As my husband Charles and I walked to the Minuteman chairlift, I bent down and scooped up a ball of snow. How great it was to feel snow again after eight months! Last year was one of the best seasons ever, and this year is starting off even stronger. Here we were, in Pennsylvania, two days after Thanksgiving, and the skiing was glorious. What a thrill, after driving past brown trees and fields, to see the sun-filled, groomed slopes of Roundtop. Open trails included intermediate runs Minuteman and Exhibition, as well as four chair lifts. In all, 6 slopes were open, and the Incubator Park. The beginner slopes open were Fanny Hill, Fife&Drum, and the Discovery Area. The price was also right - $39 for Learn to Ski and Ride packages (including rentals, beginner lift, and lesson), and $10 for standard group lessons.
We could not believe the conditions! In 52 hours, the snowmaking magicians had blanketed the trails which were open. Some bare spots, grass, and rocks began to emerge by mid afternoon. In fact, I encouraged people to pick up rocks and throw them into the woods, when they could safely do so.
Minuteman was in good condition, but Exhibition was superb! It got more shade and a bit less traffic, so it held the snow. In fact, on the sides, there was actually fresh powder, even at 3 in the afternoon.
The weather was warm - as high as the mid 40’s. The sun was shining, and it was a perfect day to get back in the game. Boy, were we ever out of shape. Even in the first run, my legs were burning and my heart was pounding. I asked a young, fit snowboarder if he had the same trouble, and he panted that, yes he had. Suddenly, I felt 30 years younger!
Roundtop is roughly two hours from Washington and one from Baltimore. Getting from the main roads to Roundtop is a bit tricky, but watch for the metal “snowflake” signs at the junctions of the rural roads; they are new and helpful to city slickers like us.
On the slopes, we were pleased to watch members of the Mountain Safety Patrol at work. They are easy to spot in their yellow jackets. They patrolled the areas, and slowed down snowboarders and skiers who were much too fast in crowded areas. They warned of rocks, bare spots, and holes when they could. When there was an accident, they helped the injured until the Ski Patrol could take over.
Many of staff have become old friends over the years, and it is a joy to see them. Owner and developer Irv Naylor remains active, despite the crippling steeplechase accident he suffered in 1999. Publicity and marketing chief Chris Dudding does a colorful job with his special events and press releases. General Manager Ron Hawkes was very upbeat about the earliest opening in years. Clearly, the optimism is spreading throughout Roundtop and its sister areas, Liberty and Whitetail. The other two expect to open in early December. Ron told us, “our season pass sales were wonderful - all 3 resorts doubled the number of season passholders this year.” A special price of $399 for a season pass accounted for this year’s record, but the current $39 one-day package was attracting new skiers and boarders this weekend; it will continue through December 24, 2008.
The weather will continue to vary, as it always does. There will be more ice storms or warm days before the cold weather finally settles in. But, the start was terrific. If this holds, Roundtop should meet its goal of at least 95 open days in the season.
When she wasn't skiing, Connie Lawn covered the White House as a reporter since 1968.