Warm Weather Melting Business For Gatlinburg Establishments

By: Mike McCarthy
By: Mike McCarthy

Gatlinburg (WVLT) - These warm temperatures have put the freeze on making snow at Ober Gatlinburg. Last week, the ski resort enjoyed two nights of snow production. That put between five and 20 inches on the slopes, but today's 60 degrees temps melted much of that away.

Volunteer TV's Mike McCarthy's has more on how melting snow means melting business for more than just Ober Gatlinburg.

This time last year the slopes were already open. The park tries to open the slopes between December 7th and 15th every year. This year, it could be later. That means slushy sales for nearby businesses.

"What we have here is a typical snow gun," said Thomas Diriwaechter from Ober Gatlinburg.

Just call Thomas Diriwaechter Ober Gatlinburg's "Old Man Winter."

"I'm usually ready to make to snow," Diriwaechter said.

And he's got an arsenal of 72 snow guns to fire away. The problem....

"It's now very, very warm up here," Diriwaechter said.

Last Monday and Tuesday these snow machines blew as much as twenty inches of snow. Now it's almost all gone. Snow turned slush thanks to Monday's nearly 70 degrees temperatures.

"Skiing business is zero. If we have no snow, then there's no skiing. Unfortunately we're not open yet," Diriwaechter said.

Last year, snow already covered the 40 acres of slopes. These mini-mounds have piled up a chilling cost.

"The difference between good days of skiing and non-skiing is big. We're talking hundreds of thousands of dollars difference in revenue," Diriwaechter said.

On weekends and holidays between five to six thousand skiers fill the empty lifts. The melting snow's effect trickles down to Gatlinburg Businesses, like the Park Grill Restaurant.

"We like to see lots of snow. It brings in a lot of weekend business for us, which is really great for the restaurant," said Kathy Saiti from the Park Grill Restaurant.

Right now, multiple tables and seats sit empty. A good snow could pile up 25 to 50 percent more hungry stomachs.

"It would probably increase our business maybe 100 to 150 people for the evening or better," Saiti said.

But Slushy sales wouldn't be new.

"Last year we didn't have that much snow. So we're hoping this year will be a wet season," Saiti said.

Diriwaechter wants a season of at least 28 degree nights. That's what he needs to fire these up.

"If we have a good snow night, we can make up to foot," Diriwaechter said.

And with colder temps it'll stick around.

On top having no snow, making it is not cheap. Ober Gatlinburg can rack up an electric bill as high as $100,000 a month. That goes even when it has to make a little snow because the whole system has to run.

The slopes also need the ground temperature to drop. That lets the machines blow a good solid base about two to three feet. Once that happens, the snow can sweat through weeks of warm weather.


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