Even though rain was pouring down heavily in the Baltimore area, the Whitetail Ski Resort web site claimed that snow was falling on the resort - and they had an enticing picture to prove it. So, with some hesitation, I decided to drive up to Whitetail Monday afternoon to see for myself.
I expected to see the rain turning over to wet snow as I passed over the first mountain range on I-70 past Frederick. Nope - still rain. Surely I would see snow by the time I hit Hagerstown. Nope - still heavy rain. Then, right before the Clear Spring exit, suddenly the rain became heavy snow mixed with rain, although there was little accumulation on the ground. Literally two miles from the resort, the mix became snow and several inches of white stuff could be seen blanketing the ground (and road, which hadn’t been plowed for awhile.)
As I arrived at Whitetail, I saw the resort as it was meant to be - covered in snow. Fewer than 30 vehicles were parked in the parking lot; clearly, not many people were willing to venture out in the rain towards a ski resort on a day like this. Three lifts were in operation (U-Me Double, Easy Rider Quad, and the Whitetail Express), although the Easy Rider Quad closed down around 4 p.m., perhaps due to lack of demand. I marched through several inches of new snow towards the Whitetail Express.
The snow was coming down heavy, and I quickly found my goggles. The Whitetail Express was running slower than normal due to high winds at the top of the mountain. The top half of the mountain was shrowded in snow and heavy fog - so heavy, in fact, that it was difficult to see more than 10 feet in the flat light. Although the new snow turned all of Whitetail’s slopes white, no new trails were open - it takes a lot of snow to open a trail. However, all of the bare spots and limitations on the 7 trails already open were sufficiently patched up by the new snow.
Unfortunately, the wet, heavy snow was very difficult to ski in. The intermediate trail at Whitetail had big clumps of sticky snow, and skiing through it was quite a workout (even for members of the Ski Patrol, who could be seen struggling to ski down the mountain.) I came across a group of snowboarders who couldn’t go more than 5 feet without falling - although one snowboarder had no problem blasting through the crud. The mountain was desolate - most of the time, I had the entire trail (and lift) to myself. The trail seemed a lot longer than it usually does, since the conditions were challenging. I was skiing through untracked powder, but unlike the dry, fluffy powder in Colorado, this powder was heavy and sticky, like Sierra cement.
Conditions would have been perfect if Whitetail had sent the groomers across the slopes, but no such luck. Presumably, Whitetail will groom the slopes Monday night, which should make conditions great for Tuesday. However, as of Monday night, the snow had changed over to rain. This shouldn’t affect the new snow but might make conditions wet and springlike.
Today’s snow has given Whitetail a new lease on life. Unfortunately, the forecast for the coming week does not look promising - snowmaking won’t be possible, and the temperature on Friday might hike up to 63 degrees, accompanied by rain. If true, that combination could quickly eat away at Whitetail’s base.
In the meantime, the season isn’t over yet. Just when things look like they can’t get any worse, they get better - nobody at Whitetail is complaining that today’s “mixed precipitation” (which was expected to be rain) brought over 5 inches of snow.
Photos by 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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