The intervening week since our last outing included considerable natural snowfall over the mid-Atlantic region with lots of good snowmaking weather. The temperature was about 12 degrees at Whitetail on Saturday night, but the wind was not bad, especially on the Whitetail Express and Expert Choice quad chairs serving the main mountain. This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed that Whitetail’s advanced terrain seems to get less wind than the lower elevation novice area. What’s with that?
Slope conditions at Whitetail were significantly better than what I’d seen at Liberty the week before. Everything was open, except Fanciful and Far Side trails, which don’t have lights for night skiing. My small group covered most of the open terrain. The predominant slope conditions consisted of a good manmade packed powder snow surface. That’s not to say there weren’t plenty of occasional patches of frozen granular requiring alertness. But generally, the conditions were pretty fine for a mid-Atlantic January evening after a full Saturday of traffic.
Whitetail’s snowfarmers had a few surprises for us on Saturday night. The normally groomed Angel Drop trail was heavily bumped-up. When I rounded the corner of Drop In to arrive at the base of the Experts Choice chair I got an even bigger surprise. Bold Decision, usually Whitetail’s showcase mogul run, was groomed totally flat, kind of like a wildcat without claws. Further, the adjacent Exhibition trail, normally a prime advanced groomer, was covered with bumps similar to Angel Drop. I asked the lift attendant, “what’s up?” He chuckled and said, “oh, we like to mix it up.”
Mix it up indeed. I went with the flow and have to admit it was a lot of fun making repeat rips down Bold Decision without a moment’s hesitation. It was almost unrecognizable in this tamed condition, still my 13-year-old rascal of a son wanted to claim it as a double diamond conquest. We tried Exhibition too, and enjoyed weaving in and out of the bumps there. Both of these runs have the best illumination systems on the mountain and there were few others to clutter the slopes at that late hour. These runs, served by the Expert’s Choice quad chair, are undoubtedly a primo spot for advanced snowriding under the lights at Whitetail.
As the midnight hour approached my trio scampered to catch a last ride on the Whitetail Express quad. Exactly at the strike of 12 the chairlift stopped dead, trapping us midway up our ascent of the mountain. We’d had a great night and were dressed warm, so nothing could befoul our mood at that point. We simply howled at the glowing moon that hung over the slopes, certain the powers to be would understand our primal urge for one last run. Thanks to us, lift power resumed in about five minutes.
Despite the foregoing, late night skiing in mid winter is not as crazy as it sounds. I admit I’m drawn by the discount price, but it’s also a great way to beat crowds. Just be sure to bring an extra layer of clothes, because it can be chilly. The 70- to 90-minute proximity of the three local Snow Time, Inc. resorts (Whitetail, Liberty, and Roundtop) to Washington and Baltimore is such that a trip for a short ski session is still pretty reasonable. Three hours of steady action is just about the right amount of slope time to get a good snow fix, yet leave you wanting for more.
The next Snow Time Inc. late night offering will be at Ski Roundtop on Saturday, February 7, 2004. Details follow:
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.