On Monday all 22 slopes and trails were again open at Wisp with good snow cover. It was a cloudy, windless day and the temperature reached into the 40’s (degrees F). The packed powder surface conditions eventually turned just a bit softer than ideal, but the mild temps made for a very pleasant family day on the slopes. (A serious cold rain began as we left the resort at 5 pm, but snow is again in the forecast for this weekend.)
I believe Wisp is receiving a nice little business bonanza this year because of great early season snow conditions and an unusually long elementary and high school Holiday break. When I arrived with my family at 10:30 am the base area parking lot was pretty much full. I was, however, able to squeeze into a spot not far from the lodge. Wisp’s layout seemed to absorb the strong turnout quite well. I never waited more than about ten minutes in a lift line. The wait was typically less than half that on the backside pair of triple chairs, which serve some of the most interesting advanced terrain at Wisp.
Wisp has a nice mix of easy trails like the 1.5 mile long Possum and shorter, steeper thigh burners like Main Street, Eye Opener and Squirrel Cage. This mix, served by five chairs and two tow lifts, is spread over two mountain faces and provides some useful versatility for adapting to snow and crowd conditions.
On the chairlift serving the Possum trail I met an admirable 46-year-old first time skier named Keith, down from Cherry Hill, NJ with a gang of friends. He was one of the many overnighters I met that were staying at Wisp over the Holidays in nearby rental properties. Using a short pair of shaped rentals (< 100 cm), this late bloomer spent his first day on skis having a blast making repeated summit runs down a very respectable mid-Atlantic ski mountain.
Serving the other end of the expertise spectrum, a 400’ long mountain monster of a Super Pipe is about to debut at Wisp. I saw state-of-the-art Piston Bully Super Magician equipment shaping vertical walls of snow for the pipe that looked about 15-20’ high. Wisp plans to initiate Saturday Pipe Jam competitions in early January (check the resort website for details).
It is clear that a June 2001 ownership change has breathed new life into this venerable resort. The signs are everywhere, including a 13,000 square foot expansion of the McHenry House Lodge, 24 new snowmaking machines, the addition of a snow tubing park, and the new Super Pipe. In the resort marketing office there is a rather intriguing exhibit showing plans for a major future trail and lift expansion (to be situated to the right of the current layout when looking up from the base lodge.)
These infrastructure improvements, combined with the completion of superb interstate highway access in the mid 1990’s and Garrett County Maryland’s historically excellent natural snow record, make Wisp at Deep Creek Mountain Resort a real mid-Atlantic “comer.”
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.