On Saturday evening, I decided to head to Whitetail for what would likely be my last ski day of the season. Despite gradually warming temperatures, Whitetail was reporting all trails open with base depths reaching up to 44 inches.
I arrived at the Pennsylvania resort just shy of 5 p.m., finding a number of happy visitors but no lift lines. Temperatures were in the mid- to upper-50’s, and many skiers and boarders were in t-shirts. Throughout the evening, it was possible to have a trail all to yourself, particularly on Expedition or Bold Decision, two black diamonds lit for night skiing.
Surface conditions were decidedly springlike, but quite skiable, and excellent for learning. A bit slow at first, as the sun began to set the snow firmed up a bit, and by 6 p.m. it was quite a bit faster. The loose granular snow was enjoyable to ski on but a bit more work on the legs, particularly when skiing fast.
Bare spots were few and far between, well-marked, and probably only developed late in the day. (A large mountain of snow at the top of the Whitetail Express lift is being used by the resort to patch bare spots each night.) There was still plenty of snow on each trail.
I found some of the best conditions on Expedition, which at its busiest had only a small number of skiers on it during the evening. Although Expedition is marked as a black diamond, I do not find its pitch to be any more challenging than other intermediates such as Limelight. (Whitetail is more likely to leave Expedition ungroomed, however.) Because Expedition is serviced by the Expert’s Choice Quad, a fixed-grip quad that is glacial compared to Whitetail’s Express Quad, I figured few skiers found Expedition to be worth the slow lift ride when trails off of the Whitetail Express also had good conditions. The expert’s area at Whitetail was thus very quiet and a peaceful place to be while the sun set.
Bold Decision, the only trail that has been left ungroomed, sported huge, granular bumps, and relatively few visitors tackled it during the evening.
Everyone at the resort seemed to be having a good time, and one could sense that people felt these mid-March ski days were “free” -; after all, it’s uncommon for a resort so close to D.C. to push its season into mid-March with 100% open terrain, and this just caps off what was already a great season. This Monday and Tuesday, March 17 and 18, skiing and boarding will literally be free at Whitetail, Roundtop, and Liberty. Visitors will receive a free lift ticket as part of the resorts’ Guest Appreciation Days.
An upcoming week of warm temperatures (highs in the upper-50’s or lower-60’s, lows well above freezing) will do some damage to local resorts, although it’s amazing how long snow sticks around. (A season of grooming and packing down snow results in ice below the surface of granular snow, acting as a natural refrigerator.) The warm temperatures will melt any remaining snow around Mid-Atlantic skiers’ homes, and thoughts will inevitably move to activities such as bicycling. As a result, I suspect many resorts will end their season next weekend, although some (Snowshoe, Wisp) plan to push into April.
Spring skiing is always a blast; it’s one of the few times you can ski on decent snow without freezing or bundling up in countless layers. There’s still some time to get some good runs in, but as the days get longer, the number of days left in the ski season quickly shortens.
Photos by 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.