App Ski Mountain hopes for limited Sunday launch
Before the first flake of snow hits the slopes, before the first lift ticket is sold, workers at Appalachian Ski Mountain are working to ensure that the 2009-10 season is the best yet in the nearly five decade history of the resort. In fact, operating the ski resort has become a yearlong effort for the Moretz family and their employees.
"This past summer we took 1,500 truckloads of material out as we increased the capacity of our lake," said Brad Moretz. "The lake is both rain-fed and spring-fed and we installed a new pumping system."
The newly enlarged lake-now over 40 feet deep-will feed new snow-making machines that will cover the slopes in a matter of a few days as soon as nighttime temperatures reach the lower 20s.
"When we have ideal, around-the-clock temperatures, we can pump six million gallons of water out of the lake per day and turn it into snow," said Moretz. "We've added 20 fully-automated snow guns over the past three years, so we can cover all the slopes with over a foot of snow in no time at all."
The lake is just one of many changes Appalachian Ski Mountain made during the off-season in 2009. They expanded the indoor ski and snowboard rental area by moving all of the poles to outdoor storage facilities.
"We've got three to four thousands sets of poles here," said Moretz. "That frees up a lot of space inside. We've got twice as many snowboards as we had last year."
According to the App Ski Mountain Web site, the slopes may open on Sunday.
"The current weather forecast is projecting snowmaking temperatures beginning some time Thursday. According to the forecast, we may enjoy a 60 hour stretch of snowmaking with nightly lows of 25, 20, and 17 on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights," the Web site stated.
"If this forecast proves to be true, Appalachian Ski Mtn. will expect to open for skiing and snowboarding Sunday morning, December 6. Given this amount of snowmaking weather, a majority of slopes, along with all chairlifts and the conveyor lift could be open on our first day of skiing. We would also expect for the Appal Jam and Appaljack Terrain Parks to be open for day one.
"On Sunday, highs in the low 30's are forecast. To give our guests the best possible experience, we will not make snow on open slopes during the day session.
"We will also begin night skiing on a seven nights a week schedule as of Sunday. We will expect to be making dry, skiing-quality snow with our 20' tower guns during the night session."
With its new emphasis on snowboarding, and a new terrain park for snowboarders, Appalachian Ski Mountain has been designated by Burton Snowboards as on official "Learn to Ride Center."
The new terrain park is the third terrain park for Appalachian Ski Mountain, allowing for more entry-level training for snowboarders just learning how to jump over obstacles, ride handrails and other tricks.
"We have added this new terrain park to provide entry-level park riders an opportunity to develop their skills in a non-intimidating environment with other park riders of the same skill level," said terrain park director Drew Stanley. "We are currently fabricating new and unique features specifically designed for the riders using this new terrain park. And we plan to introduce one new custom feature to the terrain parks each month."
Stanley stated that the terrain parks will feature over a dozen competitions this year with sponsors and prizes, in addition to five "Fresh Friday" events where the slopes will introduce new features in the terrain parks. The terrain park competitions regularly attract 65-70 of the best trick snowboarders in the country.
Along with the added terrain park, the ski resort has added heavy duty snowboards and helmets to its rental facilities. Last year, the skiing and snowboarding industry estimated that over 70% of children ages 14 and under wore helmets while enjoying those winter sports.
Another new feature at the terrain parks will be "Ladies Park Night" on three Saturdays during the season. The events are aimed to attract more women snowboarders to the terrain parks and will feature free instruction from a "trick tip advisor." According to Stanley, last year's Ladies' events attracted snowboarders whose ages ranged from 9 to 50.
Through its longtime association with French-Swiss Ski College, Appalachian Ski Mountain has become the premiere destination for beginning skiers and snowboarders. This year Appalachian Ski Mountain is offering a package that include slope ticket, rental equipment and a one-hour group lesson with French-Swiss Ski College instructors. The package is $42 for skiing lessons and $54 for snowboarding lessons.
The resort also offers those lessons for skiers ages five through 14 at beginning, intermediate and advanced levels.
French-Swiss Ski College is also in charge of the resort's Junior Race Training for kids who are interested in participating in the High Country Junior Alpine Race Series.
This year Appalachian Ski Mountain is opening a new slope, "Appal Top," along with the new terrain park. It is also offering midnight skiing on weekends from December 26 through February 20. It also plans to extend its season until April 11, making it the longest scheduled season in North Carolina skiing history.
"The Midnight Blast weekends should be good for everybody," said Brad Moretz. "The skiers and snowboarders get more time on the slopes and then they are more likely to spend a night in one of our area hotels rather than drive back home."
Appalachian Ski Mountain has also conducted a complete entrance sidewalk renovation during the off-season. The improvements include heated sidewalks adjacent to the Base Lodge and handicapped ramp entrance and strut-gate entrance stairways.
Not Just Skiers
Believe it or not, Appalachian Ski Mountain has become a popular wedding destination. Many couples choose to start their special day with a chairlift ride to a mountain top ceremony.
Whether it is for the wedding reception, ceremony, rehearsal dinner or the whole shebang, the resort has all of the amenities for indoor or outdoor events.
Unlike many ski resorts that only offer basic, cafeteria-style dining options, Appalachian Ski Mountain has banquet facilities and two chefs working in the lodge's kitchen.
"All of our burgers are fresh, not frozen, our pizza is made in house, and we offer two specials with fresh vegetables every day," said Carla Fitzwater, food and beverage director for Appalachian Ski Mountain.
"This is a real restaurant. We offer salmon, crab-cakes, pecan-encrusted trout, shrimp and grits, barbecue ribs and homemade soups.
"Ski resorts rely on hot foods like chili, coffee and hot chocolate. They have to be good. Ours is the best. We offer a three-bean chili that people rave about."
Appalachian Ski Mountain has also earned a reputation among folks in the High Country as a place to do a little Christmas shopping. With two separate stores-one for skis and snowboards and one for clothing and accessories-the resort has one of the largest selections of winter sports gear in the country.
"Our selection covers a wide price range," said Brenda Moretz. "We've got everything to outfit someone for a day or for a season."
Ready for Cold Weather
Prior to ski season, Appalachian Ski Mountain employs approximately 30 full-time workers. Once the slopes are open, that number jumps to nearly 300 employees.
Of course, Appalachian Ski Mountain, like most others in the eastern half of the country, has had to delay its opening because of unseasonably warm weather this November.
"We usually open for business the Friday before Thanksgiving," said Moretz last week. "This week there is only one ski resort on the entire Eastern Seaboard open and it's in Maine. But if we can get some ideal conditions at night with the low humidity and temperatures in the high teens or low twenties, we could open in a day. If the temperatures were around 26 at night, we could open in two or three days."
According to Brad Moretz, Appalachian Ski Mountain has invested in over $3 million in renovations and improvements over the past three years.
"It allowed us to extend our season last year to March 30th and this year we're shooting for April 11th. It ends up extending the tourist season for the whole area."
For more information, call Appalachian Ski Mountain at (828) 295-7828, or visit http://www.appskimtn.com.