In the 20 years I have been skiing locally in the Mid-Atlantic, this has been the worst start of the season I can remember. Not only have there been significant thaws and snow-melting rains, but more significantly, a serious lack of cold air for snowmaking.
Hence, when cold air finally moved in last week, I kept my eyes glued to the Whitetail snow report and social media feeds, hoping to perhaps take a “snow day” with my wife later in the week. Snow days are always tricky. Work commitments and meetings must be missed and supervisors hit up with last minute leave requests. But the rewards for heading to a resort midweek are lower priced lift tickets and no crowds. I purchased my Friday Whitetail tickets online and paid just $55.99 per ticket. For a 29-run day, that averaged out to just $1.93 per run — less than a metro fare to most destinations in the area.
It took exactly 90 minutes to drive from Arlington, Virginia to Pennsylvania’s Whitetail Resort. I arrived at the mountain at 8:30 and was riding up the Whitetail Express before 9 a.m. Whitetail did a stunning job of blowing snow earlier in the week, getting 16 trails open by Friday, including two expert trails (Exhibition and Bold Decision) and three top-to-bottom blues on the main mountain. The temperature hovered around the freezing mark with some fog when we started our day.
The snow was machine groomed in the morning and more springlike in the afternoon. Personally, I enjoy conditions like this with soft snow, very little ice, and silent snow cannons. Spring snow can be tiring to plow through in the afternoon, but it also bumps the trails up a bit, giving them some challenge and variety. We spent most of the morning on Bold Decision and Exhibition and never once waited in line.
For lunch, we decided to try Solstice, the table service restaurant on the upper level of the lodge complex. I am a big proponent of table service because it’s often not much more expensive than lodge cafeterias and you can sit back, relax, and let someone bring food to you rather than clomping around in your boots. At Solstice, we had a huge table to ourselves, an attentive server, fireplaces, and immaculate restrooms.
For the first time in its history, Whitetail secured a liquor license and I noticed a fairly decent crowd enjoying craft beers and wine at the bar or at tables. Given the short length of the ski season in Mercersburg, the liquor license is an important revenue source for the resort and a foundation for it to begin developing a true aprÃ©s ski experience. I don’t see Whitetail buying a La Folie Douce (the famous aprÃ©s ski venue found at many resorts in France) franchise anytime soon, but it may be able to build a program suitable for our area — think chill music and televisions tuned to local sports as opposed to professional dancers and electronic dance music.
After consuming a decent cheeseburger in paradise and a pulled pork sandwich (which, including an iced tea, came to $33 before tip), we headed back to the mountain. On one lift ride, I chatted with a guy from Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports. These volunteers, most of whom are veterans themselves, introduce disabled veterans and any disabled person from Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC, West Virginia, or Virginia to the joys of snow sports. The guide told me that it’s more mental than physical: “snow sports,” he explained, “gives these people another reason to live. For some of them, it’s the most fun they’ve had since returning from combat.”
Whitetail’s superb beginner and lower intermediate terrain is the perfect proving ground for disabled snow sports enthusiasts. Then again, I have personally experienced being passed at high speed by an amazing adaptive skier on Bold Decision!
With West Virginia’s Timberline Resort closed this season while it transitions to new ownership, Whitetail has become my favorite local ski venue. With its superb facilities, and a snowmaking system than can turn bare grass into a 935-foot vertical ski trail in less than 48 hours, it’s hard to beat. Hopefully I will return again before the end of the season.
John Sherwood is a columnist for DCSki. When he's not hiking, biking, or skiing, he works as an author of books on military history.
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