The rain and time change didn’t stop a few folks from coming out for Massanutten’s Heroes on the Hill day on Sunday, March 14, 2010, where members of the armed services were recognized with a free lift ticket. Those who made the trip found a resort with empty slopes, 100% open, good coverage and true mid Atlantic conditions.
For me the price was right, so I got up at 5 a.m. which was really 4 a.m. with the time change and made the drive up to Harrisonburg, Va. from Williamsburg, Va where I am presently stationed. A good thing about the time change was that I could not see the looming rain clouds in the dark. I arrived at the hill just before 8 a.m. and was surprised to see the level of activity on the resort’s main roads. There is normally a good number of takers for the “stay free in exchange for a time share tour” deal. Once up to the ski lodge however the crowds were non existent.
As it was “Hero’s on the Hill” day, I dressed the part decked head to toe in my Government issue camouflaged Gore-Tex (don’t tell the Supply Chief). A quick flash of my ID card at the ticket booth and I was off. I was heading up the hill before 9 a.m. The sky was a mix of clouds but at this point it was not raining, just misting. The slopes had been groomed and were nice and smooth. I took the lifts up to the peak and opened the day with a few runs on Diamond Jim and Paradise. The rain had left some icy patches but the overall coverage was good and really true Mid Atlantic conditions. We have been a bit spoiled this year with conditions that are not typical for the area.
For the first hour I literally had the upper peak all to myself. I did not see a soul. I joked with the Lift Operator that it was nice of them to open the resort just for me. It certainly felt that way.
Seeking someone to talk to, I slid down to the lower lifts and made a few laps on Mass Transit, Showtime and the Rebel Yell rename “MAKattack”. Other than one family of four, a couple of ski patrollers and a class of instructors I was alone. I didn’t even have the chance to talk to anyone.
Bored here I headed back to the peak area. The rain which had been more of a misting to this point began to pick up. I began to test the true rainproof qualities of the GI ski gear. On the peak lift again I found a few more folks this time. I rode up with Senior Chief Davis and his nephew who had come all the way from Elizabeth City, NC for the Hero’s on the Hill day. Senior Chief has spent his Coast Guard career jumping out of helicopters like in the movie “The Guardian.” He was happily explaining the joys of skiing in the rain to his nephew. We made a few runs together and swapped some stories. His sea stories were better than mine, but my ski stories held their own!
As the rain picked up the overnight ice began to soften and the slopes came in. True Mid Atlantic conditions abounded. The slopes were wet frozen gradual, just like they had at the Olympics this year! I have always said “skiing in the rain is good! Skiing after the rain is bad.” However being dry can be an issue. The GI ski gear held up well but I needed some dry gloves. So after a few more run off the peak, I said good bye to the Senior Chief and linked together a high speed thigh burning run from the top of Mass Peak to the lodge.
Back at the lodge I was surprise to see the turn out had picked up especially in the beginner area. I spoke briefly to Steve Showalter, the Ski Area General Manager. He said they had expected a bit more folks on the hill for the promotion but as it was raining in Richmond and DC that had probably kept people at bay. He hopes to promote Heroes on the Hill more next year. If the weather and conditions hold out I am sure the turnout will increase as well. Thanks to Massanutten for a fun if wet day on the hill!
Robbie Allen is an avid small hill skier. He has written several articles on the many small hills he has sought out.