Unlike many of my other trips to Timberline this year, the roads were clear of snow, and I could truly relax and enjoy the ride. On the way home, we took Route 55 and marveled at the progress of the new Corridor H. By fall 2003, 16.5 miles of the new road will be finished. West Virginia plans to build an additional 23.5 miles by autumn 2004. Ultimately, this 100-mile-long Appalachian highway will revolutionize travel between the Washington metropolitan area and the West Virginia ski areas much the same way “Ski-93” revolutionized travel between Boston and the New Hampshire resorts or I-70, between Denver and many Colorado mountains. Eventually, Snowshoe, Timberline, and Canaan will be viable destinations for day commuters from DC.
After being cooped up in my office for a week, being in the sunshine for a day raised my spirits immeasurably. I recommend this therapy for anyone else complaining about our endless Mid-Atlantic winter. On the Thunderdraft triple, I spoke to a high school senior who traveled all the way from Chicago to snowboard in West Virginia. I asked him how he liked it. “It’s not Whistler,” he replied, “but there’s some nice terrain here.” The boy especially enjoyed riding Snowshoe’s Western Territory on Friday.
Over the night, Timberline received scattered rain showers and then the temperatures dropped below freezing. In the morning, Herz Mountain looked like something out of Middle Earth. Fog drifted through the woods and completely covered the upper sections of most slopes. The snow had turned from mashed potatoes to ice. We skied for half a day on Sunday just to prove we could and then packed up and headed home. Ironically, just as we were leaving, the sun returned. I suspect conditions improved measurably over the afternoon.
In freeze-thaw cycles, the window for good skiing narrows. On Saturday, it was best between 10 and 12 -; a period when the hardpack had softened to loose granular, but was still cold enough not to be mashed potatoes. We did not get any corn snow on Saturday, but I once skied some nice corn (course, granular snow) at Whitetail, so I know it does exist here in the Mid-Atlantic. During the spring diurnal cycle of melting and refreezing, corn snow skiing is at its best in mid to late morning, after a layer has begun to melt but before it is too wet and sloppy. There should be good corn to be harvested all this week at most local resorts, which are also offering discount lift tickets and lodging deals. Therefore folks, get out and ski before the inevitable long dry spell. West Virginia resorts now have 83-100 inch bases, but this snow will not last forever. Enjoy it while you still can!
Photos by John Sherwood.
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.
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