Storm Launches Resorts into Great Early Season Conditions 6
Author thumbnail By M. Scott Smith, DCSki Editor

Mid-Atlantic skiers wondering whether November’s mild temperatures would mean a slow start to the season were rewarded this past weekend, as a double-barreled storm swept across the region, leaving over a foot of snow on the slopes of many ski resorts. As a happy coincidence, this past weekend was the time many Mid-Atlantic resorts chose to open for the season. A week of solid snowmaking combined with the fresh snow resulted in some of the best opening day conditions on record.

This week will see a gradual warming of daytime temperatures above freezing, but nighttime temperatures should still stay in snowmaking range.

A cross country skier makes his way through Kalorama Park Saturday in Northwest Washington D.C. Photo provided by John Sherwood.

In typical winters, local resorts rely entirely on snowmaking to open a handful of beginner trails by mid-December. With a boost from Mother Nature, opening day trail counts trended higher this year. And conditions were decidedly packed powder, not loose granular.

Visitors to Whitetail’s first weekend of operation were delighted to find packed powder conditions and 13-15 inches of snowfall. Photo provided by Whitetail Resort.

In less than one week, Pennsylvania’s Whitetail Resort went from bare ground to offering skiing and boarding on seven slopes, including the top-to-bottom Angel Drop run, which opened on Sunday. Eight-hour lift tickets over the weekend were just $15, leading to many delighted visitors. (Regular midweek pricing returns on December 8.) Whitetail was running three lifts, including its high-speed quad.

Snowmaking has begun on intermediates Limelight and Homerun, as well as expert trail Expedition. Over the summer, Whitetail installed new fan-style snowguns along Expedition, which should allow the expert trail to open earlier this season.

Sister resorts Ski Roundtop and Liberty Mountain Resort also opened for the season this past weekend. At Liberty, beginner trails First Class Area, Nova, Sneaky Pete, Dipsy Doodle, and Lower Blue Streak were open, along with intermediates Freedom Trail and Adventure Alley, and expert trail Upper Blue Streak. Several trails were left ungroomed for the powder hounds. Ski Roundtop opened with three trails.

Snowshoe Mountain Resort opened for the season with 13 trails. The West Virginia resort received a foot and a half of snow over the weekend. Photo provided by Snowshoe Mountain Resort.

West Virginia’s Snowshoe Mountain Resort captured the attention of skiers and boarders by opening 13 trails at the main Snowshoe area. Over the next week, many more trails will open. In total, snowmaking is underway on 30 trails. The Silver Creek area is set to come on-line this weekend, adding a number of trails to the open trail count. The snowguns are also roaring on Cupp Run, Snowshoe’s most popular expert trail with a 1,500-foot vertical. With continued cold temperatures this week, Snowshoe thinks there’s a good chance Cupp Run will open next weekend. Demo Days are scheduled for next weekend at Snowshoe.

Fresh snow meant opening day conditions worth remembering at Seven Springs Resort. The shot, above, shows the slopes on Sunday. Photo provided by John Sherwood.

On Sunday, Pennsylvania’s Seven Springs Resort had 15 slopes open for its third day of the season, with five chairlifts in operation.

Some of the first guests to Cannan Valley Resort. From left, Sherri Harold, an 18-year veteran of the resort welcomes John Gullet, center, and Tim Winkler. “I love the slopes, the view of the valley and the hospitality at Canaan Valley,” said Gullet. Photo provided by Canaan Valley Resort.

West Virginia’s Canaan Valley Resort opened for the season with three beginner trails. Chuck Trader, Managing Director for the resort, notes that additional trails should come on-line soon. Canaan Valley Resort is offering $25 lift tickets until December 25 for adults age 13 and up, and $19 for kids age 6-12. Trader hints that additional discounts can be found on Canaan Valley Resort’s web site. “Guests visiting the web site can print off a coupon offering a $10 lift ticket,” he said.

Nine trails are open at Maryland’s Wisp Resort, including Devil’s Drop, Squirrel Cage, The Face, Boulder Run, Deer Run, Grouse Way, Muskrat, Randal’s Run, and Belly Flop. Wisp received 8 inches of snow from the recent storm.

