YES, IT’S SPRING, YES, THERE IS SKIING
By Joe Stevens –
Good morning all –
And then there were four still standing for the 2021-2022 season. By the time most of you read this week’s column, only four resorts (maybe five) will still be open in the Southeast region. Those four resorts include Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia and Beech, Cataloochee and Sugar in North Carolina will be open through the end of the month.
Kudos to all the mountain operations staff at these resorts who managed to push the snow here and there, covering enough ground to have fun during the last week of the season. At other resorts that survived March 20, including Massanutten in Virginia, Timberline Mountain and Appalachian in North Carolina, a way to provide late-season skiing and snowboarding opportunities.
It’s the first day of spring, as the vernal equinox occurred in the northern hemisphere at 11:33 a.m. EDT Sunday morning. So I guess spring skiing is officially with us for eight days.
But just to make things all white in the mountains of West Virginia on Sunday, there was an inch of natural snow (not real man-made snow, I won’t let people down) at Snowshoe Mountain and nearly a half -thumb to Timberline Mountain. Now, this kind of crowning achievement for the season is kind of the icing on the cake for the mountain state.
I wanted to mention the following observation a few weeks ago and I just forgot. You see many times in my years in this crazy but fun industry that I’ve mentioned or asked area ski shop managers not to use the term “End of Season” in February when they try to move their remaining inventory.
When skiers and snowboarders hear the words like end or closed, they think the snow has melted, well, I think you get it.
This year and I think last year, I never heard those nasty words. What I have read and seen is something like final, but not end or closed. To the ski shops that get it, thank you for playing along.
With the spring ski and snowboarding season, all resorts are announcing announcements regarding next season’s “Season Pass” program. If you think this is something for you or other members of your family, now is the time to purchase a season pass.
I’ll give you some info on the ring road, for resorts that are really winter focused and don’t have much of a summer schedule, it gives them some cash flow in the quieter months. Still, whatever the reason, if a season pass is in your future, head straight to your favorite station’s website and place your order. The savings period doesn’t last that long, so don’t procrastinate or you’ll be left behind in possible savings.
I’m here to say there’s only one week left in the season, now I’m going to tell you for some unknown reason, I was a bit more worried about the COVID-19 situation this season than last year . What I mean is last year we had a plan, it was written down for everyone to see, posted right there on everyone’s website on what the protocols of the season were going to be for everyone to get through the season as safely as possible.
This year there was a lot of discussion and based on the experience of previous years, everyone seemed to have a plan to follow. However, it just wasn’t written like the “Ski Well, Be Well” program. I’m not a doubting Thomas, but I just felt like something was going to go wrong over the course of the season.
When the Omicron variant started making the rounds before fall was even with us, that hole in my stomach started getting bigger and bigger. Seriously I decided to give it a try and not think about it but knowing myself as you may know I started to make a plan if it got to a point where it would affect the day to day operations of the station.
When I look back now and after speaking with a number of station managers, where it affected operations was with the number of staff available on any given day. To circumvent these challenges, there were employees at many resorts this year who wore multiple hats. One day they might have worked in the restaurant business and another day they might have parked cars or worked on ski lifts.
That’s something I love about this industry, when the going gets tough you don’t hear “we can’t do this” but instead you hear “okay, that’s how we will handle the situation.” As the saying goes in sports, if a player falls, the next man or woman will fill the void.
We have now been through two very difficult ski seasons, not only in the Southeast, but across the country. Speaking to other members of the ski association, it was clear that the South East region really hasn’t fared too badly this season, all things considered.
Too often our glasses are half empty instead of half full and I realize now more than ever that every resort operator in the Southeast glass is half full. They just put the plow down and kept pushing and finding answers for visitors to have a great day on the slopes.
As the columns go, this is basically my last column of the season. I will end my 18th season on skisoutheast.com with my annual Snowies next week. The committee will be working hard this week.
That’s it for this week, thanks for joining me for my weekly spins on the laptop. Just remember whether it’s cold or hot, we’ll stand the test of time no matter what. I hope everyone has had the chance to make some turns this season.