With some hesitation, I made my way to Whitetail this morning for some New Year’s Day skiing. My hesitation stemmed from a hunch that Whitetail would be extremely crowded as a result of the holiday. Although the temperature hovered in the upper twenties, the day was beautiful, with the sun shining brightly.
Upon arrival at Whitetail, I was pleasantly surprised to find a lack of holiday crowds. In fact, throughout the morning and afternoon, most lifts had no lines whatsoever. The Whitetail Express high-speed quad had opened for the season during the morning, serving two intermediate trails (Upper Angel Drop to Homerun) connecting to make one top-to-bottom run. Despite the limited terrain available off the Whitetail Express, the lift line never had more than one or two people in it, and the slopes remained relatively uncrowded, even though there wasn’t much intermediate terrain for advanced skiers to spread out on.
Most area resorts were only able to start snowmaking a couple weeks ago, but a consistent run of cold temperatures has allowed very effective snowmaking. All beginner trails at Whitetail were open, along with a handful of intermediates. On all trails, coverage was excellent - deep snow from edge to edge with no thin areas. Snowmaking throughout the day continued on several unopened trails, including intermediate Snow Dancer (slated to open Saturday), double black-diamond Bold Decision, and two intermediates connecting Bold Decision at the top and bottom to the rest of Whitetail, Ridge Runner and Fallmount. Plenty of snow had been made on Ridge Runner and Fallmount, but it looked like several more days of snowmaking would be required to open the steeper Bold Decision.
To the benefit of skiers and boarders, snowmaking was not underway on open terrain. Snowmaking has not started on Fanciful, Limelight, Exhibition, or Far Side.
For snowboarders, the newly-expanded halfpipe at Whitetail has piles of snow in it, but hasn’t opened yet. After some grooming, the pipe should be ready. The new halfpipe, clocking in at 475 feet long and 50 feet wide, is the largest in the region. It should be a real treat for boarders.
Conditions on Friday were machine-made, packed powder. As usual, there were some areas of hardpack, where loose snow had been scraped away, but no real icy areas. This is due to the fact that temperatures have remained low enough during the day to prevent freeze-thaw cycles, where slopes start to melt in the day and then freeze at night, becoming icy.
In all, a very pleasant day of skiing.
A major winter storm is expected to move into the area starting Saturday, and it is unclear what impact this will have on area resorts. Forecasts are calling for a mix of snow, sleet, freezing rain, and rain. Local resorts are hoping for snow, obviously, and may receive healthy amounts of it. If the snow doesn’t turn over to freezing rain, conditions - which are already good - should continue to improve. Snowmaking should continue over the next week as cold temperatures linger.
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.
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