’ll need to count on those clippers to send us the bigger snowfalls.

Brad feels that things should shake down pretty much this way:

1/2 to 1° colder than normal temps for Maryland and the West Virginia Ski areas and at the highest elevations of the Virginia and North Carolina ski areas. Some of the resorts like Wolf Ridge, Cataloochee and Ober may see temps a little milder than normal to normal.

As per snowfall or precip, he sees things this way:

The WV and Maryland ski areas will receive as much as 20% MORE SNOW than normal! He’s thinking perhaps 10% more than normal for the Virginia ski areas as well as resorts into North Carolina. Ober Gatlinburg may have it a bit tough as he’s expecting 30% less snow than normal.

So the overall forecast is for temperatures that should be VERY CLOSE to normal all season long and with the HUGE increases in snowmaking technologies and systems at all of our ski areas, that should bode pretty well for a great ski and snowboarding season at all of the ski resorts.

Natural snow should be in good shape further north as we need to keep in mind that Snowshoe Mountain’s AVERAGE of 180″ could end up closer to 230″ or so if Brad’s forecast comes true!

You can VIEW Brad’s 2010-2011 Skier’s Forecast for this winter by clicking here

Be sure to check back often for more photos being posted as well as our video blog. If you have not yet visited our Ski Messageboard Forum you should do so.

We’ll be sharing TONS more input about our plans for this season, but for a little sneak peek visit:  

Send your comments, photos, videos and trip reports to:  [email protected] 

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11/05: 3:30pm update: SNOWY FORECAST FOR THIS WEEKEND!
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2010 2011 Winter Forecast for the Southeast and Mid Atlantic Ski Resorts