Firsthand reports from skiers and snowboarders continue to trickle in, with several included in this article. Conditions have been great at D.C. area ski resorts this past week. A warming trend entered the region on Thursday and is expected to remain for several days. This may result in softer snow (particularly during mid-day) and some bare spots on selected trails.
I headed up to Whitetail Thursday evening for my first ski trip of the season, getting in a couple dozen runs. I arrived around 4 p.m. just as many of the day crowds were leaving. The lift line (on the Whitetail Express) was never more than a minute long and often had no line at all.
All of the beginner terrain at Whitetail is open, as well as several intermediates. Experts Bold Decision and Drop In also opened on Thursday, but I arrived too late to try them out. (Expert terrain at Whitetail closes at 4 p.m., and is not lit for night skiing.) I spent all of my time on the intermediates served by the Whitetail Express - Snow Dancer, Angel Drop, and Homerun.
Conditions were really great, but the snow was obviously stressed by quite mild temperatures during the day (hitting the lower 50’s at the base of the mountain). Some bare spots were beginning to show in certain areas by evening, although I imagine these can be patched up with a little grooming, and none were severe enough to threaten the base of my skis. As the sun set and the temperatures lowered to the low 40’s, the snow began to firm up a bit and became much quicker. However, I didn’t see any ice patches - the conditions remained great until I left, shortly after 6 p.m.
As you may know from previous DCSki articles, Whitetail is under new ownership this season, sharing owners with Ski Liberty, Ski Roundtop, and Ski Windham. Skiers and boarders will be pleased to know that Whitetail still has the same atmosphere that made it popular - the new owners are running the resort quite well. The free ski check is still there, and a fresh coating of paint made the lift towers look great. I didn’t get a chance to go in the lodge, but there was obviously some great cooking going on inside - throughout the evening, smoke was rising from the lodge and wafting towards the bottom of the ski slopes, beckoning hungry skiers and boarders inside.
There are some sections of the intermediate trails that remain poorly lit - such as the junction between Homerun and Upper/Lower Angel’s Drop. A couple extra light poles would really fill out the lighting. A healthy number of trails are open, but snowmaking has not begun on additional trails. Notably, Limelight (the intermediate running along the lift towers for the Whitetail Express) - which hasn’t been open for a couple years now, due to mild winters - will probably be the last trail to open this season. The return of warmer temperatures will put a temporary hold on snowmaking, but I imagine Whitetail will resume snowmaking by refortifying existing terrain and then moving on to Exhibition and the halfpipe.
All in all, a great evening of skiing. Everyone was having a great time at Whitetail on Thursday.
Went up to Ski Roundtop today, and spent a few hours on some of the best snow I have skied in the Mid Atlantic in years. The lift lines were short, and the runs fairly clear. A lot of folks trying out Christmas presents or honing rusty skills (myself included.)
Most trails were open, except Gunbarrel (which may open by weekend for the first time in 3 years, they were blowing snow on it) and Barretts Trail (my favorite). The snow was hard packed and groomed, very fast, and I noticed that there were a few small bumps on the top of Fife and Drum for the beginners to play on.
It was a beautiful clear day with temperatures in the mid-30’s and bright sun. Make sure you bring goggles. Had a great time, and am sore now - never seem to get enough pre-season conditioning in. Oh well, hope to get back up there in the next millennium.
My personal observation: seemed to be a lot more boarders this year than last. On a couple lifts I scanned there seemed to be close to a 50/50 mix, with maybe even a little more boarders than skiers. The boarders also seemed to slide better and behave better too, so maybe sliding is getting more (dare I say) mainstream.
I just got back from two days of skiing at Blue Knob. On Monday, we had snow all day long. Five inches later it looked like a winter playground, which it is! All of the main intermediate and beginner terrain is open and skiing well. Blue Knob is working on the advanced terrain now.
The Tubing Park opened and was great fun. With the anticipated natural snowfall, the whole mountain should be open within the next two weeks, including the snowboard park. 5 inches of natural snowfall each day earlier this week, and that doesn’t include the snowmaking. There is powder (at least the eastern version of it) in them hills!
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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