With temperatures near 60 degrees, my family and I decided it was a great day on Sunday, February 6, 2005 to head up to Liberty Mountain to check out some mid-season “spring” skiing. My wife, in particular, was anxious to try out some new equipment, including some new Technica boots purchased the day before at Ski Chalet in Tyson’s Corner. We had heard about the clearance sale going on at the Ski Chalet stores in the Washington area and took the opportunity to fill some missing equipment needs. The sale was as good as advertised with my wife getting a good deal on new boots that were sorely needed and a great deal on a new Spyder brand jacket for my three year old son in a size that he will grow into for next year (lucky kid - his old man STILL does not own any Spyder gear - of course, finding a Spyder jacket for $35.00 is not something that occurs very often either!).
We arrived at Liberty at about 9 a.m. and the upper parking lot was already filling up. Parking in row “O,” we headed up to the first stop. After dropping off junior at daycare, we got our tickets, put on our gear and were on the slopes by 9:30 a.m. (a record early start for us as a family). Crowds were light and the snow was already softening up, but nicely. We skipped front side skiing and opted for the back of the resort right away as we had a feeling that the crowds would peak in the morning before folks headed back home for Superbowl parties. The front area was also hosting the Verizon Luge challenge where anyone with the yen to luge could do so by simply signing up at the tent set up by Verizon and waiting in line. Of course, the “luge” was a plastic toboggan-shaped affair and the “track” was a track built in the snow courtesy of Liberty’s groomers. Still, participants certainly looked like they were having fun and it appeared well run and entertaining.
On the backside, Liberty had opened all the trails from Whitney’s way towards the north side of the area to Sidewinder and Strata towards the south end of the area. Coverage was good with plenty of snow on all the major trails. With Strata and Sidewinder both open, the traffic on Heavenly was not nearly as crowded as normal and there was plenty of room to ski. For those not familiar with the area, once getting off the main lift (i.e., the “Alpine Quad”), the most direct route to the back side is via the Heavenly trail. It’s also one of the few “Blue” rated runs top to bottom on the backside - the other being Sidewinder to Lower Strata. When Sidewinder and Strata are not open, Heavenly gets quite crowded. Luckily, that was not the case on Sunday. Liberty also has wisely maintained Whitney’s Way as a “Family Ski Zone” that allows slower skiers and advancing skiers to practice in a relatively safer area.
As for the more challenging terrain, Ultra was groomed with plenty of snow. One of the more fun parts of that trail is all the way to skier’s right where you can ski just slightly off the edge of the trail. Many is the time I’ve found hidden stashes of powder there, although this was unnecessary on Sunday. There was plenty of soft, white stuff everywhere. As is typical by this time of year, Liberty had allowed Eastwind to bump up on the upper and lower portions of the trail. With the spring-like temperatures and the lack of significant freezing the night before, the bumps were eminently carveable from morning on. In fact, I must admit I spent the majority of my skiing time on lower Eastwind trying to practice my bump technique. My wife opted for the more groomed parts of lower Ultra where her new boots were giving her a degree of control over her skis she had not had in long time. Of course, some new Leki composite poles with trigger straps helped too since everyone knows that poles are the most important piece of ski equipment (kidding!). We both agreed it was a nice change to ski on Strata top to bottom, although since that trail is always the last to open and it’s a straight shot to the bottom, the crowds get a bit scary! I was clipped by someone skiing far too fast to be in control of anything.
By mid-afternoon, the snow was very soft and the bumps on Eastwind were getting heavy (i.e., harder to move through) with just the hint of grass showing in some of the more dug out troughs. Since it was getting late and we did want to catch the kick-off for Superbowl, we picked up junior from daycare. Of course, he wanted to ski some as well so we took him out to the beginner area (his third time out). He loves to ski with dad holding onto him - the only limits to the number of runs being the strength and durability of dad’s arm muscles! Skiing with junior reminded me of yet another family-friendly policy of Liberty Mountain - kids five and under ski free (with the purchase of an adult lift ticket). We rode the magic carpet and the beginner quad. The magic carpet was a nice addition to Liberty’s lifts added not too long ago. The lift is so easy to use, a three year old can do it (and did!). After three or four runs down between dad’s skis, including screams of “faster daddy faster!” we decided to call it a day. The extra incentive to have us call it a day was my wife’s new boots. Sized correctly, new boots are new boots and my wife was only too glad to have hers off.
With the perfect spring conditions, our original plan of “arrive early - leave early” turned into “arrive early - leave WAY too late to make opening kickoff at home.” Still, none of us could think of a better way to spend the day together.
James "Jim" Chen" is a member of the National Ski Patrol and Assistant Patrol Director at Liberty Mountain ski area in Carroll Valley, Pennsylvania. Jim has been a member of the Liberty Patrol since the 1995-1996 season. Off the slopes, Jim is an attorney in Washington, D.C. where he counsels clients on transportation, innovation, safety and environmental areas.