The folks at Liberty were kind enough to begin selling the special discounted tickets at about 8:30 p.m., and my son and I made our first trip up the front face of the mountain on the Alpine quad chair shortly thereafter. All terrain was open and there were no lift lines anywhere on the mountain during the late night ski session. We kept moving right up until midnight.
A lady snowboarder who’d been there all day told us on our first chair lift ride that Liberty had received about 3-6 inches of powder snow on Saturday morning. The daytime skiers and boarders had swept most of that away by our arrival, and conditions were fast and a bit icy down the center of many trails by 9 p.m. No mincing words, some heavily trafficked runs like Heavenly and Whitney’s Way were probably too hard and bare for the tastes of most low intermediates. But hey, “Late Night” by definition tends to bring out the crazies, so a little hard pack wasn’t going to rattle the bunch we were schussing with.
By 10 p.m. we had made the Late Night attitude adjustment enjoying a succession of runs down Liberty’s challenging back side. We found that the tougher the slope, the better the snow. One of Liberty’s toughest black diamond bump runs, Upper Eastwind, was in pretty good shape, especially on either edge of the trail where I was able to poach a few stretches of boot top powder. I found similar stashes sporadically on the edges of Lower Strata and Lower Ultra. Even the steep part of Upper Strata had some softer snow if you stuck to the sides, but the groomed center of this run was scraped about as clean as a hound dog’s dinner plate.
The easier terrain on the front side of the mountain from the mid station of the Alpine quad chair over to the beginner runs next to the Dipsy double chair had far more consistent packed powder surfaces suited for novices. The terrain park on this side of the mountain was in full swing and moderately busy with snowriders until things really got quiet around 10:30 p.m.
Prior to Saturday night, the last turns my son and I had made were in packed Colorado powder a few weeks before. It took us a few runs to don our Atlantic Coast Conference game faces, but by the end of the night we both headed home feeling very satisfied. I reminded my son of the old adage, if you can learn to handle tough conditions on a challenging little mountain like Liberty, you are good to go at almost any ski area in the world. Mid-Atlantic skiing may have its limitations, but don’t ever let anybody tell you it’s strictly for wussies!
I hadn’t been to Liberty for two or three years, and while skiing the Dipsy Doodle trail, I couldn’t help but notice their brightly lit Snow Tubing center for the first time. It includes the attractive, dedicated Boulder Ridge Lodge. Over at the main base area facilities I also noticed a large, free ski-check tent that management has set up in front of the lodge -; a nice touch.
With the significant additional snowfall on Sunday night and possibly more due this week, conditions should be much improved and very entertaining for those who have a chance to visit Liberty over the next few days. For the freaks who like to come out at night, I believe Liberty, Roundtop and Whitetail are likely to offer additional Late Night sessions later this season. Check their websites for updates. These special sessions present a great deal for folks who want to try a 3-hour sample of winter fun when lift tickets and rentals are only $15 each.
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.