The natural snowfall and abundance of subfreezing temperatures that helped West Virginia ski areas open the 2018-19 season on solid footing have been in short supply in recent days, prompting one resort to suspend operations and others to reduce ski-able terrain.
Timberline Four Seasons Resort, in Tucker County, temporarily closed on Wednesday in order “to continue snowmaking when possible,” according to a notice on its website. In the notice, resort officials said they hoped to “reopen soon.”
“A January thaw is nothing we haven’t seen before,” said Joe Stevens of the West Virginia Ski Areas Association. “We had a strong Christmas, making it through the season pretty much unscathed. The weather period we’re in now will create limited terrain for some of our folks, but West Virginia still has the most open terrain in the region.”
Winterplace Resort, south of Beckley, closed its snow tube park due to a lack of snow and snow-making weather, while eight of the resort’s 27 trails remained open to skiers and snowboarders on Wednesday.
“Having no freezing temperatures in the past several days is having an impact on our surface, so we’re looking forward to their return, which should start by the end of next week, according to the long-range forecast,” said Tom Wagner, Winterplace’s executive vice president.
Like other West Virginia resorts, Winterplace has invested heavily in snowmaking gear over the years. “One other thing we invested in was snowcats to move the snow around the hill, including a big winch cat that allows us to push snow uphill — a big plus for us,” said Wagner.
At Canaan Valley Resort State Park’s ski area, 16 slopes and trails served by three of the resort’s four lifts were open on Wednesday.
“We want to get 19 slopes and trails open by this weekend, if possible,” said resort manager Steve Drumheller. “We’ve had as many as 30 slopes open at one time this season and we would like to open more,” he said. “But rain, warm temperatures, and worst of all, warm winds, have made it a challenge.”
Drumheller said Canaan Valley posted its best December since 2005 this season, thanks to an extended number of subfreezing days “that allowed us to make a whole lot of snow.”
Snowmaking is not an option at nearby White Grass Touring Center, the state’s largest cross-country ski area, where only scattered traces of the 3 feet of snow that has fallen so far this year could be seen on Wednesday.
White Grass has had 29 ski-able days so far this season, according to its website, but awaits a significant snowfall before any of its trails can reopen.
A $4 million investment in snow-making and grooming equipment was paying off for Pocahontas County’s Snowshoe Mountain Resort on Wednesday, when 12 of its 14 lifts, serving 46 of its 60 slopes and trails, were operating.
“If you’re going to have mild weather, now is the time to get it — after the Christmas-New Year’s holiday and before Martin Luther King weekend,” Drumheller said.
“I’m confident our snow makers will soon be back at it, hard at work,” said Wagner.