GHENT — You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that the weather so far this winter has been more spring-like than what is normal this time of year. The above-normal temperatures have created plenty of challenges for all of the ski resorts in West Virginia.
This is the time of year when you hear the scraping of car windows. Instead, the other day I heard our neighbor operating his lawn mower to mulch his leaves in his front yard.
With that said, it really hasn’t been the type of weather that gets everyone excited about making some turns on their skis or snowboards.
Thank goodness there were enough cold temperatures in November and through mid-December that allowed the snowmakers at West Virginia ski resorts to make snow and cover enough terrain to allow the Mountain State to offer the most open terrain of any southeastern state that provides sliding on the snow.
While Charleston has recorded record high temperatures in December, Winterplace Ski Resort, 90 minutes to the south, has been offering skiing and snowboarding since the middle of the month.
In fact, Tom Wagner, Winterplace’s executive vice president, says the start of the season has been good. “It’s been pretty good. Thankfully, we had some really good snowmaking days right before we opened for the season and that allowed us to open to the top of the mountain on the very first day. There have been people showing up from all over, which was great to see,” he said.
I realize it’s tough to imagine that there is snow anywhere in West Virginia right now, but travelers on the West Virginia Turnpike during the holidays could look over from the Interstate in Ghent and see that more than a dozen of the slopes were covered with man-made snow.
It’s really not hard to find out what is happening on the slopes of any resort in the Southeast, thanks to the website skisoutheast.com. On that website, you can view the conditions at any resort, thanks to webcams located right on the slopes. You can easily make a decision to go or not just by doing some clicks on your computer.
While the technology allows everyone to see how much snow is on the trails, Wagner made is clear to me that every resort in the step has also stepped forward and invested millions of dollars in the latest snowmaking equipment and, during years like this, it pays off.
“There is no question that first and foremost the investment in snowmaking has been critical,” Wagner said. “Without that, I don’t think that would be skiing right now anywhere in this state. People have come to rely on West Virginia’s snowmakers and they have been tested so far this season, and, in my eyes, they have passed the test. Just look how much terrain is open right now.”
Don’t think the snow on the slopes is fake or artificial; it is real, man-made snow; the snowmakers use cool water mixed with cold temperatures to produce man-made snow. In fact, I am told that since there is a higher water content in man-made snow, the product withstands the milder temperatures better.
The vast majority of skiers and snowboarders visiting West Virginia during the season are from out of state from much lower elevations. Wagner said that might be the case, but they are ready to hit the slopes. “The most popular page on our website is the snow report page, which means everyone is ready to make some turns.”
By the way, as things change, I just wanted to let everyone know I will be stepping down from writing this bi-weekly column. Recently, I was accepted into Ohio University, and I will be attending there for meteorology school starting fall 2022.
Due to this, I want to properly pursue my dream of working for the National Weather Service and helping save people’s lives.
I have been writing this column for close to nine years now, since April 2013. I have learned so much and have had so many experiences that I am so grateful to have had the privilege to experience. I have stepped out of my comfort zone on numerous occasions and been able to meet so many different types of people and learn about aspects of sports that I never would’ve imagined to see growing up. I have stepped foot in places where not many teenagers probably have, or ever will, and I am so grateful to have this honor.
My dad, Joe Stevens, will be taking over the reins of this column. However, I will still be behind the scenes, occasionally helping him with interviews and still getting to learn aspects of journalism, even if it isn’t my main career goal anymore.
Thank you to everyone who has read my column over the years and has given me endless support to help push me to where I am today. Thank you to the PR teams of professional sports teams and many professionals who didn’t blow me off due to me being a teenager and properly gave me a chance to get out there and have an impact. Thank you to the editors at the newspapers that I have written for for giving me an opportunity to share my words. Thank you, all, and I wish you a happy and safe new year.