GHENT -- Now that Old Man Winter has finally made his appearance known this winter and seasonable temperatures are now prevailing for skiers and snowboarders (and, full disclosure I am one of those folks), which is awesome news, because that means conditions at West Virginia ski resorts have improved after the recent, unseasonable temperatures.
My friends and I made our first turns on the slopes early in December at Winterplace and thanks to early snowmaking, we found the conditions very nice for it being early in the season. Due to the unseasonable warm temperatures those conditions dropped considerably and if it wasn’t for snowmaking restarting last week and continuing this week, it would not have been good for the Raleigh County ski resort.
Now for the good news: That sound you have been hearing from the state’s mountaintops is from snowguns pumping out man-made snow on the skiing, snowboarding and snowtubing terrain.
I caught up with Tom Wagner, Winterplace’s Executive Vice President, about the situation that resort was facing. “It’s all about snow management," he said. "We were able to make a bunch of snow early on and, by stockpiling snow, we were able to use those reserves to get us through the warmer temperatures.”
You can go to Winterplace’s website, www.winterplace.com, and view in real time the resort’s slope conditions and see for yourself just how everything looks at any given time.
Wagner explained that technology has helped skiers and snowboarders make the decision to visit the resort or not, saying, “The cameras have become the believability factor. What everybody does is go on the web, bypass the snow report and check out the cams to see if the slopes are covered and if the conditions are to their liking. It really has taken some of the guesswork out it for skiers and snowboarders who are ready and eager to hit the slopes.”
I have heard people talk about the “artificial snow” that resorts like Winterplace make to cover the slopes, but I am here to tell you, there is nothing artificial about man-made snow. The snow coming out of the snowguns is made up of real water, mixing with real cold air and real man-made snow hits the ground. Wagner said when conditions are right, they can basically create a man-made blizzard and can recover quickly from experiencing unseasonable temperatures.
“Snowmaking has come a long way, and, just like anything else, snowmaking technology has improved, which has helped resorts in providing a quality product. It use to take six hours to fire up our snowmaking system; now, due to our automated system, we can get things going, when the temperatures are right, in around 30 minutes. It takes a lot of water to make snow, and we can pump 10,000 gallons of water a minute up the mountain. That’s one of the main reasons we can get the slopes covered again in a matter of hours.”
My high school ski club had to cancel its trip to Winterplace last Friday, because there was limited terrain open. But it only took Winterplace’s snowmakers a couple of days to get the majority of the resorts slopes open for skiers and snowboarders to enjoy. My friends and I have enjoyed watching on the webcams the turnaround of the conditions at Winterplace.
I always wondered how a resort decides what slopes to open first. Wagner enlightened me that its all about the masses. “Most of the skiers and snowboarders that come to Winterplace are beginners and intermediates, so we make sure we have blues and greens open first and then start branching out to the more difficult terrain from there.”
Makes sense to me. In the end, my friends are just happy that Winterplace has rebounded, because it looks like winter is here and it’s time to make some turns.
See you on the slopes!