Springtime at Liberty Mountain… in Late January 3
Author thumbnail By Jim Kenney, DCSki Columnist

My friend Dave Thomson and I went to Liberty Mountain Resort for a very Spring-like afternoon ski session on Saturday, January 28, 2006. This seems to be my year for on-snow encounters with members of the DCSki virtual community. While at the mountain I met Connie Lawn and Otto Matheke, fellow DCSki columnists, and enjoyed a very pleasant dose of downhill revelry on a crystal clear, gorgeous ski day.

Connie Lawn spotted me unloading my gear at Liberty’s teeming base area around noontime. She’s a little like the Energizer Bunny in real life and exuberantly encouraged Dave and I to join her in the free Luge competition held at Liberty over the weekend. The event was sponsored by Verizon Communications and promotes the US Olympic Luge team. Dave and I registered for the race, but there was a pretty big crowd so we went skiing on the backside of Liberty’s two-faced mountain layout for a couple of hours. By the time we returned to the large (~150 meters), specially-built track near the bottom of the Dipsy Doodle trail the event was over. I wondered how Connie placed? That lady is a gamer for snow sports!

View from Upper Eastwind. Photo provided by Jim Kenney.

The backside of Liberty is where the action is for those game for some advanced skiing and boarding. It contains a nice array of blue/black descents with about 550’ of vertical and a continuous pitch that works very well on a soft, slow snow day like Saturday. Eastwind, Ultra, Heavenly and Whitney’s Way were all open on a carpet of manmade snow, although a number of thin spots were beginning to show through due to our mild January of 2006. The snowless, bucolic southern Pennsylvania view from the top of this terrain was like a surreal scene out of The Killer Angels or similar civil war epic, except on this day it was skiers and boarders scrambling for higher ground, not soldiers in the war between the states.

Base area on the backside of Liberty. Photo provided by Jim Kenney.

The Liberty snow farmers must employ Yankee ingenuity because even after a month of mostly unrelenting above-average temperatures, 80% of Liberty’s terrain was open for business. The challenging Eastwind trail held especially generous coverage. The black diamond Upper Eastwind had sprouted a dense pattern of robust moguls, which in Saturday’s 50+ degree temperatures were satisfyingly forgiving for 50+ year old knees. The blue square Lower Eastwind contained a thick layer of freshly blown and heavy manmade snow. In the mid-Atlantic you make your skiing fun anyway you can and each time down the latter run I fantasized that I was slalom water skiing over a sea of mashed potatoes.

Ski Instructor Otto Matheke with Student. Photo provided by Jim Kenney.

Later in the afternoon I had a chance to make a few turns with DCSki Columnist Otto Matheke (Mah-tekky). He noticed me standing with my friend Dave in the lift line and we shared a ride up the Alpine Quad chair out of Liberty’s main base (lines weren’t too bad for me on Saturday, about five minutes max). Beneath this lift Liberty’s rather elaborate terrain park bustled all day, but our attention turned to Otto, a longtime instructor at Liberty and contributor of some fine instructional articles for DCSki. As soon as we got on the hill it was apparent that this guy carves a ski trail smoother than a sharp knife through Thanksgiving turkey. I always enjoy hanging out with fine skiers and to mix another metaphor, trailing Otto down one of Liberty’s backside black diamonds was like peeking over the shoulder of a master painter working on a new sheet of white canvas.

After a few runs with Otto the afternoon shadows began to creep over the ski trails and he headed off to begin an evening ski school shift. That left Dave and I to enjoy a final hour of fast schusses down Whitney’s Way and other fun Liberty cruisers while the crowds dwindled and the slope speed increased noticeably. On the last run of the day I returned to Liberty’s large frontside base complex via the Blue Streak trail. I spied Otto instructing a student at the base of the trail and stopped to snap a quick photo of a real pro in action. Take my advice and check him out some weekend if you want a lesson or are just looking for a DCSki buddy at Liberty Mountain Resort.

I suppose my only regret about the day was that for the benefit of a lengthier season, the type of mild ski weather we enjoyed is something you don’t want to see on an extended basis in January. Liberty missed out on the recent snow that dumped in West Virginia and needs Old Man Winter back on the job to fend off further mid-season loss of snow pack. One last item on our agenda, however, eased any worried minds (or growling stomachs). On the way home we stopped for dinner at Chubby’s BBQ in Emmitsburg, MD, just a few miles south of Liberty at the turn off from Route 15. Somewhat nondescript from the highway, this place gained fame a while back by hosting an all-you-could-eat challenge for Redskin’s lineman Randy Thomas that was covered by NBC 4 sportscaster Wally Bruckner. You know a place is serious about their BBQ when five kinds of BBQ sauce in big, old hand-labeled bottles rest on every table. I liked the one marked “Private Reserve”, but it was all good. The beef brisket and pulled pork were melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

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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

Connie Lawn
January 30, 2006
Beautiful article Jim. Superbly written! Thank you for the kind comments.
I must check out Otto's instructions, but am afraid he will laugh at me.
Glad you put in a reference to the soldiers - I always think of the poor folks who died in those Gettysberg fields which we look at from the top of Liberty.
Pray for cold! Yours, Connie
Ed Birdmon Fowler
February 1, 2006
Jim, Great article.
I am amazed how well the snow has held up. The investment in snowmaking really is showing now.
January the warmest on record. Thanks to the SNOWMAKERS!!!!!

Good news, Next week night time snowmaking.
following week 24 hr operations of snowmaking.
Don't put away the gloves and coat.
Ed Birdmon Fowler
February 1, 2006
Jim, Great article.
I am amazed how well the snow has held up. The investment in snowmaking really is showing now.
January the warmest on record. Thanks to the SNOWMAKERS!!!!!

Good news, Next week night time snowmaking.
following week 24 hr operations of snowmaking.
Don't put away the gloves and coat.

Ski and Tell

Snowcat got your tongue?

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