Bring on the snow: Cataloochee is one of the first to get the season started
The cold air that moved into Western North Carolina this week brought flurries, below-freezing temperatures and the opportunity for ski areas to start their seasons.
Cataloochee Ski Area began making snow last Thursday and officially opened this morning with six slopes open from mid-station down. Two lifts and one conveyor lift were operating on an 18- to 36-inch base.
“We’ve had pretty good business for the day,” Chris Bates, general manager at Cataloochee, said Thursday. “It’s looking like mid-winter conditions out there.”
Atmospheric factors directly affect snowmaking, and for ski areas to successfully make snow, low humidity and cold temperatures are necessary.
“We need temperatures below 28 degrees in order to make snow and open up,” Bates said. “We knew we could have enough snow on the ground to open up [Thursday].”
The mountain was the second in the state to open its slopes, narrowly missing Sugar Mountain Resort’s first day on Wednesday. Last year, Cataloochee and Sugar Mountain both opened for the 2012-13 season on Oct. 31.
North Carolina has six operating ski areas — Cataloochee, Sugar Mountain, Appalachian Ski Mountain, Beech Mountain Resort, Sapphire Valley Ski Area and Wolf Ridge Ski Resort — that draw visitors from across the Southeast. According to the latest report from the N.C. Ski Areas Association, in 2009-10, the industry as a whole generated more than $32 million in gross revenue from ski operations.
Beyond a ski area’s direct revenue, though, is its impact on the local economy — often apparent from lodging revenues. In Haywood County, for example, gross revenue from lodging operations in November to March 2009-10 was close to $4.8 million, proving that Cataloochee is a large asset to a successful winter tourist season in the county.
Lift tickets at Cataloochee are currently being sold at a reduced rate of $35 for adults and $25 for juniors ages 5 to 12. The mountain will continue the rate through this Sunday, Nov. 16.
Early season operating hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Cataloochee will also open up Tube World across from Ghost Town in Maggie Valley in mid-December and will offer one-hour, 45-minute tubing sessions for $25 per person.
Cataloochee Ski Area is located at 1080 Ski Lodge Road in Maggie Valley. For more information, visit www.cataloochee.com or call 926-0285.