Firsthand Account: Whitetail
By John Lewandoski, Guest Author

Taking advantage of flexible work hours, I went skiing at Whitetail last Friday and this Tuesday. Friday’s conditions were incredible but Tuesday’s were diminished. But hey, an off day on the slopes is better than a great day at the office.

Pursuit of good ski conditions in the D.C. area relies on timing, getting while the getting is good, and above all, avoiding the weekend crowds. For some friends and myself, last Friday had all of the above. The week’s cold temperatures permitted seven straight days of snowmaking, mother nature added a few inches of her own, and cold days meant no melting and refreezing of the snow. If that wasn’t enough, Friday’s weather was bright sunshine with temperatures in the mid-40’s. Early morning conditions on the blue trails were hero-making: smooth packed-powder surface. As expected, the blue-trail conditions degraded by the afternoon due to relatively high skier traffic and warming temperatures.

The best conditions were on the expert runs: Drop In, Bold Decision and Exhibition. For bump lovers, the conditions on Exhibition (right under the Expert Chair) were the best I have ever seen at Whitetail. The entire trail was bumped up, even the flatter section at the top. With every run you got seven hundred or so vertical feet of moguls. The bump lines were variable but the mogul sizes were legit. The snow was soft but didn’t get heavy until the late afternoon. Or maybe it was my legs that got heavy. It definitely was a day for skiing the bumps faster than you normally do.

The crowds were larger than a typical Friday due to a Maryland State Day promotion. Upon proof of residence, Maryland residents skied for $19.99. To get the special rate you had to fill out a standard marketing form (name, address, phone number, email). I don’t know if they strictly enforced filling out all information. For me, if it has to do with skiing, there is no junk in junk mail. Friday, March 5 is Virginia and the District of Columbia Super Ski Day, with the same offer. Despite crowds at the ticket window and base lodge, the lift lines were virtually non-existent all day.

Alas, the Whitetail groomers intervened Friday night by removing all the bumps on Exhibition and a Sunday storm deposited rain instead of snow. Some of my friends reported that the weekends conditions were not as good as those on Friday.

Tuesday’s temperatures were at least 10 degrees warmer than Friday’s which meant for some classic Pennsylvania spring slush. Conditions were probably the best from 10 to 12 in the morning; unfortunately, I started skiing at twelve-thirty. At least the amount of skiers on the mountain was minimal. The blue runs didn’t get skied off as they normally do, so the surface was more consistent than I expected. The conditions on the bump run Exhibition were tricky. The surface alternated between firm tracks/troughs and piles of heavy scraped-off snow. Needless to say, in the course of the afternoon a few quick recoveries were required. Despite the weekend’s grooming, a few decent bump lines had formed, especially on the lower half of the trail.

The most adventure was had on Bold Decision, Whitetail’s double-black trail. While the difficulty rating is obviously resort-relative, Bold Decision normally has some of the few terrain variations found at Whitetail. A series of rolls and drop-offs had formed throughout the entire trail. (Don’t think it was done deliberately by the groomers.) The drop-offs were especially challenging on the skier’s-left edge of the trail at the steep section. At the biggest drop, with an easy hop at the lip you would drop six or so feet before your skis touched the snow. Not bad for your backyard ski area. (Writer’s safety note to prevent any conversations with lawyer-types: Don’t do this when there are many other skiers on the trail - this rules out most weekends. Use a spotter. Airplane turns, i.e. landing with your skis across the hill, are recommended instead of a straight jump. If you do an airplane turn, turn toward the center of the trail, the edge of the trail is pretty close.)

By five o’clock, the wet snow had refreezed enough for me to call it a day. By that time, Whitetail was deserted.

Coverage is still excellent on Whitetail’s open slopes with two notable exceptions. There is one very large (well-marked) dirt area on Lower Angel Drop. This area extends across half the trail and is just below the entrance to Drop In. I didn’t find any other bare patches on the other blues. Coverage on Exhibition is a trade-off between letting the bumps form for Saturday’s bump contest and preventing bare spots. Currently, the notable bare spots are on the side closest to the chairlift at the bottom half of the trail. Unless there are additional snowmaking opportunities, there is not much more life for this trail. Quite frankly, without bumps on Exhibition, there is not much incentive for me to make the trip up to Whitetail.

Better get while the getting’s good.

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