By Nathan Ham
The last couple of weeks have been hard on the ski slopes in the High Country with unseasonably warm weather and pockets of heavy rainfall. With more than four inches of rain falling at Appalachian Ski Mtn. on Saturday, Brad Moretz made the difficult decision to close for a couple of days just before a big change in the weather happens on Thursday.
“We had an unusual weather situation where we got over four inches of rain Saturday night. It’s been since December 20 since we have had significant snowmaking. We’ve had a couple of times where we had a few hours for part of a night but we have gotten along fantastic without snowmaking and rain falling, but there is a limit to how much of that you can take without having a little winter weather,” said Moretz, who is the co-owner of Appalachian Ski Mtn. “We’re going to be excited to get things looking like mid-winter again. These are pretty ideal conditions coming up so it will look like normal again in a big hurry.”
Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain are also looking forward to the changing weather this week as temperatures will drop throughout the day on Thursday into the 20s. High temperatures will struggle to get out of the 30s on Friday and Saturday and both days have a chance of some wintry precipitation, according to the latest forecast from Ray’s Weather Center. Low temperatures will be in the teens on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
“We feel good about where we are and the base that we have right now. It looks like tomorrow (Thursday) night we’ll have a good long window of snowmaking,” said Talia Freeman, Beech Mountain’s Director of Marketing. “We’re excited for the weekend and ready to make more snow.”
Freeman added that their new snowmaking equipment has been a big improvement for the slopes.
At Sugar Mountain, the offseason improvements to make water pipes larger and upgrades to snowmaking equipment will allow for them to quickly build up a lot of snow as temperatures drop.
“The weather is very encouraging and we’re optimistic that maybe even tonight temperatures are low enough to start making snow. We’re excited to get a good base back down and hope to start making snow on some of the other trails that haven’t been open yet,” said Sugar Mountain Vice-President and Marketing Director, Kim Jochl.
Right now, snow tubing is closed at Sugar Mountain, however, Jochl says that as soon as the snowmaking begins, the tubing lanes will quickly be reopened.
These warm-weather snaps in January are not entirely new to the High Country. Jochl says she remembers a few “January thaws” over the years at Sugar Mountain. Moretz remembered two occasions that stood out to him in the last 25 years of some rough patches in January.
“In 1995 we had 12 inches of rain in 12 hours and we were closed for a few days. In 2007 we were closed for about three days. This is something that happens occasionally,” said Moretz.