As we all know it’s been a frustrating season for mid-Atlantic snowsports. It seems like every time local ski area snowmakers and groomers begin to hit their stride the region is socked with several days of counterproductive warm weather and/or buckets of rain. But our local resorts haven’t given up on winter fun and my advice is neither should you. My son-in-law Dan and I went to Seven Springs, PA on Monday, January 30, 2012. It was another dry, mild day inside the Capital Beltway, but at “the Springs” they’d been cooking up a manmade blizzard all night and we had a great time skiing/riding on 31 trails. To paraphrase author Mark Twain, “the reports of this winter’s death are greatly exaggerated.”
When we arrived at about 930AM there were snow guns blasting on just about every trail on the mountain. It may have been late January, but the Seven Springs grooming crews were in a frenzy like it was the week before Christmas. Dan and I got our gear together and then met Denis, a friend of mine I knew through the DCSki online message forums. None of us had ever been on a ski hill together before and while we spanned almost 50 years in age and utilized three different forms of snowriding tools, we shared the rest of the day in complete harmony. Isn’t that one of the greatest things about recreational snowsports?
Like most Seven Springs guests our first lift ride was on the six passenger Polar Bear Express chair that loads directly in front of the base lodge. It takes you straight up to the entrance of the North Face which is Seven Spring’s huge backside. There was a very healthy crowd for a Monday and we theorized that the in-service school holiday in Fairfax County, VA (where all three of us live) might have played a part. But the Polar Bear Express eats crowds for breakfast and lift lines really weren’t a big problem especially as the crowds dispersed during the day.
The North Face has expanded over the years and now includes as much or more ski terrain as the original front side of the mountain. They had the guns running in high gear until shutting them down around 1030AM. We skied almost every run on the back side and found a mix of real nice manmade loose snow, some wet manmade snow, and some old frozen granular that had yet to be covered with the new stuff. You had to stay alert in such variable conditions and the key to the day was finding the areas of new manmade that had set up dry and powdery. And there was enough of that around to make for happy hunting. We eventually made it all the way to Lost Girl trail on the far perimeter of the North Face.
Then we headed back to the front of the mountain for a lunch break in the enormous Seven Springs base lodge. Denis had skied Seven Springs the day before and he recommended that we concentrate on the front side after lunch because it was likely to have some very good manmade snow coverage from the last two nights of snowmaking activity. He was correct. We found the best snow of the day on front side trails like Stowe, Tyrol, Avalanche, and Goosebumps. These trails were sprinkled with a few sections of moguls too, but not for an entire slope.
Denis has an amazingly varied snowsports background and laid down his first ski tracks by earning turns on a Massachusetts golf course as a youngster about 60 years ago. His preferred snowriding tool is the telemark ski, but with us he used a regular downhill set-up in the morning and then switched to an AT (alpine touring) rig in the afternoon. He also knows how to snowboard and enjoys cross country skiing, both classic and skate techniques. I’m a downhill skier and Dan’s a snowboarder, but with Denis’ extensive backcountry experience he was able to educate both of us on how to tackle breakable manmade crust and gauge the variable snow conditions du jour.
The three of us had many a fun lift ride discussion on topics such as junkboards, splitboards, the contrasts between skiers and snowboarders, and when the heck this crazy winter is going to get serious. But in the end we were very glad we got together because we had a ball and as every kind of snowrider knows, a day on the mountain beats a day in the office every time!
As we left Seven Springs my last view was of four snowgroomer vehicles working feverishly at pushing huge mounds of snow to get the Spot Terrain Park’s 22’ halfpipe in shape. I have a feeling that very soon Seven Springs will be THE spot to be for all mid-Atlantic park rats.
Husband, father and retired civilian employee of the Department of Navy, Jim Kenney is a D.C. area native and has been skiing recreationally since 1967. Jim's ski reporting garnered the 2009 West Virginia Division of Tourism's Stars of the Industry Award for Best Web/Internet/E-Magazine Article.
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