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Chilly November should help the start of ski season

With chilly air expected for a good chunk of November, ski resorts should be able to get a nice jump-start on making snow and laying down a good base. (WCHS/WVAH){ }{ }

Every year, skiing brings a lot of people to West Virginia.

Joe Stevens, executive director with West Virginia Ski Areas Association, said hundreds of thousands of people travel to the Mountain State each winter for the sport.

"Last year's ski season was a normal year. We had about 800,000 skier visits," Stevens said.

Those visits mean a lot of money, too, nearly a quarter of a billion dollars.

This was even true last year, when the winter wasn't even that cold or snowy.

As for this season, it looks to get off to a better start. The majority of this month looks to be pretty chilly. That means the ski resorts can make plenty of snow.

"With the snow that they are making up at the various resorts, they are actually cooling down the ground, too. Getting it ready for the season, so there isn't as much melt in the early part of the season," Stevens said.

Our mountains can also chip in, too, by "making" natural snow. Since the Great Lakes are upstream from us, a northwesterly wind can push chilly air and moisture our way. This can be enhanced across the ski resort areas in the eastern mountains. As this air encounters the higher terrain, it's forced to rise, which squeezes more moisture out and chills the air even more. The result? Plenty of snow.

Typically, late-November into December is a good time for both artificial and natural snow production to begin.

"We are thinking about opening, like with Snowshoe, traditionally around Thanksgiving time followed by Winterplace the first week of December, or around the 10th. And then Canaan and Timberline will follow the second week of December. That's traditionally when we're opening," Stevens said.

As for how much snow is needed to open? Stevens said the depth actually isn't the most important factor.

"You can have 6 inches of snow under you, or you could have a foot to 3 feet of snow. As long as you don't have bare spots and everything is covered -- from side to side -- you're sliding down the hill, you're having a good time."

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