The sunset was a brilliant red, peeping through the mottled clouds. The lift attendants told me the sun had not shown all day. Suddenly this beautiful sunset appeared; I watched it in awe as I rode up the Alpine Quad. Then, the lights came on. Liberty was postcard perfect - glowing lights, white sparkling snow, and a clear sky. I rode up with some instructors, who said the snow had never been better. I agree.
I understand the snow is just as excellent at some of the other resorts close to D.C., and I intend to check them out as soon as I can. It is a fitting reward to a slow season so far.
The snow on Tuesday night was hard packed and very fast by the time I arrived. Earlier in the week, there was a lot more powder. But, it was also colder and windier. Tuesday was just fine for me - it did not begin to get cold until about 7:30 p.m.
It had been awhile since I skied at night, and I had forgotten how dramatic it can be. Liberty is known to have one of the best night lighting systems around, and it is justified in its reputation. I had absolutely no trouble seeing; it was better than the flat light you tend to get at dusk.
The hardpack snow became icy and crusty in places, and that was to be expected. You just had to go with the flow and accept it. In the morning, after grooming and warmer weather, it would be completely different.
I tried every black and blue trail at Liberty (no jokes here) and had a blast on all of them. The moguls were getting hard and icy, but were less crowded than the smoother runs. But, they were all fun - Dipsy Doodle, Sidewinder, Blue Streak, Upper and Lower Heavenly, Upper and Lower Ultra, and Upper and Lower Strata. 15 of Liberty’s trails were open, or 99% of terrain. Tubing was also going strong.
As the night wore on, Liberty became more crowded, and the skiing was faster. That is when I became seriously afraid of being crashed into. Liberty does tend to have a party atmosphere at night, and attracts the younger and sometimes wilder crowd. If I have one suggestion to make, I wish there could be an unofficial system of lanes, as on the highways. That way, the faster skiers and riders could go on the left, and the slower ones on the right. Hard to enforce that, but it’s a thought.
Liberty has large signs, warning people where trails are merging, and asking them to slow down. But, it doesn’t always work. I got cut off twice, by people going really fast, and am relieved we just managed to avoid contact.
One word about packages - Liberty, like other ski areas in the mid-Atlantic, has some great ones! There are discounts for military and students during the week, which adds to business. I was moved to be riding up the lifts with some servicemen who were savoring the snow before being shipped off to Iraq. They got a $5.00 discount, but said they had received more on other days - some days were free for them. Check out the DCSki Bargain Tracker for a listing of various specials at local resorts.
I came up with a friend from Texas who had not skied for 15 years. She was thrilled to obtain a special package for $49, which included the lesson, rental equipment, and lifts. Pretty good. Not as cheap as the pre-Christmas $19 rate, but you can’t keep that going forever. And, don’t forget the tubing packages - $10 for one hour and $14 for two hours during the week.
So, as always, check resort web sites, and DCSki.com, for conditions, prices, and specials before heading to any area. Hope you get as terrific conditions as I experienced when you make your visit.
Liberty also has competitions or events nearly every weekend. This Sunday is the Coors/Bolle Triple Crown race. So, if you get tired of the dramatic trails and terrain parks, you can try your luck at competitions.
Liberty is about 65 miles from the Washington, D.C. area, and is about the shortest drive (Whitetail is only slightly longer). Both areas require major highways most of the way, and the country roads towards the end are kept clear. Frankly, I prefer them - no speeding 18 wheelers to scare you as on the highways. It would be nice if there was special bus service each night to the local ski areas from the DC Metro area - that could make the trip safer and add to the enjoyment. Maybe some of the areas could start a local shuttle? The ski clubs have trips, of course, but not on a daily basis.
I was fascinated to see the variety of people - all ages and professions - who took off a few hours for night skiing at Liberty.
Whatever you chose to do - be safe, have a blast, and get there before the snow melts.
When she wasn't skiing, Connie Lawn covered the White House as a reporter since 1968.