WARM WINTER: Snowmaking technology saves winter tourism on North Carolina ski slopes


(FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – When the snow is finally back, we can’t help but dance! Passionate skiers have counted the days, patiently waiting since November to hit the slopes.

It’s the first layer of natural winter white… 8 inches of snow in Beech and Sugar Mountains fill the slopes with excitement, skiers rejoice: “It’s amazing! You can actually carve the mountain… You shredded yourself… And if you fall, it doesn’t hurt that much!

Welcome a few old-timers and teach the new ones: “It’s a wonderful time, you just have to understand what you’re doing!” And I think this might be our first cold weather vacation, we are typically tropical people. Everyone is waiting for the winter to cool down.

The calendar has been saying winter for a while now, but man, it doesn’t want to. Now that we finally have the right first cold weather for the season, snowmobiles are turning full time to Beech Mountain to spin the snow as temperatures stay cold and humidity stays low.

Michael Stanford is the Ski Patrol Director at Beech Mountain: “Our snowmaking team is on the job… They are able to go out and provide us with a good base depth that has supported us during the hot weather. “

December was the third hottest month on record in Charlotte. Nine daily records matched or broken and 11 more within earshot, meaning that about half of the month was held in record-breaking heat territory.

“It was a roller coaster,” Kimberley Jochl is the marketing manager at Sugar Mountain, “the constant 50 and 60 degree weather melted all the snow so we only closed for a day, luckily. Jochl calls it a miracle: “When the temperatures were between 30 and 30 seconds the humidity was extremely low, maybe 10%, so we were able to snow on those nights. ”

Ideally, ski resorts need temperatures in teens to pump out the white matter.

“It is clear that it gets warmer and warmer each winter” Alex Ettinger is the director of the ski and hiking school at Beech Mountain. He remembers the October snows, “last winter we had a significant amount of snow and it was cold but it’s more abnormal now and warming is more of a norm for us.”

Winter warms the fastest in North Carolina. At a similar altitude, Asheville is finding cold spells with below normal days decreasing by 6 days since 1970, 19 fewer nights falling below freezing.

Ettinger explains: “We have to have cold temperatures to produce snow, we mainly rely on our snow production here”, adaptation and mitigation, these ski resorts have to invest to become climate resilient.

Stanford adds, “We have increased the capacity of our pumps to have a pump from the tanks that hold our water that allows us to pump more gallons per minute up the hill, that gives us a greater capacity to do. the snow. “

And it’s not just the ski resorts, Stanford adds, “people rent houses, they go to restaurants, they go to the grocery store, they buy products from the different people who sell here in the mountains.” Winter brings an economic boom to all of western North Carolina.

“It’s fun… We’re here to provide fun for families,” explains Jochl.

“I’m so excited… that’s what we live for,” Ettinger says.

With more cold and more snow, we are crossing our fingers and skis for more powder on the slopes.

About Jonathan J. Kramer

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