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Firsthand Report: Wonderful Weekend at Liberty
By James Chen, DCSki Columnist
December 21, 2009

Thanks to the record-busting storm this past weekend, conditions at Liberty Mountain could only be described as EPIC! Not since 2003 has the area enjoyed this much snow in so compact a timeframe. In fact, the weekend’s storm will long be remembered as one of the larger dumps to hit the slopes surpassing the 2003 dump and even the unbelievable snowfall of 1996. But what made it all even more impressive is the fact that 21” (measured on the outside picnic tables at base) fell this early in December.

Patroller and author Jim Chen at the top of Eastwind. Photo provided by

The weekend began with an official Winter Storm Warning issued by the National Weather Service. Having to be on shift Friday night meant patrol candidate Brennan and I headed up in the late afternoon from downtown D.C. Conditions at the Area were actually impressive already with the upgrades in Liberty Mountain’s snowmaking system evident on all open trails, which included the Beginner Area, Dipsy Doodle, Blue Streak, Sneaky Pete and the Terrain Park on the front side, and Heavenly, Whitney’s Way and Lower Ultra open on the backside. Skiing and riding was very good with no thin spots and plenty of machine made snow to carve.

Candidate Patroller John (with veteran patroller Mike J. and Jim Chen in the background waving folks into the just-opened Lower Strata).

The real action for the weekend started after close Friday when the snow started around 11:30 pm as a light sprinkle of flakes. Not much to look at, but the climate models used by weather forecasters had coalesced. Unanimously, the local weather forecasters agreed it was not whether accumulation would occur, but how much. By Saturday mid-morning, eight inches had fallen and much more was on the way. It was difficult not to get too excited as the trails at Liberty were all coated with a nice layer of snow. The skiing and riding was simply excellent. Liberty Mountain maintenance did a great job on the area’s roads, parking lots, and walks as the snowfall continued to increase, although it was obviously difficult for them to keep up with the falling snow. In fact, by noon it was clear the entire Washington/Baltimore area was going to far exceed the original 8” to 12” predicted totals with forecasters now talking in terms of feet of snow instead of inches.

Veteran patroller Mike J. making his way through Eastwind powder. Photo provided by Jim Chen.

The culmination of the weekend storm had to be Sunday morning. With the storm ending overnight, Liberty Mountain was covered in close to two feet of natural snow. The groomers had done yeoman’s work in getting not only the existing open trails ready, but adding Eastwind to the backside roster. It was rough having to be one of the first down on these fresh trails, but nothing is too difficult for Liberty patrollers! But seriously, while patrollers certainly enjoy first tracks through the fresh terrain, many of us enjoy even more sharing that experience with our fellow skiers and riders. So we were happy to be able to do that by opening up Upper Strata and Lower Strata mid-morning to allow customers, instructors and anyone else willing to cut through fresh powder. Since the groomers had NOT flattened Strata, everyone at the mountain that wanted it, got a taste of knee to thigh high powder. Seeing how great this worked, the same was done for White Lightning with folks being able to whoop it up on even more ungroomed powder. With the help of the storm of 2009, Liberty Mountain opened 95% of the front side (except Vertigo Alley, Adventure Alley, East Side in the terrain park) and 101% of the backside almost one full week before Christmas! The extra 1% was a bonus “mini” run between Eastwind and Strata that was open late morning, once a lift tower pad was put into place. Perhaps the only glitch of the weekend were the pesky gremlins that had gotten into several of the lifts at Liberty. Thanks to robust back up systems and the help of Liberty’s 24/7 mechanical staff, the lifts kept running as the snow fell and long after the snow stopped. With continued cold and (hopefully) more snow to come, the 2009/2010 local ski season is off to an EPIC start!

From left to right: Patroller Eric T., unknown Liberty instructors, Snowball, Eric Flynn (Liberty Mountain General Manager), and Lonny Whitcomb (Liberty Mountain Risk Manager). Photo provided by Jim Chen.

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newbie kick-ass
8 years ago
Liberty or Whitetail

I like very fast long-radius terms like a GS or Super-G turns. Which would be best for that?
Jim
8 years ago
Both have their pluses and minuses. Whitetail is a bit higher with wider trails. Liberty is closer with a backside that has very short lift lines (if at all) and steeper expert terrain.
Connie Lawn
8 years ago
Nice going Jim. We went to Whitetail Monday. Also great, but Sunday would have been better.
How did you handle the visibility issue Saturday?
Hope to see you on the slopes. Yours, Connie
RobbieA
8 years ago
Any skiing in this area before xmas that is not on a ribbion of death ice is a bounus! Nice report! awesome condtions!
Jim
8 years ago
Connie - I have a pair of prescription glasses with transition lenses (pictured above). They have soft foam cups around to shield out the snow. They worked very very well this past weekend. I believe they are Liberty brand (coincidentally!). Made by Rosslyn Opticians in Arlington, VA.
JimK
8 years ago
Very cool. That kind of natural dump just before Christmas Week is just what management wanted from St Nick!
ed skiracerx fowler
8 years ago
Jim, it was a blast. beautiful out. Roads on the main were not that bad just go slow and steady.
Thurs was awesome too. I did not have any issues other than clearing the top vents on my goggles,(makes them fog if covered) every lift ride you got covered. sweet
ed skiracerx fowler
8 years ago
Jim, it was a blast. beautiful out. Roads on the main were not that bad just go slow and steady.
Thurs was awesome too. I did not have any issues other than clearing the top vents on my goggles,(makes them fog if covered) every lift ride you got covered. sweet
Shout it from a mountaintop.
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