It was cloudy at Wisp on Thursday (Jan. 20, 2005) with periodic snow showers. The daytime temperatures never got out of the 20s and the awesome Wisp snowmaking system blasted much of the mountain all day long. The area is making a serious rebound after the disastrous two-week January thaw suffered (from a snowriders point of view) by our entire region. Based on my firsthand observations, Wisp is poised to reach the “all terrain open” mode very soon.
About 15 of 22 trails were open on Thursday at Wisp with generally excellent manmade coverage. To be honest, however, things were a little rough around the edges as the resort was clearly “stockpiling” tremendous amounts of manmade snow in many areas for future grooming purposes. A number of closed trails were on the brink of opening, such as Muskrat, Down Under, Bobcat Bowl, and the Wisp trail. All were either under the snowmaking gun or had recently been under the gun and only needed a little snow farming for immediate use.
Squirrel Cage and The Face, prominent advanced runs down the front side of the mountain, were both open despite intense ongoing snowmaking operations, and consequently featured numerous huge, house-sized mounds of snow presenting some interesting terrain features for better skiers to play on. If the Wisp grooming crew hits the mountain real hard over the next 24-48 hours I would expect these runs and pretty much the entire ski area will be ready for the masses. [Editor’s Note: On Sunday, January 23, Wisp is now reporting that 100% of its terrain is open.]
My favorite runs on Thursday were the aforementioned Squirrel Cage and Face and a pair of backside advanced runs, Main Street and Eye Opener. The aptly named Eye Opener is a fairly lengthy, nicely pitched intermediate/advanced groomer overlooking Deep Creek Lake with, on a sunny day, one of the prettiest views in mid-Atlantic skiing.
I’ve spent a grand total of five days on the slopes of Wisp since December of 2002. I’m getting to know the mountain fairly well, but hardly on what could be called an intimate basis. Yesterday for the first time I stumbled into the steep, but nicely spaced glades between The Face and Devil’s Drop on the front of the mountain. Talk about an eye opener! Although the general mountain area around Wisp probably had less than a foot of natural snow on the ground, this gladed area appears to receive a lot of blowing manmade snow from adjacent trails and was well covered yesterday. An expert skier could take several hours of pleasure dancing through this section of the mountain located just to the skier’s right of The Face.
About mid-afternoon my son and I rode one of the triple chairs beside Squirrel Cage with Ann Hewitt (my apologies if the spelling is incorrect). A veteran of Wisp, Ann and her husband purchased a vacation home in the area about five years ago. She was out test-driving a new pair of Salomon skis in preparation for a visit this weekend by some of her grown children and their families. We chuckled about how each year new skis grow shorter, wider, and shapelier. Ann was also keenly attuned to an impending major snowfall expected in the mountains of western Maryland on Saturday. It would make for especially fine conditions for her family as long as they didn’t cancel their visit out of fear of being unable to return to the city on Sunday. I told Ann that getting snowed in at Wisp sounded like a great idea to me.
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.