GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — Making snow happen in the Smokies is not an easy task and leaders at Ober Gatlinburg have had to deal with recent temperature issues causing them to get creative with offering visitors other fun experiences apart from skiing. A pattern of temperature inversion, also known as thermal inversion has recently impacted the attraction’s ability to produce snow for its skiing and snowboarding slopes.
President and co-owner of Ober Gatlinburg Kent Anders spoke on Christmas Eve with WATE 6 On Your Side about the creativity behind not only the snow-making but the other activities visitors can enjoy until the slopes can be coated in powdery fun once the weather allows.
“When this type of weather happens, it’s not foreign to us – we just have to get creative,” Anders said.
“I think it’s important to note, this time of year, we are a ski area and this is what we’re here for, this represents about 50 percent of our annual revenue – our ski rentals and ski supporting activities,” Anders said. “So it’s essential to us that we make every effort we possibly can to be open for skiing and snowboarding as soon as we possibly can.”
With the thermal inversion occurring in the region, the weather outlook appears to continue the warming trend during the Christmas holiday weekend.
“This is very unusual, it is an extreme,” Anders said. “We are ready to make snow and we are looking at every single opportunity to make snow, but the bottom line is, it requires a minimum of 28 degrees, and we have to have at least three-to-four days of that temperature to make significant enough snow to open up our ski slopes.”
Anders said year-round, their operation is weather-dependent and especially monitors the situation as winter comes around. Ober Gatlinburg also offers snow tubing, the Ski Mountain Coaster, ice skating, carousel, rock wall, and more will still be open for guests.
Ober Gatlinburg is still able to offer a bit of an outdoor snowy experience with its “Magic Snow” system that essentially shaves ice and shoots it out from hoses, which has been used to offer snow tubing outdoors.
“It’s a very slow process and it’s a very expensive process so it’s not practical for creating a ski slope area for skiing conditions,” Anders said. “We utilize it to open our snow tubing park in the middle of November. We have taken that product and made a very large outdoor play area… and they are absolutely having a ball.”
There were more than 840 people that played in the snow tubing area the other day. Indoors, there is also ice skating. Apart from normal winter season activities, that’s where Anders said they’ve gotten creative this year.
“We have gotten creative and brought some other warm-season activities out for the public,” Anders said. “Things like our Scenic Chair Lift, which takes you from the main elevation of the lodge up to the highest elevation point on the property; and if you get off halfway up that scenic lift, is our ‘oldy but goody’ Alpine Slide. She has been around since 1976, still remains one of our popular activities year-round, but normally it’s not available this time of year – well, because of the weather, it is.”
Anders said that as soon as the weather allows and they reach that critical 28° F for a few days – that’s when the snow-making can recommence.
For more information on the other fun to be had at Ober Gatlinburg, check its website for ticket availability – and of course, when the temperatures drop again, when they’ll be able to make snow again.