SUGAR MOUNTAIN — With frigid temperatures descending on the High Country, snow-making equipment at the area’s winter sports resorts have heated up as ski season has begun.
Sugar Mountain Resort opened its slopes to the public for its 50th season the morning of Saturday, Nov. 9.
“Skiers and snowboarders can expect a five- to 20-inch inch base on a manmade powder and frozen-granular surface,” Sugar Mountain Resort stated on Nov. 9. “The full-day session runs from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. The half-day shift begins at 12:30 p.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m. The twilight and night sessions will be available soon. The ski and snowboard school, the equipment rental shop, the sports shop and the group sales department are fully operational.”
As of Nov. 11, three of the eight lifts and six of the 21 slopes were open at Sugar.
In 2018-19, Sugar set a record for most consecutive days open as the slopes stayed open 141 days from Nov. 11, 2018 to March 31, 2019. The most number of days open at Sugar was 146 in 2014-15.
The new feature at Sugar this winter is a four-seater, detachable, high-speed chairlift. The lift, made in Austria, replaces the 50-year-old, two-passenger, fixed grip Easy Street chairlift, the resort stated. The new lift increases Sugar’s overall uphill capacity to 11,270 passengers per hour, up from 10,518 per hour.
At Appalachian Ski Mtn. in Blowing Rock, the planned opening date has been moved up a week to Friday, Nov. 15, according to a Nov. 11 statement on its website.
“This will be the earliest opening date in over a quarter century,” ASM stated. “A very impressive cold front is scheduled to come through (the night of Nov. 11). Snowmaking should begin Tuesday (Nov. 12) morning, and run continuously for as long as possible throughout the week, most likely through Thursday (Nov. 14) morning. Riders can expect several slopes to open Friday with excellent coverage, conditions and base depth, as well as a variety of park features. Details on exact slope openings will be posted as soon as they are determined.”
Last season, ASM opened Nov. 17 and was open 128 days through March 24.
Beech Mountain Resort is gearing up for a Friday, Nov. 23, opening, according to Talia Freeman, director of marketing. Nov. 23 is the same day it opened in 2018. The 2018-19 Beech Mountain season went to March 23.
In the off season, a new water pumping system was installed in a renovated pump house and the water reservoir was expanded. Also, 8,000 feet of armored electrical cable for fan guns and 6,500 feet of new water and air lines were added to the slopes to increase snow-making power. For night skiers, 17 light towers with 34 LED slope lights were added to the resort.
Lenny Cottom of Hawksnest Snow Tubing in Seven Devils said on Nov. 11 that he is “80 percent sure” the resort would open on Saturday, Nov. 16, but won’t know for sure until two days before.
Jonas Ridge Snow Tubing, near Pienola, said in a Facebook post that its anticipated opening date would be in December.