SUGAR MOUNTAIN, N.C. — A lucky break for skiers has led to some misfortune for golfers this spring at Sugar Mountain.
The Sugar Mountain Golf Course is usually preparing to open this time of the year, but Mother Nature had a different plan. The course is covered with snow, and while skiing was still going on at the nearby Sugar Mountain Resort, golf will have to wait.
“We always try to open as close to April first as we can,” said Tom McAuliffe, the golf course’s manager. “We always seem to make it. This year looks different.”
Skiing at Sugar Mountain Resort was scheduled to be finished for the season on March 24. But more winter weather came through, and the ski area’s decision makers chose to remain open for one more week.
So while many nearby ski resorts were shut down for the season, Sugar Mountain skiers continued to glide down the slopes on a surprisingly deep base of anywhere from 25 to 70 inches.
“You can’t do a thing about the weather,” said McAuliffe, who added that the inner-tube run which cuts across three fairways on the golf course was closed for the season. “We’d love to be watering and mowing the fairways right now, but that’s not going to be the case by April first.”
The news isn’t all bad for the course, once it gets open. McAuliffe says the snow cover will eventually benefit the turf on his 4,560-yard, par-64 gem.
“We believe that snow is beneficial to our turf,” he said. “I’ve been told it injects natural nitrogen into the turf. In the end, the golf course and our season will be better for this last run of winter.”
In the autumn, McAuliffe tries to keep the course open through the end of October. Last year, Oct. 28 fell on a Sunday, so McAuliffe figured that would be a good day for his annual end-of-the-season festivities, which include a tournament.
“People said, ‘Why are you closing down on the 28th?’ ” he said. “I said, ‘Just watch.’ ”
As McAuliffe and his group walked off the 18th green that day, they could hear the noises being made by the snowmakers’ compressors. Within three hours, snow was being made on the slopes. Then a front came in and by the next day the outer bands of Hurricane Sandy had dumped more than a foot of snow in the North Carolina mountains.
“It’s an indication of how quickly our seasons change in the fall and hopefully once spring makes up its mind to show up,” McAuliffe said.
With a stubborn winter that seems to want to stick around longer than uninvited relatives, the ski resort has managed to remain open from Halloween through Easter. The Halloween opening was the earliest in the resort’s 43-year history.
Today is the last day of skiing. By the middle of the afternoon, a bluegrass band will be playing. The grill will be working and the ceremonial “snow burning” will signify the official end of winter.
Folks’ attention will eventually return to golf.
“The sun will come up tomorrow and we’ll have a great golf season,” said McAuliffe, who spent Friday on the slopes. “We just have to be patient this year.”