I had the opportunity to take a rare weekday family ski outing on Tuesday, Janary 22. My kids had an unusual school holiday, so we went to Ski Roundtop and had a great time.
It was springtime in January at Roundtop: sunny, windless, 45 degrees and they had really good snow conditions. The groomed manmade snow was dry, soft, and perfect in the morning. After about 1 p.m. it started to get just a bit slow, but in my group of five I had a first time skier and a novice snowboarder and that made the conditions even better for them.
Roundtop is a little smaller than sister areas Liberty or Whitetail,and about 30 to 40 minutes farther from DC (approximately 2 hours versus 90 minutes). As a result, I hadn’t made it a point to get there since the 80’s and I hadn’t been there for daytime skiing since the 70’s! I made sure to ski everything they had open and I found good snow cover on all of it.
Minuteman, the essential top to bottom slope at Roundtop, was in great shape. I also enjoyed the narrow, winding Barrets Trail. If it went on for another mile I’d call it the perfect ski run; e.g., Polecat or Lynx trails at Wildcat ski area, NH.
Gunbarrel and Recruit were closed. Gunbarrel is noteworthy as one of Roundtop’s steepest. It had only an inch or two of natural on it and I have to wonder if Roundtop plans to open it this season?
Ramrod, an alternate steep and bumpy choice, was open with lots of manmade snow and I tried it several times. The Roundtop halfpipe was open, but the Jbar that services it was not. I talked to a couple of snowboarders slogging up the halfpipe and they said the Jbar would probably start operating for the night session.
Roundtop has a particularly effective beginners area serviced by a quad chair, a double chair, and a magic carpet lift. The area is not too steep, but still has several routes that are long enough to keep a first-timer satisfied. I saw it at its best on a mild, unpopulated weekday.
As expected, liftlines were nonexistent all day. My group skied/boarded from about 10:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. We had purchased 4 hour flex lift tickets ($31 for ages 11 and older), but the lift crew didn’t seem to mind our logging in a few extra runs. The Ski Roundtop website promotes extra ski time this week for patrons who know the skier responsibility code.
I noticed something unusual at Roundtop yesterday. A high percentage of the people in the small crowd were older than me, considerably older. I assume they must be retirees from the nearby cities of Harrisburg and York, PA. I rode up a chairlift with a woman who had a few years on me and I asked her what the crowds were like over the MLK holiday weekend. She said, “I wouldn’t know. I don’t need to ski weekends anymore and I don’t.” Age has its privileges; one might be to reign supreme over all the weekday ski terrain you can survey.
Given the unfavorable weather forecast for the rest of this week, there may be some deterioration in the fine conditions I saw by next weekend.
Husband, father and retired civilian employee of the Department of Navy, Jim Kenney is a D.C. area native and has been skiing recreationally since 1967. Jim's ski reporting garnered the 2009 West Virginia Division of Tourism's Stars of the Industry Award for Best Web/Internet/E-Magazine Article.