The Envy of Seasons Past

By Sam Calhoun (

Article Published: Jan. 27, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

My ski buddies and I found ourselves in the throws of anticipation and depression this past week, each reading, critiquing and analyzing every weather report found on the Internet.

I don't blame him, and I understand that weather models sometimes argue, but I think Dr. Ray Russell got more of my undivided attention over the past five days than I gave to my dog, and arguably my girlfriend.

From the moment he placed the words "largest snowstorm of the winter" on his website last Friday, Russell inadvertently set events in motion that turned this writer into an armchair meteorologist, and, in turn, his friends into devil's advocates.

No matter how long I live here, news of a possible big snow command my thoughts and wishes; it's almost consuming.

But it's a great, youthful feeling - a feeling that others from more temperate climates hardly ever get to experience. Even if we just receive a dusting, it's worth the emotional roller coaster.

Yet, if we take a step back, and take this week's snowstorm out of the equation, we have a southern snow scene that is the envy of seasons gone by. Representing what could have been called a miracle in winter 2002-03 or winter 2003-04, all three of our ski slopes are reporting base depths that top out between 88 and 111 inches - a significant showing for any resort on the East Coast, ever, and roughly one-third of the snow that some of the big resorts out West have received for the entire winter.

So, if you're like me, stay hopeful for the big snows, but don't let anticipation for the 'next big one' let you lose site of the winter snowsport bounty that is right in front of us. In other words, go play with your girlfriend and your dog, and then...

Go play in the snow.

Around the Slopes

If you see his smiling face this week, be sure to wish a happy birthday to the backbone of Sugar Mountain Resort, Gunther Jochl. The local ski patriarch turned "49" on Jan. 24, according to his wife and Sugar Mountain marketing director Kim Jochl. Happy birthday, Gunther!

After a stocked few months of event after event, Sugar Mountain will enjoy a "free weekend" this week, said Kim Jochl, which will serve as a happy coincidence for local crowds if big snows do come. Looking ahead, Sugar will host a live concert by Boss Hawg and a gathering for the Spartanburg Ski Club on Feb. 5, followed by a High Country Junior Race Series competition on Feb. 6.

Even though it was his birthday, Gunther Jochl's Team Sugar Mountain Resort couldn't gain enough points in the Sugar Mountain Adult Race League (SMARL) event on Jan. 24 to pull ahead of Team Banner Elk Cafe No. 1. Both teams are tied for first in the league with 60 points; three races are left in the season.

In SMARL's snowboard category, Team Edge of the World (30 points) - led by Jeff Johnson, Raymond Barlett and Patrick Bagbey - has mounted a seven-point lead over veterans Team Modern Rustic (23 points), which is comprised of Andy McDaniel, Eve Parsons, Chris Arquette, Rob Greene, Susan Tate and Scott Thomas. Team Sugar Mountain Snowboard and Team Alpine Ski Center No. 2 are both hot on the trail of the leaders, however, as they are tied for third with 22 points.

According to Kim Jochl, camaraderie is at an all-time high within the league, with a "happy, energetic crowd" gathering after each race to share food, drinks and sometimes catch a few more runs.

According to an employee at Hawksnest Resort, extreme winds would be the only weather element that would cause the largest snow-tubing operation on the East Coast to close down its lanes during this week's winter storm. Currently, a healthy dose of natural snow in the past month, mixed with a base of manmade, has enabled the resort to open 20 to 25 snow-tubing lanes on a regular basis.

This accomplishment underscores the quality of the winter season in terms of natural snow and adequate temperatures for snowmaking, as, at the beginning of the season, Hawksnest theorized that it could only sustain up to 20 lanes. Kudos to the Cottoms!

