Ober Gatlinburg struggling through mild winter
Two months after wildfires ravaged parts of Sevier County, Ober Gatlinburg is battling warm weather and public misperception.
"It certainly has been a challenging year with out weather. Right now we seem like we're in a pattern where we have several warm days then a couple of cold nights, so we can make some snow, get everything back looking great and then we're followed up with some warm days again," Ober Gatlinburg winter sports director John Cossaboom told our sister affiliate WBIR. "Truly a challenge for snow making."
Cossaboom has worked in snow sports in the Southeast for around 25 years and said this season has been among the most interesting he's seen.
"It's unusual, it's unfortunate, but that's sort of the gamble you take trying to run a ski area in the Southeast," Cossaboom said.
In January warm weather prompted Ober to close it's ski and snowboard slopes, leaving snow tubing as the only outdoor winter activity.
In addition to weather, Cossaboom said Ober has struggled to convey that it is open for business following the wildfires.
Shortly after November's wildfires, rumors spread that Ober was destroyed in the flames. In actuality, the facilities were spared with minimal damage. Inspections verified safe conditions and cleared Ober to open shortly after.
"On Facebook, we've been putting information out about programs and so forth and people will say 'why bother? The place is burned down.' So now even two months after the fire, the perception that Gatlinburg has been wiped off the map still exists," Cossaboom said.
Cossaboom wishes people would not simply assume conditions are too poor for outdoor fun at Ober Gatlinburg.
"If they're sitting at home wondering, 'Gee, we've got to wait for the perfect moment' - they're letting those moments pass by," Cossaboom said.