It is so wonderful to have a nearly private snow resort on a perfect Friday. I followed the advice of Liberty’s and Snowtime’s ads on radio and television and “took a snow day.” It was perfect! My special thanks to my friend Tracy Bowden, the North American Correspondent of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation - she did the driving, since I am not so keen on highway driving. But, the actual trip was about an hour and 15 minutes from Bethesda, and there were no problems with parking. That is less time than I spend commuting to work on a typical, non-Inauguration Day in Washington!
We missed my husband Charles, who had to stay behind and work. We also missed his photos, but Marketing Coordinator Anne Weimer filled in the gap with her artistic contributions. Tracy and I needed the break - it had been a grueling, but exciting week of non-stop work covering the Inauguration. Now it was time to cap it off and celebrate with a ski day!
On Friday, all the trails at Liberty were in perfect condition. Snowmaking continued throughout the night, to keep them fresh for the onslaught of enormous weekend crowds. The surface was listed as packed powder, and there was no natural snow to report. On the drive in, the forests and hills were brown, with a few traces of an earlier natural snow fall. But there can be no doubt - there would not be a local ski and snowboard industry if snowmaking had not been invented. The people who invented, improve, and run that industry are my true heroes.
The weather on Friday was about 47 degrees and sunny; a perfect time to be outdoors. But, a cold front soon moved in for the weekend, and that made it good for snowmaking. 16 trails and 8 lifts were open, and all were in excellent condition. The snowboard parks looked beautiful, with West Side Park open while we were there. It is so nice the snowboarders can get off the lift at midstation, cutting down the traffic from the top.
The expert trails were a challenge for anyone, and we were not brave enough to try them. Liberty wasn’t kidding when they listed “bumps” on Upper Strata and Upper Eastwind. We saw few people on them while we were there, but that probably changed later. There was more than enough challenge and easy cruising on Blue Streak, Ultra, White Lightning, Heavenly, Lower Eastwind, Sidewinder, and the others. Of course, there were no waits on the Lifts. The trails became more crowded in the afternoon and evening, as school got out and people escaped from work early. But there were just enough people to make it sociable and fun, without getting in anyone’s way. That is important for me - I have lost a lot of my confidence this year, especially when I am in a crowd situation. I am working hard to rebuild the confidence and restore my technique, which is a mish mash of over 40 years on the slopes.
After about three hours on the slopes, and a lunch break in the nearly empty cafeteria, we headed over to the Boulder Ridge Snow Tubing area. I have got to admit, I am a nut about tubing (and sleigh riding, when there is any natural snow around). Liberty has put a lot into the tubing operation and it shows! It is extremely popular, as in most areas which offer tubing. Even on a weekday, you have to reserve the time you can go, and sometimes have to wait a few hours before you can join the group. Thanks to our friend Anne Weimer, and the fun-loving Snow Tubing Manager, Karen Buttner, we had no wait.
It was an added enjoyment to view the tubing through the eyes of my Australian friend Tracy. She is a smooth, expert skier, but had never been tubing. There is excellent skiing and surfing in Australia, but no sleigh riding we know of, and she had not seen tubing while she was there. I warned her tubing was fast, exciting, and scary at times, but safe, as far as I know. She picked it up quickly, and seemed to know to keep her feet up and her rear off the snow as you whirl and hurl down! Tracy tried her runs lying down on the big rubber tube, but sat upright one time. I take all my runs sitting down, and gripping the handles. If I get scared, I close my eyes.
At the end of the run, the incline has been built up, and there are thick pads by the fence. But, no one even made it that high while we were there. There were lots of young employees around, to catch you at the end, if needed. They also kept the trails clear, so tubers would not be crashed into by the next person hurtling down.
Tubing is really enormous fun, and takes no training or skill. They provide the tube and the covered, moving carpet lift to get you up (easier than sleigh riding, where you have to walk up and drag your own equipment). You can rent special boots if you want, or wear your own shoes. No heavy ski boots are allowed, although we have seen people wear boots when they tube in New Zealand. That certainly makes the ride even faster, but probably more dangerous!
I recommend people wear helmets in all situations, but did not see too many people wearing them while we were there. There were a lot of children enjoying the sport, and some were there for birthday parties. Tubing is especially great for the younger set, who want to take a break from lessons and a lot of frustrating equipment. The younger ones sometimes link tubes together, and go down the runs in packs. But, the more weight you have, the faster you go. I have enough fun going alone on one tube, with no one else on my track. I have also learned to make certain the ridges, or “burns” between the tracks have not worn down. Karen said that could lead to “burn jumpers,” or flying over into the next lane. They watch for that, and rebuild the lanes as needed, to keep that from happening. At night, the tracks are built up again with snowmaking.
Liberty has 15 tubing lanes. There is also a Pebble Ridge Kiddie Tubing area for kids, aged 2 to 4. The sport is much cheaper than skiing. One hour is $13 on weekdays, and $17 for two. On weekends and peak periods, it is $18 and $22. Kiddie tubing is $9, for unlimited time. While waiting for your slot, there is a modern lodge with three party rooms for group events.
As you can see, I am hooked on tubing. Maybe in the summer, I will also try the zip lines through the trees, or the huge mountain balls that Ski Roundtop is putting in. I think I will forego the climbing walls or the paint guns. It is fun to have the alternatives - especially in the summer season. But my first love will always be skiing. You have the flexibility, and the chance to share skiing in so many parts of the world. I still feel as though I am just getting started, even after all these years.
Skiing is liberating, and Liberty Mountain certainly has the right name! Enjoy the slopes!
When she wasn't skiing, Connie Lawn covered the White House as a reporter since 1968.
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