GATLINBURG (WATE) – On a 70 degree, sunny day at Ober Gatlinburg, you wouldn't expect snowmaking to be in full swing. However, two new SnowMagic machines have been working non-stop since Friday for a head start on the season.
Two hoses blow out cold air and snow that's the texture of crushed ice. Eventually they'll spread it out to create a two-three foot base in the tubing area. That will allow the ski resort to start its season on time or sooner.
Last year was a rough one at Ober. Unseasonably warm temperatures forced them to open late and close early. Management even had to offer customers a discount on this year's season pass to compensate.
Avoiding the same risk this year during their milestone 50th anniversary celebration in December, meant making a big investment.
"It's more than a million dollars. I can tell you that," said John Cossaboom with Ober Gatlinburg.
The same SnowMagic Snowmaking System has already been set up at several tourist attractions in other parts of the country.
"We've installed it at SeaWorld in San Diego, Legoland in California, Universal Studios in Los Angeles and Stone Mountain Park in Georgia," said Neil Harris, with SnowMagic.
The SnowMagic staff says the machine churns out snow no matter how hot it is outside. So at Ober Gatlinburg they know they're assured a good base of snow, no matter if this winter is a little on the warm side.
"We have to spend money to make money. And if we can get our tubing area ready for Thanksgiving weekend, when a lot of people visit Gatlinburg, then it's going to be great," Cossaboom said.
Thanks to the new machines, they hope to open Thanksgiving weekend if not sooner and stay open until Easter weekend. That would make this their longest season ever.