Firsthand Report: Wisp’s One Week Wonder 8
Author thumbnail By Jim Kenney, DCSki Columnist

It was 70 degrees in our region when I made a serious act of faith on December 1, 2006 by contacting my brother John about a trip to Wisp Resort, Maryland for their season opening birthday celebration on Sunday, December 10. After a very mild November the weather forecast called for chilly nights over the next week or so. I told John that there was a good chance the great snowmaking crew at Wisp could get a big chunk of the ski area open with just one good week of cold temperatures.

Fast forward to December 10 for a glorious Sunday when the faithful were duly rewarded. After a beautiful early morning drive I pulled the minivan into a mostly empty Wisp parking lot at 9 a.m. with an amped-up group of six guys consisting of myself, my brother John, my friend Robert, and one son each. Crowds proved to be relatively light all day despite Wisp’s outstanding offering of 14 trails and 5 lifts in operation, sunny skies, 50 degree highs, and $7 birthday special lift tickets.

After last year’s major expansion Wisp is now a very big place. Even with only about half of Wisp’s 32 trails open, the available terrain was excellent including a selection of blacks, blues and greens from the summit down the front face of the mountain and some long easy runs over in the North Camp area. This was more than enough to work out those first-day-of-the-season kinks on a snow surface that was terrific packed manmade powder for the most part.

Roger and John Kenney on Belly Flop. Photo provided by Jim Kenney.

My group took full advantage of the variety of open terrain. My brother John spent the morning on the Belly Flop beginner run introducing his eight year old son Roger to his first real ski experience. The rest of us hit the main mountain as Wisp’s tandem pair of triple chairs gobbled up the small crowd heading to the 3,100-foot summit.

Because of the Indian Summer weather of November, heading down the steep pitch of Squirrel Cage (a black diamond run) was particularly colorful on a limpid Sunday with huge white whales of snow lining the trail, Kelly-green golf fairways off to skier’s distant left, and the royal blue waters of Deep Creek Lake filling the view to skier’s right. Another black diamond, The Face, offered the best manmade conditions on the mountain. Our group of mixed ability also enjoyed The Wisp Trail and Muskrat-to-Boulder, a fine pair of blue/green summit to base options. The folks at Wisp had served up a seriously high quality ski day to celebrate their 51st year of operation!

Later in the morning I took a turn with eight year old Roger in the beginner area while John took a few runs with my son Vince on the main hill. The easy Belly Flop slope is served by its own carpet lift. What an improvement over the old days when Roger’s dad and I learned to ski by wrestling with rope tows! Roger turned out to be a real gamer and it was great to see a first timer take an instant liking to the sport. I think it might be in his genes and I hope we have another snowriding Kenney hooked for life.

Tom (Tommo) Mobley Finishing the Face. Photo provided by Jim Kenney.

After lunch in the huge base lodge a bunch of us met with Tom (Tommo) Mobley from Gaithersburg. Tom’s a veteran local skier and an informed contributor to the DCSki Message Forum. Tom knows Wisp’s layout well and loves to ride the humongous whales running in packs down the steeper trails. He and I also enjoyed the fluffy manmade groomed surface on the shady side of The Face. Some of the manmade snow blown there by tower mounted cannons makes its way into the steep, adjacent glades for cool tree dodging beside the black diamond Devil’s Drop trail.

In mid-afternoon I met up with John and Roger Kenney again. Roger had continued to gain mastery over his skis and was itching to get out of the beginner area. I hadn’t been to the North Camp area yet, so I suggested we migrate over there.

North Camp’s Big Dipper Trail Photo provided by Jim Kenney.

Both of North Camp’s chairlifts and several long green circle runs were open. Happy Camper and Big Dipper were perfect for Roger to do some extended independent skiing on his own while his dad and I hovered nearby. The weather was still bright and calm and the three of us had a great couple of hours taking a number of rides on lightly utilized chairlifts. At one point I broke off to try the intermediate Ace’s Run that parallels North Camp’s chair 7. I followed a snowboarder attempting a nice string of extreme carves down the full sunny length of Ace’s approximately 600 feet of vertical drop.

Wisp is three hours from the Washington-Baltimore area via speedy Interstate 68. I had to make a few detours/drop-offs to accommodate my group so we decided to head home at 4 p.m. (note for hardcores - day skiing runs from 9-5). The drive back was filled with tales of skiing glory recounted by sunburned fathers and sons, followed later with dreams of future glory accompanied by a soundtrack of snoring.

My hat’s off to Wisp. In one week they went from green grass to offering a wonderful ski product for their opening weekend. For my group’s visit on Sunday it was the sort of sunny, packed powder, Colorado-like experience that is sure to bring ‘em back for more.

Temperatures since then returned to mild territory, but the tremendous amounts of manmade snow I saw at Wisp have held up and should power the resort through the next few days, when temperatures will return to seasonable levels.

Left-to-Right: Tom Mobley, Neal Cobert, Robert Cobert and Vince Kenney Beneath Devil’s Drop Glades. Photo provided by Jim Kenney.
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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

John Kenney
December 18, 2006
Brother Jim was right. I have been skiing since 1963 starting in California and points East. Wisp impressed me with all the snow making equipment and the wall to wall coverage. The slopes were well groomed and the variety was terrific. Thanks for a great day!
December 18, 2006
Wow! The pictures really captured the blue sky and great coverage that day. I certainly enjoyed it and it's great to "re-live" the day in the article. Hopefully we'll all enjoy many more days like that this winter.
steve p
December 20, 2006

We shared a lift that day, I was the guy who also braved Ripcord at Mt Snow. Good article, pray for cold and see u out there!

December 21, 2006
Thanks for the feedback guys.

Hope Santa tells Jack Frost to lay off the eggnog and get back to work.
December 21, 2006
BTW, that sunny photo of Tommo finishing The Face was taken before I knew it was him. We rendezvoused to ski a few runs together seconds later. Sometimes the best shots are total serendipity.
December 21, 2006
Great story Jim. Thanks.
December 21, 2006
Great story Jim. Thanks.
January 3, 2007
Really grateful for your article, JimK! Thanks to your writeup, I tried out Wisp today for the first time and was impressed by the snow remaining, even after this long warm stretch. They do a great deal with their modest vertical on that extensive ridge.

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