So many wonderful places to ski, in our region and around the world. And, so little time. That is why, the weekend of February 11, with a huge snowfall approaching, I recruited my adult sons to help me out. Actually, they had made their own plans, and agreed to assist me afterwards. Sadly, the days are long gone when they were growing up and we could all ski together. But this arrangement had its advantages too. So, Charles and I went to Whitetailm Dan went to Wintergreen, and David to Wisp.
As usual, I had a wonderful time at Whitetail. It was beautiful and well-groomed, even the day before the snow. But Whitetail had been making snow all week, and the trails were in excellent shape. Of course, that got even better the next day, after about 10 inches of natural snow. While most trails were groomed, Far Side, Exhibition, and Bold Decision were left untouched, so the skiers and riders could have natural powder and Western-style conditions. The moguls remain on Exhibition, which makes it more challenging than Bold Decision at this time. But all the trails are getting better each day. Take that January - you are a soon to be forgotten memory!
Charles and I arrived very early, compliments of the Attiva Outdoors bus. Again, the bus was luxurious and efficient, picking us up promptly at 7:50 a.m. It made other stops before meeting us at Montgomery Mall. From there, it was about 80 minutes to Whitetail, and we were deposited at the front steps. On the way up, we watched a hysterical, slap-stick Disney film about skiing, and viewed a Warren Miller film on the way back. While the trip was great, Lori and Brad Kenemuth are (so far) losing a lot of money on this bus venture. There were only six of us on the large bus. They are working hard to make it work, but need support. They hope military groups, or young skiers, will sign up for the bus and ski packages each weekend. It is a terrific service, with many benefits for all of us.
My husband Charles and I took advantage of the relatively early hour and headed right for the expert trails. We had several runs down Farside and Bold Decison but only one down Exhibition. The moguls were a bit too fast for me in the morning (that all changed dramatically the next day).
For me, the most dangerous part is not the diamond trails; it is Upper Angel Drop. You have mixed traffic of hot doggers heading for the terrain park, experts returning from Ridge Runner and others heading for Drop In, and everyone searching for a path through the traffic. Whitetail has an excellent system of Mountain Safety Patrols. I wonder if there is some way they can direct traffic on the upper Angel Drop area? Can the snowboarders and fast skiers be directed to one side, so others can cross in safety and get down to Drop In? A similar arrangement could be made to help skiers and riders who are traversing from Ridge Runner, and just want to get down safely. I was nearly crashed into a few times on the crowded Saturday, and it really unnerved me. I just want to keep people intact and happy.
The Safety Patrol and Ski Patrol did an excellent job at the top of the lifts. They stood in position to help people off, especially on the top of Easy Rider Quad. Their help became even more important as the weather closed it. And, it did just that. By the afternoon, the snow was falling, and visibility greatly reduced. It was reassuring to have so many professional protectors on the mountain to keep us safe.
The snow came faster and thicker, and Charles and I retreated to the gentle Snowpark, off Easy Rider Quad. It was wonderful to dance our way down numerous times. With the poor visibility, it was challenging enough. I was so happy to be in an area I knew well!
Then at 4:30, it was a delight to pour ourselves onto the bus. Surreal to be watching ski films on the DVD player, while looking at the swirling snow outside. I left in the knowledge that those who followed the next day, and the rest of the week, would have sun, snow, and absolutely superb conditions!
Now, reports on their ski adventures by my sons - Daniel and David Rappaport:
Saturday, February 11, 2006 was a great day for natural snow and snowmaking at Wintergreen, with cold temperatures ensuring good skiing for weeks to come. We mostly skied on the green runs, Upper Dobie and Lower Dobie, which were wide and smooth trails with a bit of fresh powder. I only wished the trails were longer. These brought you down to the six-passenger Blue Ridge Express lift, which was a bit crowded due to the temporary closure of some blue trails, but provided an entertaining view of the Terrain Park acrobatics from overhead. At the lift lines, a combination of hard working employees directing traffic, and an efficient gate system to funnel lift riders, made things move quickly, though. There appeared to be many people enjoying the tubing park as well, but we mostly kept to the skiing and snowboarding side of the mountain.
Night skiing at Wintergreen lasts until 11 p.m. If you depart late and drive down the mountain at night, use extreme caution. The slippery roads and steep decline make it treacherous for even four-wheel drive vehicles. Try to rent a room and stay at the resort if you can. However, if you decide to brave the drive, I recommend lodging at the Fox Hill Bed and Breakfast in Fairfield, VA. It is about a 45 minute ride from Wintergreen, but the accommodations and views of the mountains are spectacular and well worth it. Owners Sue and Mark Erwin are warm people and terrific innkeepers with incredible attention to detail. There are horse stables and a gourmet breakfast in the morning. Visit their website at www.foxhillbb.com.
My friends and I skied Wisp on Saturday, prior to the large snowstorm that hit much of the region. The conditions on most of the trails were mediocre, although that likely improved after the significant amount of snow that fell on Saturday night and most of Sunday. Although we did not encounter a great deal of icy conditions, the packed artificial snowmaking up the base was patchy in some areas. The trails on the East Ridge -; such as Eye Opener, Main Street, and Odin’s Chute -; provided the most challenging terrain for the more advanced skiers among us. We were not very impressed with the intermediate slopes that included a number of flat areas and catwalks better suited for a cross-country ski course. The house we rented in Deep Creek Lake proved to be a great choice for a large group of people. For less than $100 a person for two nights, we stayed in a three-level ski lodge about five minutes from the slopes, which included a hot tub and pool table. A yellow lab puppy (well, almost a puppy) was welcome in the house as well, so this is a good option for pet owners. All in all, it was a fun weekend regardless of the conditions. Given the large amount of natural snow Wisp received, the rest of February should provide some good days on the slopes.
When she wasn't skiing, Connie Lawn covered the White House as a reporter since 1968.