On Saturday, Feb. 5, Appalachian Ski Mountain begins its popular Shred for the Cup Series. For its fifth season, the series will begin with a Big Air competition on Feb. 5, continue with a Rail Jam on Feb. 27 and then conclude with Slopestyle Finals on March 19. As always, Shred for the Cup is open to skiers and snowboarders of all ages and ability, but each sport will be judged separately among three categories of participants: Beginner, intermediate and advanced, for both men and women.

Click to for descriptions of each ability category. In addition to individual event winners and participant prizes, points will be tallied throughout the three events to decide the entire series winners in each category. Those winners will win the coveted award "cup."

The snowboard team from Sugar Mountain Ski and Snowboard Foundation (SMSSF) went to Beech Mountain on Jan. 23 for the first event in the Edge of the World Boardercross Series. The SMSSF entered three snowboarders in the under 15 category, two boys and one girl. Duncan Nielander came in first place, Emma Balbier brought home second place in her division, and Felix Chamielec won fourth place. "Overall, it was a fun day up at Beech Mountain, and the Sugar snowboard team had a great showing," SMSSF coach Joe Nielander said.

Mark your calendars for the next event in the Edge of the World Boardercross Series, which takes place in two weeks on Sunday, Feb. 6, atop Ski Beech. Like Jan. 23's competition, Feb. 6's event is open to both skiers and snowboarders. To take part, register in Group Sales between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m.; an on-hill pre-race meeting takes place at 12:30 p.m., and the race begins at 1 p.m. The entry fee is $15, and contestants may preregister at Edge of the World in Banner Elk, or on the day of the event. The series continues on Feb. 13 and concludes March 6. For more information, call 1-800-SUX-EDGE.

Go play in the snow.

Upcoming Events

Every Friday and Saturday in January, February-Midnight Blast, Appalachian Ski Mountain
Jan. 30-High Country Race Series Boardercross Race, Beech Mountain Resort
Feb. 5-Shred for the Cup Big Air Competition, Appalachian Ski Mountain
Feb. 5-Boss Hawg Concert, 4 to 6 p.m., Sugar Mountain Resort
Feb. 5-Spartanburg Ski Club NASTAR, Sugar Mountain Resort
Feb. 6-High Country Junior Race Series Giant Slalom, Sugar Mountain Resort
Feb. 11-Fresh Friday 3, Appalachian Ski Mountain
Feb. 11 to 13-College Fest Weekend, Beech Mountain Resort
Feb. 12 and 13-USSA Slalom and Giant Slalom Competition, Sugar Mountain Resort
Feb. 19-Boss Hawg Concert, 4 to 6 p.m., Sugar Mountain Resort
Feb. 26-Ladies Park Night, Appalachian Ski Mountain
Feb. 26-Third Rail Jam, Beech Mountain Resort
Feb. 26 and 27-Crescent Ski Council Competition, Sugar Mountain Resort
Feb. 27-Shred for the Cup Rail Jam Competition, Appalachian Ski Mountain
March 4-Fresh Friday 4, Appalachian Ski Mountain
March 5-Boss Hawg Concert, 4 to 6 p.m., Sugar Mountain Resort
March 6-Boardercross Series Race, Beech Mountain Resort
March 6-Sugar Bear's Birthday Celebration, Sugar Mountain Resort
March 6-Richard T. Trundy Memorial Sugar Cup Competition, Sugar Mountain Resort
March 7-March Madness Begins, Sugar Mountain Resort
March 13-Recess Wreck Less Rail Jam, Appalachian Ski Mountain
March 18-March Madness Begins, Hawksnest Resort
March 19-Boss Hawg Concert, 4 to 6 p.m., Sugar Mountain Resort
March 19-Shred for the Cup Slopestyle Finals, Appalachian Ski Mountain
March 20-Easter Egg Hunt, Sugar Mountain Resort
March 26 and 27-Meltdown Games, Appalachian Ski Mountain
April 1-Spring Rates Begin, Hawksnest Resort
Last day of the season-Boss Hawg Concert, 4 to 6 p.m., Sugar Mountain Resort

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