The most extensive changes to the ski slopes of Wisp in 12 years have been in progress over the past few months. In all, Wisp is spending $2.3 million in an attempt to the Maryland resort into a major Mid Atlantic destination resort. According to Bob Yaste, Vice President of Mountain Operations, “not since the addition of the slopes on the East Ridge in 1987 have we been involved in a project of this magnitude. We’ve never had this many different contractors on one project at one time, which has been a challenge.”
This list of projects began early this spring when Wisp dismantled chairlift #4 and reinstalled it further up the mountain. At the same time Wisp extended chairlift #5 an additional 500 feet further up the mountain. Finally, the company installed a new unloading terminal on chair #1 as well as new lift attendant unloading stations at all three lifts. According to Yaste, “extending the length of chair #5 necessitated the moving of chair #4, which transports skiers from the East Ridge to the North Slope trails. At the same time, chair #1 was due for a new unloading terminal. CTEC [the contractor handling the chairlift construction] should complete their portion of the project within the month.”
With the rearranging of chairlifts on the East Ridge came the elimination of an underutilized trail, Rabbit Run and the addition of a new trail from Main Street to Eye Opener called Highline Pass. According to Jerry Geisler, who has skied Wisp for over 30 years, “Highline Pass is a black diamond trail with a steep quick drop that will rival the challenge of The Face. Rabbit Run didn’t have much appeal to skiers and the DC Development Group is better utilizing the acreage to create one of the most exciting new housing developments on the mountain called Boulder Ridge. The views from these new home sites is spectacular.” The Norm Hanline Excavating Company of Oakland, Maryland has been busy with construction on the Boulder Ridge project.
Earthmoving continues on the new Bear Claw snow-tubing park near the base of the North slopes.
“The seven lane tube park will undoubtedly be the biggest news this winter” says Geisler. Highland Engineering as well as Frank Arnold Contractors both from Oakland Maryland, have been the primary contractors on this project.
One of the largest and most critical aspects of all these projects, which tie them together, is snowmaking.
“We are burying over four miles of pipe from one side of the mountain down the other to the new tubing park. Pipe sizes range from 8” to 24” in diameter and are in varying lengths, which all have to be welded together,” explained Yaste.
“Beitzel Corporation of Grantsville, Maryland is handling all the welding and is being assisted with our own construction crews on the installation. Beitzel Corporation will also be working with us on the installation of pumping stations,” Yaste added.
Along with the pipe comes over 20 miles of wire and fiber optic cable being buried to operate the all-electric snowmaking system.
The final project amongst all this construction is a new 500,000-gallon water tank being installed by the Garrett County sanitary Authority. A hole 25’ deep and 90’ in diameter had to be blasted to place the tank below ground. The tank is only a few feet away from a 40’ communications tower near the exit ramp of chair #3. The tank will be a supplemental water supply to the McHenry area.
“We also plan to build a new facility and snack shop over the tank once it is completed” says Yaste. “We’re just keeping our fingers crossed that the weather will continue to cooperate with us over the next three months. So far we’re on schedule and hope to be making snow in November.”
According to Wisp CEO Bill Quigley, “Aside from all the construction on the mountain, we are installing a new Point of Sale system throughout the resort to improve efficiency in guest services. We have 800 new sets of ski equipment being delivered to our rental shop as well as snow bikes, and snowshoes for rent. We are outfitting our ski school with new uniforms and making substantial improvements to our food and beverage outlets. We also have two new grooming machines, one with a “pipe dragon” attachment for construction of our half pipe which will delight snowboarders. This adds up to another $350,000 investment in improvements to Wisp. We are excited to open this winter with a big bang celebration at the new tubing park.”
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.