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

December has been a month for the record books: since the beginning of the month, nearly every day has featured below-freezing temperatures. That has allowed mid-Atlantic resorts to fire up the snowguns and leave them running. As a result, many resorts have been able to offer guests an early Christmas gift: close to 100% open terrain, with pretty respectable — dare I say extraordinary — conditions.

Near the top of the Whitetail Express lift. Photo by M. Scott Smith.

Whitetail Resort crossed into the “100% open” category earlier this week, and with a day off work on Christmas Eve, I decided to make the drive to Whitetail for my first turns of the season. I arrived around 1 p.m. on Friday, December 24, 2010, and found an empty parking spot right next to the Fallmount trail. I purchased a $46 4-hour ticket and hopped on the Whitetail Express lift, making Limelight my inaugural run for the 2010-2011 winter season.

Crowds at Whitetail were lighter than a busy weekend, but still healthy enough to result in short lines at the frontside lifts. As the afternoon wore on, guests began to leave the slopes - no doubt to get a head start on hanging stockings by the chimney - and lift lines evaporated. The slopes themselves were never too crowded; having 23 trails open helps spread out the crowds. Temperatures hovered in the mid-30s, which was perfect - not too cold, but cold enough to keep the snow in great shape. And great shape it was. Whitetail had solid coverage across every trail, with packed powder conditions. Most of the snow was manmade, but with consistently cold temperatures, Whitetail has been able to make snow that rivals the best Mother Nature can offer. The sun smiled down on skiers and snowboarders, with wispy white clouds mixing it up with jet vapor trails high above.

Whitetail has made a ton of snow during December, thanks to these pole-mounted wonders. Photo by M. Scott Smith.

After warming up my ski legs on Limelight from a long, ski-less summer, my first order of business was to try out Whitetail’s newest trail, Ledgewood. In 2008, Whitetail cut Sidewinder, a new beginner trail off the top of the EZ Rider quad chairlift. Sidewinder - Whitetail’s longest trail - became an immediate hit, particularly with beginners. As an encore, Whitetail added Ledgewood this past summer, another beginner trail served by the EZ Rider quad. To reach Ledgewood, you ski down 1/3 of Snow Park, and then veer to the right.

Ledgewood narrows and makes a sharp turn to the left before widening and eventually meeting up with Stalker (about 1/2 way up Stalker). It looks like there is also a cut-off that goes from Ledgewood to the Velvet bunny slope.

A run down the new Ledgwood trail. The beginning of Ledgewood is at the 1:01 mark in the video. You ski down Snow Park a ways before branching off to Ledgewood. Ledgewood then rejoins Snow Park later on. Video by M. Scott Smith.

Ledgewood is unlike any other trail at Whitetail - it offers the sharpest turn of any slope at the Pennsylvania resort. Most slopes at Whitetail are wide and either as straight as an arrow, or gently curving. The sharp turn may be a challenge for beginners. Unfortunately, it’s a tease for more advanced skiers. After making the delicious slightly banked turn, Ledgewood gives up all of its vertical pitch and becomes a long, straight run-out back to Stalker. Actually, it appears to be a slightly uphill climb back to Stalker. I ran out of momentum before I reached the end of Ledgewood, and had to ski-skate my way to Stalker. From the looks of the snow tracks, I was not alone. It’s not quite as bad as the painful run-out at the bottom of Fallmount back to the base of the resort, but it takes some of the fun away. Some regrading might be in order. As I rode the EZ Rider quad, I found it odd that so few skiers were entering Ledgewood, but after trying it, I understood why. The first part may be too challenging for beginners; the flats in the latter part make it challenging for everyone unless they keep their speed up. However, Ledgewood adds some nice variety to Whitetail, and its snow cover was excellent.

Exhibition was growing some bumps. It was the only trail with moguls. Photo by M. Scott Smith.

Having tried out the newest slope, I made a beeline for Whitetail’s advanced terrain. A trip up the Whitetail Express, down Upper Angel Drop, and down Drop In took me to the Expert’s Choice quad. While the main base area lifts had multiple-minute lines in the early afternoon, the Expert’s Choice quad was ski-on. I made several runs down Far Side, my favorite slope at Whitetail. As usual, Far Side offered great carving snow and nice views of the Blair Valley below. Moguls were growing on Exhibition - the only trail left ungroomed - and I decided to save Exhibition for another day. But I did try out Bold Decision. It had decent cover, but some of the loose snow had been scraped away in spots. After checking Bold Decision off my list, I headed back to Whitetail’s main intermediates via Ridge Runner and tried each intermediate in order: Fanciful, Snow Dancer, and Limelight. No arguments with any of them. They had plenty of snow fit for carving, and very few crowds.

I was pleased to notice a continuing increase in the number of helmet-donned heads this season. There is no question that helmets have lost any stigma they had in the past. And why not? They’re lightweight, comfortable, fashionable, and keep your head warm. I was glad to see plenty of helmets on adults and children alike.

With the sun arcing towards the horizon and a healthy number of runs under my belt, I decided to quit while I was ahead and make my way back to the car via Angel Drop, Drop In, and Fallmount. Perhaps my skiing continues to improve or perhaps the great snow conditions helped, but my legs don’t feel like jelly, even after several hours of aggressive skiing.

Throughout the day, I had to keep pinching myself as I looked at my watch - Whitetail had optimal mid-season conditions on 100% terrain before Christmas. I can’t remember that happening in years, if ever. If temperatures remain cold as winter really gets underway, Whitetail and other mid-Atlantic resorts could be in for a pretty phenomenal season. In past seasons, I’ve sat December out, preserving my limited ski days for better conditions that inevitably come in January. There’s no reason to sit out December this year.

The temperature on Christmas Eve was just right. Photo by M. Scott Smith.
The terrain park had plenty of features to satisfy the adventurous. Photo by M. Scott Smith.
Free ski and board check at the base area. Photo by M. Scott Smith.
The base lodge. Photo by M. Scott Smith.
The top of Far Side, my favorite trail at Whitetail. Photo by M. Scott Smith.
The top of Fanciful. Fanciful was the last trail to open at Whitetail this season. Photo by M. Scott Smith.
One of many webcams inconspicuously located around Whitetail. Photo by M. Scott Smith.
Crowds began to thin out as the afternoon progressed. Photo by M. Scott Smith.
A feature in the terrain park. Photo by M. Scott Smith.
A view from the base area. Photo by M. Scott Smith.
Some trees just get no respect from aggressive snowguns. Photo by M. Scott Smith.
Another view from the base area. Photo by M. Scott Smith.
Top of the intermediates. Photo 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

DCSki Reader
December 25, 2010
Looks great. I haven't gotten out yet to ski this season and your report and photos make it pretty clear what I've been missing;-)
GRK
December 26, 2010
Great pics from Whitetail. Always enjoy your photos and reports.
Jim
December 26, 2010
Hey Scott:

Got out to Liberty today. Same type of conditions with edge to edge machine made stuff. Lots of bumps on Eastwind thanks to being carved by the groomer. Not as sunny as your day, but fun nonetheless! Great to hear about your trip.
robbieA
March 3, 2011
just re read this. "$46 4-hour ticket" does this mean even Scott dosent have a hook up at whitetail! They should pay you to ski there!
Scott
March 3, 2011
Nope, I pay for my own lift tickets these days.

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