[R369R, Beech Mountain Resort] in North Carolina received 135 inches of natural snow last season, well above the normal average of 80 inches, said Gil Adams, who is in charge of risk management and ski operations for the resort.

"That's a pretty good snowfall season," Adams said. "We saw record snowfall amounts throughout the region."

That meant great skiing and riding for guests, and less need for Beech to make snow, Adams said.

"Most years we start making snow in the middle of November and keep making it unitl the end of ski season. Last year we got so much natural snow that we were making only limited amounts in February, and turned off the guns altogether on Feb. 12."

He said that in the Southeast, where Beech is located, winter weather patterns often bring a blast of cold, with a warming trend that often follows, with some rain showers, then cold again, and back to snowmaking.

"Last year there were no rain showers, except a small one the second week of January," Adams said.

Beech added six new SMI Super Polecats, computer-automated, tower-mounted fan guns, mostly on the lower portion of the mountain, on high-traffic areas.

"That's going to be a huge hit for us this winter," Adams said.

"We have a pretty good snowmaking system on the upper runs, air-water guns. We're moving toward these automated guns, but we'll always have air-water guns. Last year we added tower-mounted air-water guns, made by York, along some of our runs."

Adams said the new computer-controlled fans require programming, but after that will operate automatically.

Beech Mountain has the highest base elevation of any ski area in the Eastern U.S., at 4,675 feet, and a summit elevation of 5,506 feet.

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