Firsthand Report: Whitetail 5
Author thumbnail By M. Scott Smith, DCSki Editor

On Friday, January 9, 2009, I met up with a couple friends at Whitetail Resort for some weekday skiing. Whitetail and other Mid-Atlantic areas had received a mix of “mixed precipitation” earlier in the week, in the form of unwelcome rain, freezing rain, and sleet. I was a bit concerned what effect this would have on the slopes, but the temperature had dropped below freezing by Thursday, and Whitetail began roaring the snowguns and grooming the slopes. On Friday morning I was greeted by perfectly acceptable snow conditions; while the trees at the top of the mountain were coated in glimmering ice, the slopes themselves had plenty of carvable packed powder.

Whitetail on Friday: Ice on the trees, but great packed powder on the slopes. Photo provided by M. Scott Smith.

Nearly all of Whitetail’s slopes were open. Some snowguns were firing across a small number of open trails (although most were turned off by noon or so), while guns were really blasting on intermediates Fanciful and Snowdancer, preparing for their opening. (Snowdancer opened two days later, on Sunday, and Fanciful should be opening in the next few days.)

Whitetail makes snow on Snowdancer, preparing for its opening. Photo provided by M. Scott Smith.

I began my day on Whitetail’s brand new slope, Sidewinder. Sidewinder begins at the top of the Easy Rider Quad and curves its way through the valley back to the base. The trail is wide and long, and has a nice, beginner-friendly pitch without any flats. Areco tower-mounted snowguns and lighting line the right side of the trail. The new trail is a great addition to Whitetail; it’s a lot of fun, and it’s also ideally suited for class lessons, providing a place for instructors and students to spread out and take their time getting back to the base.

The only problem with Sidewinder, from my perspective, is that it requires a lift ride on the slow, slow Easy Rider Quad. When you’re used to riding the Whitetail Express high-speed lift, a trip up the Easy Rider feels like you’re stuck in a slow-motion movie. But this probably works out in Sidewinder’s favor, as it will cut down on the crazy fast skiers and snowboarders that typically lap slopes such as Angel Drop. If Sidewinder were quicker to get to, I could see lots of skiers flying down it at warp speed, traumatizing the beginners it’s intended for.

A “virtual” run down Sidewinder, Whitetail’s newest slope. Video by M. Scott Smith.

After making my inaugural run on Sidewinder, it was time to meet my friends at the base and then head over to Whitetail’s expert terrain.

All of Whitetail’s expert terrain was open, including Drop In, Bold Decision, Exhibition, and Far Side. While Exhibition is normally allowed to bump up, there were no moguls on Friday. They may have been a victim of aggressive grooming after the recent freezing rain. All of the black diamonds had good coverage and good conditions, and were great fun to ski. After spending a few days in December skiing at Vail, it was hard not to notice that Whitetail’s expert slopes are not particularly steep, except for a short portion of Bold Decision and Drop In. Exhibition really isn’t much steeper than intermediates such as Limelight, but becomes more advanced when the moguls grow.

Riding the Expert’s Choice chair to the top of Exhibition. Photo provided by M. Scott Smith.

The expert side of Whitetail was particularly beautiful, as the trees along Exhibition were all coated in ice that sparkled and glistened in the sunlight. You could hear ice tinkling and crackling as you rode the lift up.

Earlier freezing rain added a beautiful glimmer to the mountaintop trees. Photo provided by M. Scott Smith.

Photo provided by M. Scott Smith.

I made some more runs with my friends before they headed home, and then I spent another hour or two making run after run, and taking some photos. Typical of weekdays, there was never a lift line - the lifts were always ski-on. Sometimes a pack of skiers or snowboarders would fly down a slope, but more often you had most of a slope to yourself.

Packed powder conditions made for easy carving. Photo provided by M. Scott Smith.

Temperatures hovered right around the freezing mark throughout the day. The cold temperatures kept the snow in nice shape, but weren’t too cold to be uncomfortable. Puffy white clouds floated through a blue sky.

Also new for this season: a double chairlift serving the terrain park, and reducing crowding on Upper Angel Drop. Photo provided by M. Scott Smith.

Whitetail’s in good shape, and with cold temperatures continuing, should be 100% open within days and able to begin fortifying its base. I look forward to visiting again soon.

Temperatures hovered right around freezing throughout the day, with no lift lines. Photo provided by M. Scott Smith.

Some ice-kissed grass blades off to the side of Exhibition. Photo provided by M. Scott Smith.

Photo provided by M. Scott Smith.

Trees at the top of the mountain. Photo provided by M. Scott Smith.
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About M. Scott Smith

M. Scott Smith is the founder and Editor of DCSki. Scott loves outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, kayaking, skiing, and mountain biking. He is an avid photographer and writer.

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Reader Comments

WV Ski
January 11, 2009
Excellent report!
January 11, 2009
thanks for the video of the new trail
Connie Lawn
January 12, 2009
Terrific report, tastefully done. We are lucky to have such excellent areas close to home. Thanks, Connie Lawn
January 13, 2009
A nice report. It really captures the essence of a typical magical day at Whitetail.

Please note that the bottom part of Sidewinder is a flat runout shared with the runout from Fanciful and Snow Dancer. You can see this from the video.

Also note that early season daily grooming of Exhibition has been SOP for the last few seasons. My guess is that this is done to let the base build up so that the moguls don't uncover any rocks. You'll also notice that Exhibition usually opens with a narrow width. Early build of base under the guns is pushed to widen the trail. There's almost enough base depth for bumps now. Look for 'em after MLK weekend.
January 14, 2009
I tried Sidewinder a couple of times last week, at night, and I found it to be a nice trail to carve some turns on.

Steep it isn't, but it is one of the best-lit trails on the mountain for night folks, and it's a nice "relaxation" run after your legs are a bit tired (no matter what your skill level is). The Easy Rider Quad doesn't hurt to help you mellow out, either.

Almost no one was on it when I tried it out, and with some nice carved GS turns, I was able to carry more than enough speed to make it fun.

Give it a try when your legs are beat, and you'll probably like it.

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