Wisp Celebrates 50th with North Camp Debut: A Firsthand Report 4
Author thumbnail By Jim Kenney, DCSki Columnist
Looking up at North Camp from the base of Chair 7. Photo provided by Jim Kenney.

The 2005-2006 mid-Atlantic ski season is off to a strong start. I was glad to finally get in on the action when I led a group of friends and family to the Wisp ski area in western Maryland on Sunday, December 11, 2005. We enjoyed a snowy, 30-degree day of discount skiing at Wisp’s 50th Birthday weekend celebration. Early in the afternoon I also had the opportunity to join a half dozen members of the DCSki online community for a mountain tour, highlighted by a visit to North Camp, the major new expansion of ski terrain at Wisp this season.

Retro 1955 pricing for Wisp’s early December birthday has become a very popular tradition over the years. It’s a great way to get the public excited about the start of another new ski season. When complemented by the type of stellar man-made and natural snow conditions evident on Sunday, the two-day $7 lift ticket represents one of the best bargains on the mid-Atlantic ski calendar. About two or three inches of light snow fell during the day adding to the festive winter atmosphere, which also included a DJ, games, birthday cake, and a raucous crowd.

The 50th birthday party event drew one of the largest turnouts I’ve seen at Wisp, but fortuitously it coincided with the grand opening of Wisp’s new North Camp expansion, which dispersed the crowds nicely. North Camp features ten new trails, two new quad chairlifts, extensive lighting, tons of snowmaking infrastructure, and some serious earth moving. This is one of the biggest ski developments in our region since the opening of Whitetail some 15 years ago.

At 12:30 p.m. my friend Dave and I met up with a DCSki posse comprised of Tommo (a Wisp regular), JohnL, Jimmy, Jimmy’s daughter Jessica, and friend Jay. The power of DCSki was in play bringing together this diverse group hailing from Morgantown, WV; Damascus, MD; and various points in northern VA.

Tommo served as tour guide while leading us over to North Camp. Let me tell you, this is no half-hearted expansion. From Wisp’s 3,115-foot summit we took a nearly two mile long beginner run (Little and Big Dipper) to get to the 2,415-foot base elevation of North Camp’s chair 7. On Sunday the Dipper connector was a windy, featureless, but vital boulevard to better things.

Behind the camera: Jim Kenney.
DCSki Posse: From left, Jessica, Tommo, JohnL, Jimmy, and DaveT. Behind the camera: Jim Kenney.

Once you make the trek to North Camp it pays to stay a while. Chair 7 offers some fine intermediate groomers over about 600 feet of vertical. Our group skied all three blue runs in this sector: Whip Saw, Ace’s Run, and Over the Edge (actually designated an easy black).

Several of us agreed that Ace’s Run, to the skier’s far left, may be the best of the new bunch with a nice, continuous blue pitch about .75 miles in length and similar to Liberty’s Sidewinder-to-Lower Strata, or Canaan’s Valley Vista. I particularly enjoyed one uninterrupted cruise down Ace’s and I know Jimmy the Mountaineer did too. He was closing fast on me when we came to a hockey stop at the base of the slope.

After the North Camp exploration Tommo took us to Wisp’s most challenging terrain, located on the front side of the mountain in plain view of the main lodge. Like everywhere else on Sunday, we found a great mix of man-made and natural packed powder on The Face and Devil’s Drop. JohnL also liked what he saw after dipping into the steep, but nicely spaced trees between these two runs. It was one of those rare days when conditions improved as the day wore on despite a large number of folks on the mountain. By 3 p.m. the newly fallen natural was fluffing up on lesser skied areas making for superb mid-winter conditions on December 11!

Tommo and I got a chuckle on one of our rides up chair 2 when JohnL declared the smoothly rounded, truck size whales on The Face to be considerably more user friendly than their counterparts at a certain West Virginia ski area (much discussed on DCSki) which shall remain nameless. For the record, 22 of Wisp’s 32 trails were open on Sunday and the monster snowmaking capability of this resort appeared to have the last unopened area, Main Street/chair 5, ready to go soon.

Tommo heading down The Face. Photo provided by Jim Kenney.

Eventually, I bid adieu to the DCSki posse and rejoined my son and his friends for the last 90 minutes of our ski day. We had a mission to find a missing mitten somewhere underneath North Camp’s chair 7. All day long we had seen people poaching this sweet looking line as we rode the lift. In includes a notable boulder already christened by crowd-pleasing hucksters. Several of us used the glove search excuse to check out this unofficial and all-natural trail. It was still sprinkled with loose rocks, but had enough nice powder to put a smile on your face. The Wisp Ski Patrol will have an interesting job managing this terrain. Oh by the way, we found the mitten.

All in all - a great ski day with friends and family. The crowds on Sunday speak to the drawing power of a good deal, but also to the growing stature of this ski area by the lake. Wisp is now glowing brightly on the radar screen of many a mid-Atlantic snowrider and the 50th birthday is an awesome milestone for a venerable resort still striving to offer a better quality ski product each new year.

PS: Missed this deal? Get an extended day lift ticket every Wednesday at Wisp in 2006 for just $21. For more details see their website at www.skiwisp.com.

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About Jim Kenney

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.

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Reader Comments

December 15, 2005
I Paid $29 to ski at that "unnamed ski area".We had great conditions also......but a slow,ancient,unpadded lift! I messed up on my dates..I thought the $7 doller rates were for the following weekend!...Dammit
December 15, 2005
I Paid $29 to ski at that "unnamed ski area".We had great conditions also......but a slow,ancient,unpadded lift! I messed up on my dates..I thought the $7 doller rates were for the following weekend!...Dammit
December 15, 2005
Wow - I feel famous! Great report and photos. I hope many within the DCSki community get a chance to explore Wisp this season. It's amazing, when you look at those photos, remember that it was only Dec. 11! We may be in for an epic year indeed....

Dicky Do
December 15, 2005
Nice article and pictures. My buddy Random Dog and I also made it up to Wisp the next day for the $7.00 bargain. Like you guys we found the conditions to be excellent, especially this early in the year, and no crowds. The new North Camp area is nice, but a bit of a pain to get to. They only had the one blue run open Monday, Ace's Run, so the skiing was limited. It would be good if they could access that area from the bottom with a new parking lot, lift sales etc. Maybe in the future? Monday evening we headed over to Blackwater Falls Lodge in West Virginia to spend the night and then do some cross country skiing on Tuesday. Conditions there were great as well, with plenty of fresh new snow and a grand total of six skiers on the entire trail, network. What a great start to this years ski season.
Dicky Do

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