I almost hate to jinx things and mention it, but this is beginning to look like an epic winter season for the Mid-Atlantic. Conditions at many area resorts are primo right now. Almost every time it has rained or flurried in DC and Baltimore (a frequent occurrence of late), it has snowed, sometimes heavily, at many of the ski areas to the north and west.
I played hooky on Monday, January 6, 2003, and drove up to Seven Springs Mountain Resort in western Pennsylvania for a day of serious skiing in fresh snow. It appeared that the resort had received over a foot of new powder in the preceding few days. I had to sweep another five inches off my car after my eight-hour visit.
I was joined at Seven Springs by the Thomson boys; my old high school classmate and longtime ski buddy Dave, his brother Mike, and Mike’s grown son Glen. (Mike’s daughter Jessica was also on the premises, but devoted the day to a snowboard lesson. She made great progress, possibly due in part because as the only enrollee on a light day, her class lesson turned into a real fine private one.)
Me and the guys covered about everything they have at Seven Springs, which isn’t easy to do in a day. It helped that we didn’t see a lift line until 2:30 p.m. Seven Springs has nine chairlifts, including a high-speed six-person variant, and 31 trails. But the number 31 doesn’t do this ski area justice. As Seven Springs regulars know, there are wide swaths of open mountainside in the North Face area on the backside of this resort. On a day such as Monday, skiers and boarders are afforded any number of lines down this terrain. Every bit of it was in super shape and covered with loosely tracked powder, some of it the hoopin’ and hollerin’ boot top variety.
It had been a couple years since I had the chance to ski in this much fresh snow and I specifically sought out some of the bumpier and less traveled trails such as Gunnar, Blitzen and Goosebumps to take advantage of the opportunity. The aptly named Goosebumps is possibly the most difficult slope at Seven Springs. Goosebumps was covered with as much as a foot of loosely cut powder Monday. Its mogul field was a little more forgiving than usual and the abundance of snow made it look positively Utah-thian. Did I just coin a word in my giddiness?
Most of my day was spent on the North Face. It is served by its own distinctive and atmospheric rest/lunch spot, the Tahoe Lodge. This is one of the few and one of the best on-slope secondary lodges (i.e., not functioning as a base lodge) in the Mid-Atlantic. All the lodges at Seven Springs are renowned for delicious kielbasa polish sausage. My cholesterol level went up by 20 points just looking at the huge one Mike Thomson ate for lunch.
The North Face also contains a major snowboard park with a halfpipe, table top, and an assortment of rails including a 20-foot regular rail and a 15-foot rainbow rail (lengths just a rough estimate). It was one of the busiest spots on the mountain and as a dumb old skier, all those rails made me wonder what kind of effect they had on the base of a snowboard after a hard day of action? We skiers usually try to avoid running over rocky or metallic objects.
The Mid-Atlantic is having an incredible season with much better than average amounts of natural snow and plenty enough cold for frequent snowmaking activities. I’ve only been to Seven Springs a half dozen times over the years, but this was by far the best conditions I have seen there. Friends at Wisp Resort in western Maryland report record-breaking attendance figures during the Holiday week with some snowfall almost everyday since New Year’s. No excuse to sit on the winter sports sidelines this Happy New Year!
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.