coping out the list of available ski areas Friday night, Pennsylvania’s Whitetail seemed like a good bet to make my first turns of the season the next morning. Surface conditions, number of open trails, and proximity were all factors in its favor. The easy 90-minute drive on I-70 from Baltimore led me to the small burrow of Mercersburg, just over the Pennsylvania line, on Saturday, January 5.
I arrived just as the resort was firing up its lift system and met up with my buddy Dan. The sun was peaking out, and the day was looking good: temps hovering around 40 degrees, a slight wind, and solid conditions on Whitetail’s machine-made powder.
A fair skier turnout left the lift lines in check, and it made me wonder where all the skiers and boarders were on a great day like this. Even during peak time (noon) at the Whitetail Express high-speed quad, the wait was a measly couple of minutes. As it turns out, supreme conditions would reign the following day, when the region’s first true storm blanketed Whitetail with eight-plus inches of fresh powder. Unfortunately, we missed out on the freshies by a day, but Saturday held its own nonetheless.
All green and blue trails were now open, along with black diamond trails Exhibition and Bold Decision. Excellent powder stashes greeted us along all the summit descents, turning to granular the rest of the way. Intermediate Snowdancer had good snow off the top and over its shelf, while the day’s best snow was found on Limelight and its smattering of small rollover drops. Snowmaking here has improved considerably, thanks to an infusion of $1 million in investments. The resort now operates with nearly 50% airless snowmaking, and they’re able to pump out the goods like never before.
The runs at Whitetail are solidly intermediate, with a respectable 900-plus vertical feet and an assortment of small bumps and drops to ensure some technical turning. The mountain is considerably bigger than sister resorts Liberty and Roundtop, all owned by Snow Time, Inc.
With the terrain park now open for business on its new Lower Angel Drop location, snowboarders lined up waiting to jump in. Two big gap jumps off the top promised some good air, while a medium-sized tabletop finished off the park, along with a third, smaller gap jump. Bigger airs are afforded at the top of the park, where the grade is a bit steeper.
After a dozen or so runs, we decided to call it a day. On the way out, a few families were taking advantage of the resort’s new valet service. A $10 fee lets you forget the hassle of carrying your gear to and from the lodge. It’s Whitetail’s newest way of shaping up its guest services. In the resort’s Guest Services building, we also noticed quite a few people signing up for the resort’s Skier Advantage Card, which saves guests 40% on return-visit lift tickets, with every sixth visit free.
A quick look at our watches showed there was just enough time for a brew and a bite to eat, so we stopped off in Frederick at Bushwaller’s to throw down some Irish fare and cap off a satisfying half day on the snow. All in all, a nice day at the slopes. Whitetail’s trail network is now just about 100% open, and the resort hopes to make a strong run at a second straight successful season.
John Phillips is author of Ski & Snowboard America: Mid-atlantic, now in its second edition. He can be found snowboarding the local slopes on most winter weekends.