Finally, cold, crisp wind, blue skies, sunshine, and fresh snow arrived at Liberty! And we could finally return to skiing at our closest areas - Liberty and Whitetail - after months of waiting. We had a blast at Liberty, and will visit Whitetail shortly. It was wonderful to see the familiar friends, the beautiful, snow-covered slopes, and the modern, efficient ski lifts. The terrain park was in especially good shape, and was well-utilized by the amazing x-boarders and skiers. When my husband Charles and I were there on Saturday, January 20, 2007, the snow blowers had nearly covered the tubing park, which was set to open on Sunday. President and General Manager Eric Flynn predicted most of the resort would be open shortly, and this time it is anticipated the cold will be here to stay. He hopes to stay open as long as the 24th of March, which would enable the season to function its usual 95 days, despite the painful start of the winter. Last year they closed on March the 12th.
When we were at Liberty, 6 trails were open and 4 quad lifts. The snow was fresh, machine groomed packed powder, and plentiful in the areas open. The snow blowers were in full operation, and the resort wisely advised, “wear your helmet and goggles.” It is a challenge to ski or board through a canyon of blowing snow, and it does freeze quickly on your face - not fun in weather which hovered at 20 degrees. But, it is all part of the wonder and excitement. I visualized skiing through an arctic blizzard, as I sailed past the machines. It is loud and dramatic. Without the machine-made snow hurricanes, there would be so little skiing. I would love to send a special kiss to those who invented snow machines, perfected them, and keep them going.
In addition to the snow machines, I am thankful Liberty has the advanced back side of the mountain. Not only are the trails terrific; it cut out the cold wind. In fact, it got quite warm making the fast runs on the back. Only Heavenly and Lower Ultra were open when we were there, but they were in excellent shape. A lot of soft moguls had formed on Heavenly, which I like, because they break my speed and add to control. I pretend I am a kangaroo, jumping from each tiny mound. I was also pleased to be surrounded by responsible snow lovers. Despite the crowds packed into a rather small area, I saw no hot doggers skiing or boarding out of control. That was essential - craziness in those conditions could have spelled disaster.
It is still strange to see the familiar trails without snow. The Strata Quad lift took us over the Ultras, Eastwinds, and Stratas. They are innocuous without snow, and actually look quite gentle. (Lower Ultra was open, with fast, smooth, packed powder). If you ever wondered, the grass slopes are smooth with absolutely no moguls; they are only formed by the skiers and boarders, with some help from the groomers. But there are nasty looking rocks on the slopes, which will be covered by the snow. The rocks and dirt are one reason I do not favor the sport of grass skiing in the warm weather - it can really wreck your knees when you go down. I can, unfortunately, attest to that first hand. But, grass skiing is not a sport offered by Liberty!
Throughout Liberty, the staff all seemed polite and in good spirits. Everyone was so thankful to be back. Publicity and marketing director Anne Weimer was scurrying around, organizing and promoting activities. Some of the events coming up include Pennsylvania Learn to Ski and Board Day; Operation Thank You for Military and Homeland Security personnel, and Wounded Warriors Weekend on March the 3rd and 4th. As with any resort, please check the website for constant updates; some events have been rescheduled due to the warm stretch.
One of the nicest things about Liberty is the large lodge and cafeteria. They are part of the hotel, whichs make Liberty a full-service conference center, as well as a ski resort. My favorite section inside includes the cozy fireplace and couches, which are near a Starbucks and a television set, for those who are taking a rest from the slopes. There were all ages of people resting, warming, eating, and taking a break from the elements.
The resort is clean, and the all-important bathrooms are in great shape. I especially appreciate the fact there is nice hot water in the sinks, to thaw my frozen fingers. These are regular faucets, and the water is there when you needed it. No need to fight with the modern ones, where you have to be a rocket scientist to activate a signal, and get the water to flow! By the way, on the topic of frozen fingers, it is great to buy the heat activated pads that you place in your gloves. I bought some for $2.00 in the resort sports shop, and they elevate your mood, as they send heat through your hands and perk up the entire body. At the end of skiing, I gave mine to another skier - they last for about 8 hours, and there was no sense wasting them.
One other observation about Liberty, Ski Roundtop, and Whitetail - our closest areas to the Washington Metropolitan region (both are owned by Snow Time and the tickets are interchangeable). They are essential to the region; without them there would be no good, convenient skiing in the area. And, they are a fascinating reflection of the nation’s Capitol. It is like skiing in a mini-United Nations, with the mix of people from all countries, ethnic and professional backgrounds. Amidst the diversity, I always see a number of people I know, because we are in our own backyard after all.
I am so pleased the areas stuck with us, and did not “go under” during the craziness of November and December. No one knows what will happen next, but you might want to show them some loyalty while they are working hard to stay open and make snow. Don’t forget the ski and snowboard instructors - they also lost work throughout this period, and most of them just resumed teaching on Saturday. That was no easy task - having to shout through the noise of the wind and snow blowers. Can you imagine teaching beginners under those conditions?
As Eric Flynn told us, the early season “has been tough on everyone, the staff and passholders.” But, he says, “the snow is as good as it gets, and they are making the best snow they possibly can.”
So, thank you resorts. Man, am I ever glad you are still there for us!
When she wasn't skiing, Connie Lawn covered the White House as a reporter since 1968.
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