Five fast runs down mogul-filled Exhibition! That was the story for me at Whitetail the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. I could not get enough. The conditions were perfectly packed, and the moguls just the right size. My skis communed with the snow… It just felt good. I never wanted to stop. But, finally I had to do so, and descended to do some ski writing. It is a good thing I quit when I did - Homerun on the front side nearly knocked me out of the ball park.
The front runs were well groomed, but became heavy in the afternoon. Angel Drop, Snow Dancer, Limelight, Homerun, and Stalker had been terrific earlier. My husband Charles enjoyed them, and had no problem. They were a strain on my flabby thighs. But, the backside trails - Exhibition, Bold Decision and Farside - were in excellent condition. That was more surprising, given the rain and warm weather earlier in the week. This time, the moguls were not on Bold Decision, but that will come. It shows, the ratings don’t always hold. Last week, Bold Decision did not deserve a Double Diamond rating, but Exhibition did.
The Terrain Parks were also in great shape, and well-used. I found the best skiing in the front to be down the side of the Terrain Parks (while avoiding the jumps). The side trails were well-used and packed. But, look out, and don’t get hit by flying snowboarders and jumpers!
Our trip to Whitetail was enhanced this week by two wonderful additions - a luxurious bus ride to the slopes on the new Attiva Outdoors shuttle, and an excellent ski lesson.
First the lesson - we were fortunate enough to have a one-hour private session, with one of the many excellent Whitetail instructors. John Nicolayson has been teaching skiing for nearly 40 years, including 7 at Vail. He knows his stuff! We always learn a few new points when skiing with an instructor, and I try to do so whenever I can. John reinforced my need to rely on the edges, and keep my hands in front of me - “hug the bear, but a big one, and keep the hands far apart.” Also, don’t keep the skis as close as I have been trying to do for 40 years. Parallel skis make for a more graceful run, but a space between them is easier and better for shaped skis.
For me, the main benefit of a lesson is confidence. I regain my confidence when skiing with, and following, a skilled instructor. Our lesson culminated with the first run down Exhibition. After that, I was like a mechanical toy set free. I could not stop until my battery ran down.
As we left Whitetail, the staff was setting up beautiful red decorations for the New Year’s Eve buffet. Several hundred people enjoyed a sumptuous feast, skiing and snowboarding until 1 a.m., with fireworks on the slopes at midnight. No liquor is sold, and that emphasizes the family atmosphere of the celebration. What a great deal they offered - as I left, I overheard people buying tickets for the afternoon. They asked how long the slopes were open, and were amazed to hear the reply - 1 a.m.! On other nights, the well-lit slopes are open until 10 a.m.. The slopes open at 8:30 a.m.; tubing hours are also extended.
On New Year’s Eve, we traveled to Whitetail in style. It was the inaugural run of the new Attiva Outdoors bus. While we left earlier than I prefer, it was a good thing and gave us a full day on the slopes. The bus made its first stop at Foggy Bottom; the second at McLean, Va, Government Center, near Tyson’s Corner Mall. We picked up the third stop at 7:50 a.m. behind Montgomery Mall. The bus got us to Whitetail in slightly over an hour. On the bus, we enjoyed plenty of room to stretch out, eat, and view Warren Miller ski movies on small television sets above the seats.
The ride could not have been more pleasant. As on all bus trips, we bonded with our fellow passengers. But, the service will not survive, unless there are more riders. There were five on this trip - the bus can hold 50. Lori and Brad Kenemuth, the brother and sister twenty-somethings who run the service, lost several hundred dollars on the first trip. But, they expect more people to sign up in the weeks ahead, as the service gets known. At least five more trips are planned. I admire them, and hope it works. These shuttle bus services are a routine part of the snow scene in many areas of the country and the world. In some resorts, there are still ski trains or metros. Whatever the vehicle, shared transportation to Whitetail, Liberty, and other areas is the best way to go.
When she wasn't skiing, Connie Lawn covered the White House as a reporter since 1968.
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