After Record High Temps, Ski Resorts Focused on Changing Weather Pattern for New Year

Published Monday, December 28, 2015 at 1:44 pm

By Jesse Wood

Appalachian Ski Mtn. General Manager Brad Moretz remembers people “patch skiing” – just skiing on patches of snow – during the Christmas holiday in 1984.

Those patches of snow soon melted because in that year, record high temperatures of 68 and 64 degrees were set on Dec. 28 and Dec. 29, according to archives at RaysWeather.com. Those records still stand today.

In similar fashion, the past several days featured a four-day stretch of record warmth – one that wiped out any hopes of skiing on Christmas Day in and around Boone.

“There might have been a couple times in the ‘70s that we were closed some during Christmas, but we haven’t seen this for 30 years,” Moretz said. “This is not what everybody is used to. That’s for sure.”

Appalachian Ski Mtn. suspended skiing and skating operations on Christmas Eve and also canceled New Year’s Eve events, including the midnight fireworks.

It plans to re-open for skiing and snowboarding on Sunday, which will give the resort a few days of snowmaking weather. In its latest forecast discussion, RaysWeather.com noted, “change is coming.”

Snowmaking temperatures will arrive as early as late Thursday and the High Country could see snow flurries on Friday.

While that is certainly welcome, the more exciting forecast for the ski resorts and ancillary businesses is that “the pattern finally flips to a more typical winter setup” beginning on New Years Day.

“We finally get a true pattern change for the New Year. Cooler air arrives from the northwest Thursday. The really cold stuff arrives New Years Day as Canadian high pressure settles into the Central and Eastern U. S. Cold weather lasts through the weekend, with some moderation Sunday,” notes RaysWeather.com.

This is what Moretz and other resort owners and representatives are focused on.

In the meantime, Beech Mountain Resort and Sugar Mountain Resort are offering other things for people to do while they are on the respective mountains.

This past Saturday, Beech Mountain Resort opened its brewery, Beech Tree Bar and Grille, 5506 Skybar, sports shop and offered scenic lift rides before suspending operations until Thursday – when it will re-open the Beech Tree Bar and Grille, Beech Mountain Brewing Co. and Ski Beech Sports.

It will also offer its New Years Eve celebration. Beech Mountain Resort spokesperson Talia Freeman said that with the warm, rainy weather, Beech Mountain Resort elected not to have the lift rides.

“We hope to be up and running by the end of the week,” Freeman said.

Kim Jochl, co-owner of Sugar Mountain Resort, said that the resort situated above Banner Elk also did what it could to “entertain people” who visited the area over the weekend – despite the uncooperative weather.

She said that ice skating has been very strong; scenic lift rides have been available; and bands played through the weekend.

“We are trying to move forward and offer things for people to do,” Jochl said.

On Monday morning, Jochl sent out an email to stakeholders in the industry to “remind folks that winter is coming back and to encourage them to visit.”

Sugar Mountain Resort plans to reopen for skiing and snowboarding this weekend and will host its New Year’s Eve celebration on Thursday, Dec. 31. Ice skating remains open.

‘We are just moving forward and going to make the best of what there is ahead,” Jochl said. “We are definitely hopeful. One of the amazing things is that – we are excited about when we do get cold weather, for example – we are able to open six slopes and three lifts in 28 hours.”

“We have the facilities. We have the technology, and we have the equipment,” Jochl said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have the winter right now.”

That looks like it will soon change.

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