Saturday the 22nd was opening day at the resort. Every trail promised in snow reports last week opened with a 12-18 inch base of man-made packed powder. This meant that Snowshoe had one top-to-bottom trail open at both the Snowshoe and Silver Creek areas, and enough connector trails to run multiple lifts.
As we made the 82 mile drive from our place at Timberline to Snowshoe, all I could think of was: “here I am driving 4 hours today just to spend two hours waiting in lift lines for limited skiing; I must be crazy.” To my relief, we never had to wait in a lift line for more than 3 minutes. The resort had more than enough uphill capacity to handle the crowds on opening day.
During the morning, I skied Gandy Dancer and Powder Monkey. My Volkl G-31 Vertigos sliced through the well-groomed terrain with no difficulty. There were a few icy spots, but no fast grass. For intermediate skiers and shredders, these icy spots just made the available terrain more challenging. Beginners, however, were clearly having a tougher time -; especially on Gandy Dancer. I saw plenty of novice skiers taking their first snow baths, but thankfully, very few ski patrol sleds heading down the mountain.
After a quick lunch at the Shavers Centre, we headed over to Silver Creek. The snow turned out to be even better there. It was now 40 degrees, the snow guns were off, the sun was shining, and the crowds were minimal. I skied Cant Hook and Greenhorn for the remainder of the day. Both trails were easy, but since we were just getting our ski legs back, we used this period to work on our techinques. By the end of the day, we looked back on those Silver Creek runs with pleasure: they saved us from sore muscles the next day.
Sunday turned out to be a bust-;it rained! The rain ended at 11 pm, and by 7 am on Monday we were heading back to Snowshoe to experience what probably turned out to be the best skiing from Florida to New York. The car thermometer registered 14 degrees as we left Timberline. When we finally reached Snowshoe two hours later, I was delighted to see it stuck at the 21 degree mark.
We skied Snowshoe the whole day -; experiencing some decent intermediate terrain, manageable crowds, and no lift lines. We lunched at the Boathouse Grille: the food wasn’t that special but the log structure, lake views, and rustic wooden tables made for a pleasant atmosphere. After skiing, we headed for the Junction Restaurant to sample more of Snowshoe’s cuisine. The Junction, resting near the top of the Ball Hooter lift, serves light fare such as soups, salads, and sandwiches.
After a quick bite, we hit the road with good memories and full stomachs. Despite the warmest December on record, Snowshoe lived up to its reputation as a world-class, destination resort. With just a handful of cold days the week before, the Snowshoe snowmakers cranked out enough terrain to get me back in the groove. Every open trail was covered with mostly packed powder.
Snowshoe is working hard to open up even more terrain in the next few days. The guns are actually firing on the Western Territory. I hope one of these 1,500 foot vertical monsters will be open sometime New Year’s weekend. I also expect one of the Northern Tract top-to-bottom beginner trails to be open as well. This will allow for a separation of ability levels.
John Sherwood is a columnist for DCSki. When he's not hiking, biking, or skiing, he works as an author of books on military history.