Sandy's silver lining: Skiing in North Carolina starts early

Reuters News

10/31/2012 4:19:36 PM - Reuters News

By Colleen Jenkins

WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Reuters) - Some North Carolina residents donned ski gear instead of Halloween costumes on Wednesday after Hurricane Sandy dumped several inches of snow on western parts of the state and allowed a few resorts to kick off the season early.

Sandy's low-pressure systems pushed cold air down from Canada to bring the winter-like conditions to North Carolina's mountains, National Weather Service meteorologist Doug Outlaw said. Some areas reported getting up to 3 feet of snow.

"This is incredibly unusual," Outlaw said. "It's just unheard of to have an October snowfall like this."

According to the National Weather Service, the location that received the most snow from Sandy was Gatlinburg, Tennessee, which got 34 inches. Clayton, West Virginia, was covered by 33 inches of snow and 29 inches fell on Redhouse, Maryland, the weather service said.

In the Northeast, the historic storm crippled transportation, knocked out power for millions and killed at least 64 people with a massive storm surge that caused epic flooding.

"We're very cognizant of how much damage it's created, but on our end, it's been great to be able to open this early and get folks excited about the season," said Tammy Brown, spokeswoman for the Cataloochee Ski Area in the Great Smoky Mountains in western North Carolina.

The Cataloochee Ski Area welcomed skiers on Wednesday after getting about 8 inches of snow in the storm, Brown said. It is only the second October opening in 52 seasons, she said. About 200 skiers hit the slopes by mid-morning, she said.

The Sugar Mountain Ski Resort, also in western North Carolina, marked its first October opening on Wednesday, beating the record for its earliest start by about a week.

Skiers and snowboarders can expect a 6- to 30-inch base of natural and manmade snow on the mountain, resort spokeswoman Kim Jochl said.

"It's literally a winter wonderland," she said. "Everything's white."

But the weather service's Outlaw said skies were starting to clear and temperatures warming, so the snow may not last long.

The forecast didn't diminish Brown's enthusiasm.

"This early, it's always watch and wait," she said. "If we're able to make snow, we're going to stay open as long as we can."

(Editing by Stacey Joyce)