Although this past weekend saw a flurry of resort openings, not all Mid-Atlantic resorts are open yet. The number of open resorts should increase over the next week. In Pennsylvania, Alpine Mountain plans to open on December 13, while Blue Knob plans to open on December 12. Blue Mountain is planning to open on December 10, and Camelback plans to open December 11.

Three resorts are already open in Virginia, including The Homestead, Massanutten, and Wintergreen, all offering packed powder conditions. Bryce Resort plans to open on December 13.

North Carolina’s Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain Resorts are also both open.

DCSki Early Season Tips

  • Projected opening dates are rough estimates believed to be true at the time this article was published. We recommend contacting a resort directly before making a trip to verify operating conditions and to see what terrain will be open. Opening dates can change at the last minute due to variable conditions.
  • Check the DCSki Conditions page for the latest slope conditions at area resorts.
  • When temperatures are cold, expect snowmaking to be underway on open slopes early in the season. Be prepared with goggles.
  • Many resorts offer limited hours early in the season. Some resorts are initially open only on weekends.
  • Many resorts offer discounted rates and specials early in the season.

  • About 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.

    Author thumbnail

    Reader Comments

    December 8, 2003
    Hidden Valley had 4 or 5 slopes open this weekend, although their inept marketing department seems to want to keep it a secret. Conditions were superb.
    December 8, 2003
    Whitetail may have been open on Sunday, but they neglected to mention the true reason for their sudden "wonderful" prices ($15/day).

    For the third straight year in a row, Whitetails Hi-Speed Quad was malfunctioning all day. They could only load every third chair and even then the system would still pop the breaker and have to be reset. The lift lines were terrible. Whitetail just doesn't get it! Every year the same thing. They get caught looking like they haven't done anything all fall to prepare for winter. The canteen was noticably absent of food and drinks. There were very few trash cans any where. Staff was minimal and after a dump of 12 inches of snow they could only open the bunny trails at best...Snowtime should know better. They shouldn't wonder when people take their business elsewhere.
    DCSki Reader
    December 9, 2003
    In response to Michael B's comment above, Whitetail has actually offered special pricing for opening weekend for the past several years, regardless of the of lifts and trails. I too was at Whitetail Sunday and found the High Speed Quad to not be malfunctioning all day. Maybe an hour at the very most. The lift lines were not terrible, and there was a neglect to mention above that for the beginning of December, the conditions could be compared to that of midwinter. There were several trails open, including terrain from the top of the mountain which is very impressive for nearly the first week of December. Where else in the area were there more trails open than that? Staffing was obviously light this early in the season, and food was surely available in Marketplace, as I ate there, even though there might not have been a full blown menu, but understandably so. I heard nothing but good words all day regarding snow quality, pricing, staff friendliness and so on. Too bad there is always someone that cannot find any good in anything.
    John Sherwood
    December 9, 2003
    I e-mailed one of the managers at the resort to inquire about the status of the Whitetail Express. That person informed me that it was only down for a half an hour. This person assured me that if the lift ever has to be brought down for an extended period of time, s/he will put an immediate notice on the Whitetail web site.
    December 9, 2003
    I skied Massanutten on Sunday (Dec 7). In addition to the beginner terrain, they had Lower Rebel Yell (Blue) open (they were cranking the snow guns on it). The new quad lift did have an outage ("blown fuse") that lasted maybe 30 minutes. Even though the Black runs were not open yet, they still had some mighty fine conditions for opening weekend......and the crowd was very sparse.....I never spent more than 2 minutes in a lift-line.
    December 9, 2003
    MichaelB- You want some cheese with that whine? GET REAL DUDE! $15 for skiing anywhere is a bargain! So when the lift is down go ski Velvet-snowpark and learn to lay out and carve if you can (can you, or are you that lame)! Excussssse me but where I live, Alta costs about $35 for a half-day tic on opening day! I use to go to Whitetail on opening day and ski the U-me double and work on generating speed and perfect carving all day ... more than enough for so little money ... and then go party in Fredrick. What's the problem ...!

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