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North Carolina ski resorts decry spell of warm temperatures

January 23, 2017

SAPPHIRE, N.C. (AP) — Two weeks of unseasonably warm weather has caused headaches for ski resort operators in North Carolina, but a forecast for cooler weather next weekend gives them cause for hope.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reports (http://avlne.ws/2j68PpD) Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley closed Jan. 18 and plans to reopen Jan. 26. Manager Chris Bates said he can’t remember a time the resort has closed in January.

“But February and March look good,” Bates said. Cataloochee is about 45 minutes west of Asheville.

Sapphire Valley Ski Area in Jackson County had to shorten its hours.

“This weather is crazy. It’s been four seasons in the last 10 days,” said Chris Green, mountain manager at Sapphire Valley, about an hour south of Asheville. “When it’s this warm no one’s thinking about going skiing. We have a short time to cover our bills. Skiing on the East Coast is a very short season. Any time we lose skiing it hurts us.”

A November 2015 economic value report commissioned by the North Carolina Ski Areas Association showed that the six ski areas contributed $197.2 million to North Carolina’s economy during the 2014-15 season.

That’s the highest it’s ever been, said Kim Jochl, president of the association and owner of Sugar Mountain Ski Resort in Avery County. The report is conducted every six to eight years.

The study also found the region’s six ski areas had more than 650,000 visits, provided 87 year-round jobs and 1,787 seasonal jobs and generated nearly $40 million in gross revenue from ski area operations. That includes lift tickets, lessons, equipment rental, retail stores, food and beverage and other operating departments.

Sugar Mountain, WNC’s largest ski area, can employ as many as 500 seasonal workers in the height of winter, but drop to as low as 100 during these kind of warm spells, Jochl said.

As for the impact from the weather, the National Weather Service in Greenville, South Carolina, said this January so far has been 6.4 degrees above normal for the Asheville area. Jan. 13 has been the warmest day through Jan. 21, with an average temperature of 51 degrees, which is 21 degrees above normal.

Last year was the warmest on record in Asheville, with an average annual temperature of 58.4 degrees. This was the warmest year ever in Asheville since weather recording began in the 1880s. It was also the hottest year across the globe, according to the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville.

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Information from: The Asheville Citizen-Times, http://www.citizen-times.com

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