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Location: Mars Hill, NC, United States

A small, highly personalized real estate firm specializing in mountain homes and land in greater Asheville.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Asheville Ski Season & The Drought

We have written about the Western North Carolina drought here in the past, with respect to white water rafting, fly fishing and any number of ways that we are impacted. Today, we will look at the possible effects on ski season.

A ski slope DOES NOT exist in Western North Carolina without man made snow. Sure we get those glorious days with 24 inches of fresh powder, but typically, natural snowfall disappears here in a matter of days. Man made snow is therefore essential for slope survival, and as such, so is a source of water.

Rainfall in Asheville is close to 30% below normal for the year, with cities state wide talking drought strategies. With ski slopes, the main factor, closely related to rainfall, will be stream flows. It is those babbling mountain brooks that fill the ponds, which in turn feed the snow guns.

Lower stream flow means slower refills in the ponds, and some of these are easily emptied in 48 hours without adequate rates of refill. So what does this mean for our favorite area slopes this winter?

The French Broad River, our major waterway for this part of the world has hovered for months at a mere 40% of normal flow. 500 cubic feet per second, when the norm is closer to 1,400 cfs for this time of year.

The graph above shows this, and the effect of a recent 0.5 inch rainstorm. In response, some ski slopes have expanded water holding capacity.

The definitive industry pronouncement thus far:
Of the resorts that we have spoken with thus far, ALL report that making snow will NOT be an issue for the coming season. Some are more "water-rich" than others, but all seem to be in good shape. A couple DID mention that while they would have no problem making enough to get open, they did add that they may have enough to make snow for three to four days at a time, and then they would have to see how quickly their ponds "recharged" or refilled with the streams that feed them. Streams that flow substantially slower than normal will obviously take some time longer to refill holding ponds.
Definitely a case of reading between the lines there. No worry, keep track of all of them here, current conditions and a non commercial presentation.

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Black Bear Realty Website
828 689 2055
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