- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 23, 2003

Skiers have good reason to pay attention to weather reports. If you’re going to ski or ride, you’ve got to know which way the wind’s blowing, literally.

Anyone who slides on snow knows full well that a snowstorm is great news for weekend skiing — if it occurs on a Thursday. But Friday or Sunday snowstorms make for difficult driving to and from the slopes.

Rain is only good after April and before November, when it can replenish snowmaking ponds. Midwinter rain can melt away a season. Temperatures in the teens and single digits are great for snowmaking but a challenge to deal with while skiing. Sunshine is best, but precautions need to be taken to avoid sunburn.

Herb Stevens, the Skiing Weatherman, observes the winter from an electronic perspective and appears on a number of television stations along the East Coast including Washington’s NewsChannel 8 and Baltimore’s WJZ (Channel 13).

“It looks to me that although snowfall amounts will be down from last year’s in the mid-Atlantic, I still think they will be a little above normal,” he recently told the operations staff at Snowshoe Mountain resort in West Virginia. Stevens will be skiing at Snowshoe on Jan.4 and 5.

As far as general weather goes, Stevens said, “The overall upper air pattern in the northern hemisphere should be one that favors cold air in the East and mid-Atlantic and that will allow for a productive season in terms of machine-made snow. Temperatures should average at or slightly below normal for the winter as a whole.”

All this sounds good, as far as skiers and snowboarders in the region are concerned, and Stevens concurs.

“Combined with other factors — sea surface temps in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Alaska, as well as upper level wind patterns over the Pacific, and cyclical solar activity — I believe that this winter may not be as spectacular as a year ago but a solid one for skiers and riders,” he said.

A slightly less snowy picture is offered by Jim Roemer, aka Dr. Weather, who forecasts mountain weather for skiers from his Web site bestskiweather.com. “It will be warm and wet through December,” he said. “We may have one good month to make snow and for natural snow. That would probably occur after Christmas. I don’t think it will stay cold and snowy the whole winter after that, but there may be a month of good skiing, either January or February in the Southeast.”

Can we place our order now? How about, midweek snow storms, dry on the snow if you please; hold the rain; bone-numbing temperatures only at night; light to moderate winds; no fog or sleet; and a generous helping of sunshine.

Snowshoe delays opening — Snowshoe Mountain Resort was forced to push back its opening day to next Saturday. Officials cited milder temperatures earlier last week that negated more than a hundred hours of snowmaking. Snowshoe was able to pump out about 2,700 tons of snow an hour during the cold snap earlier this month, but the snowmaking stopped once the mild temperatures moved in.

“There is a bunch of snow from top to bottom at both areas [Snowshoe and Silver Creek],” said Snowshoe’s Joe Stevens. “Again this season, it’s not about being first [to open] but opening with the best available quality. We don’t like to get the season going and then have to pull the plug. Some resorts may want the bragging rights of being first, while we look at it as opening with top quality runs and keeping open through April.”

Virginia firm buys resort — Laurel Mountain Ski Resort in Ligonier, Pa., was bought by HomeSpan Financial Group of Petersburg, Va., from Pittsburgh businessman George Mowl. This is the first foray into the winter resort industry for HomeSpan, a 2-year-old mortgage and financial services company.

Details of the deal were not disclosed, but published reports indicated Mowl had been seeking $7.5million for the resort, which includes both the ski area and a nearby residential development. Laurel is a 900-vertical-foot ski area, about 55 miles southeast of Pittsburgh in Laurel Mountain State Park.

The area is expected to open for skiing around Dec.20 with very few noticeable changes, said operations manager Jim Darr. But Darr said plans are being drawn to expand the lift and trail network, lighting and other infrastructure after the season. Contact: 877/754-5287, 724/238-9860; skilaurelmountain.com.

Snow Sports appears on Sundays in The Washington Times during the winter. Contact: [email protected]

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