So what does that mean to all of us who love the wintery sport? That means Ober Gatlinburg is attempting to get ski season started quite a bit earlier this year…. Possibly even by Thanksgiving – that’s the goal.
After a 2011 season that saw no snow for the first time in 27 years at Christmas at the resort, Ober decided to matters into their own hands and up their snow-making abilities. The new equipment purchase allowed them to start making snow in September to hopefully prepare them for any earlier start this year. It’s an investment in Ober Gatlinburg that carries a price tag of over a million dollars.
The system itself – SnowMagic Infinite Crystals Snowmaking (ICS), is the first to be put to use in the Southeast. Now before you go and compare it with the old system, the new SnowMagic ICS system doesn’t require subfreezing temperatures to make snow. Officials with Ober said that the two 50-ton machines are able to create snow crystals in temperatures below 70 degrees. After that, the new snow crystals are carried to the slope via a long flexible tube. Over 24 hours, the machines are able to create 7,000 cubic feet of dense snow.
That said, all this dense snow will go toward making a base for the snow tubing area, which is about a football field size wise. With just the snow made by the ICS system, there should be enough in 45 days to open the snow tubing area.
Getting to Ober Gatlinburg this fall and winter: Planning a trip to Ober Gatlinburg? You have two options of getting up there. You can either ride the aerial tramway (which happens to be the largest aerial tramway in America) from downtown Gatlinburg or you can drive up the mountain on Ski Mountain Road. Simply turn at traffic light No. 9 on the south end of Gatlinburg (closest to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park) and follow the winding road (Ski Mountain Road) all the way to the top…just have cash ready to park. The earlier you go, the better. The are three tiers of parking lots and if you get there early, you have a better shot at getting a parking spot at the top near the resort. Otherwise, it’s a short hike from the lower parking lots, but the locals call that the warmup!
As always, if you don’t have your own skis or gear, don’t worry! You can rent everything you need at the Ober Gatlinburg gear store. They have clothing and gear available for rental in a variety of sizes, for both kids and adults!