Ski Roundtop rose as a white decorated mound out of the rustic forested ridge of Gifford Pinchot State Park as we turned west off of I-83 north of York, PA. Powder -; we actually got a present of a few inches of fresh powder on the runs and the illusion of falling snow as real flurries combined with the tiny flakes drifting from the snow guns at the edges of the trails. Thank you, Santa and your little grooming elves for working so hard Christmas Eve and morning!
Conditions at Roundtop were better than we have yet had this season. We told you the snow scene would continue to improve! In his regular snow report at the website skiroundtop.com, talented publicity director Chris Dudding suggested “bring your goggles.” With temperature in the low 20’s, the snow from the guns did not stick to them and the yellow tint turned a partly cloudy day into one of permanent sunshine and protected us from the windchill.
On the day after Christmas, all but the expert trails serviced by the Ramrod triple were open at Roundtop All the beginner and intermediate trails were truly packed powder, groomed well to the full width of the trail and my husband and I did not notice any hint of rock or glare ice. The hint of grass blade in hard skied areas showed how resourceful the groomers have been with a base built over so few days of snowmaking.
The Cannonball Run snowtubing was going great guns, and you could hear the squeals of delight from the tubers, as we skied past them on the way to the Exhibition chairlift. The terrain park was busy with another famous Roundtop Rail jam underway for the athletic younger set -; the ones who appear to have kangaroo in their blood. There is also a beginner surface lift for newcomers. And, the visitors taking a break from skiing also have a large food court to sample, as well as a game room and large screen TV so that Steelers and Raven fans could get updated between runs. The complimentary courtesy ski check area also had a nice surprise -; free, hot apple cider, and homemade cookies for all. Thank you Judy!
One note about powder -; even in relatively thin amounts, it can still catch you by surprise. I rarely fall, because I am too cautious a skier to take many chances. But I got tripped up by the powder on Lafayette’s Leap, flipped over, lost a ski, and had a close communion with some trees. The amazing thing is, I can still fall in a very relaxed, loose manner, which is so important. It was a rather enjoyable, out-of-body experience. When I stopped sliding, I was getting an educational look at the trees from the ground up! I wanted to stay and rest for a while, but knew my husband was waiting in the cold down below, so I had to pull up and dig out. Then the fun began! A snowboarder retrieved my ski from higher up, so I did not have to climb. He also waved off traffic, so I would not be hit my others jumping over the mini moguls. I was very grateful -; who says skiers and boarders cannot help each other out?
For the life of me, I could not get the other ski on -; the little bit of powder was just too much. So, I unceremoniously slid down the mountain on my tail, wearing one ski and cradling the other. Finally, I reached an area flat enough to get the snow off the binding and get it back on. I was one heck of a sight for someone who has skied over 40 years! But, there is a lesson in all this. Always be prepared, wear a helmet, and take nothing for granted in snowsports. And, try to stay loose and relaxed -; it really helps. Thank you dude for helping out this senior skier. I’ll buy you a Starbucks if I can ever find you!
I always like to mention the beautiful vistas of the mountains, which make the sport so special. From the top of any mountain, the views are breathtaking. Roundtop is especially interesting to the history buff in me, as I can see the steam towering from the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor rising in the distance to meet the lowering clouds. That facility seemed so far from the Washington area when I covered the crises, but it is only about a 120-mile drive.
On top of the mountain, my thoughts and prayers also went out to the thousands killed or devastated by the tidal waves in Asia, or the wars and terror in other parts of the world. Surely, our post-Christmas experience was much better than theirs. When we left Roundtop at night, we looked up at the magical mountain. It glimmered under the lights, and the blowing snowmaking was even more dramatic under the stars and full moon. Nature was calling us, saying there is still enormous beauty and good in this world.
When she wasn't skiing, Connie Lawn covered the White House as a reporter since 1968.