Finally made it to the slopes for the first time this past weekend. (I'm still kicking myself for not squeezing in a day in Vermont the weekend before Xmas and driving back up New Year's weekend.
I drove to West Virginia Saturday AM, so I was able to view the transition of ground cover from brown to white in daylight. Despite the lack of white stuff back in D.C., the West Virginia Highlands (Alpps?) had received well over a foot of snow this past week. I started seeing snow on the ground during the climb up the Allegheny Front above Seneca Rocks on Route 33, gradually saw more as my car gained vertical, the whiteness increased as I headed north on Route 32, and when I finally reached the valley, the entire valley floor was well covered in a white blanket. Nice!
Despite the winter landscape, the air temps were fairly balmy; no need to bundle up. With the late start to the weekend, I didn't hit the first chair until 11 AM. Wouldn't be hitting any fresh corduroy at that hour and the snow would be soft (and maybe tricky) with the warm temps. Turns out Timberline had only three routes down from the top of the mountain; White Lightning, Off The Wall and Salamander. I was hoping Dew Drop would be open to start my season on a blue, but no such luck. So first turns would be on White Lighting. This wouldn't have been an issue for the cruise-o-rama groomed WL of year's past, but I knew from DCSki that this year's version had some swales (baby whales?) and was more bumped up. First two runs down WL revealed some major league rust and general lack of coordination. Ugh. Ski legs didn't return after a subsequent run down Sally. Hmmmmm. When in doubt, try Off The Wall. The short quick turns required to get down OTW jogged the system. Muscle memory hit big time the next run down WL, and the ski season was on!
Some comments on the trails. I miss the trees between Upper Silver Streak and White Lightning, and still think cutting them down was a mistake. But I like the new swales on WL; it now skis pretty darn close to a true black. With no blues open the increased slider traffic on WL and warm temps resulted in a few sections of true bumps. The days of hitting WL at Mach 10 with your mind turned off are over. (Mach 10 now requires some skills and concentration.) I hope TL doesn't get lazy with the grooming and keeps Upper and Lower Thunderstruck the high-speed groomers that they should be. With its curves, Upper Thunderstruck is a much better high speed run than White Lightning, which just heads straight down the hill.
Off The Wall: now one of my favorite trails in the Mid-Atlantic. It had better snow conditions all weekend than did White Lightning. 08 is an excellent vintage of whales; only one at the very bottom was a useless deposit of frozen H20. Tons of interesting lines to choose from; you could go straight over the blow holes down the left center, hit skier's right for a true mogul run, or mix and match.
Later on in the day, met up with fellow DCSki poster Jimmy. He should be renamed The Mayor of Timberline. I've never been introduced to so many new people and shaken so many hands in so few hours. Primary season in West Virginia? Highlight of the rest of Saturday was hitting the perfect snow of OTW with some ski school tele skiers with about a dozen ski patrollers grouped at the bottom writing tickets (warning to not ski OTW again today.) Fortunately, none of our group got busted, prolly due to some well-placed bribes. Some obvious judicial prejudice was exercised against a snow blader or two. Second thing of note was a deer that crossed through the woods under the Thunder Draft chair, waited for the right moment, then sprinted across White Lighting. Fortunately, no trail kill occurred.
Had my first dinner at Whitegrass that evening with the members of my new ski house. The cafe lived up to its reputation, with apparently more of a slant to the flesh eaters than in the past (no complaints from me.) The highlight of the eclectic buffet was the most tender pork loin I've had; turns out it was soaked in brine for four days. Maybe not heart healthy, but stomach friendly. A close second was a spicy rice dish that had chick peas and some other veggie type stuff in it. With a few excellent local brews, some key lime pie and a cup of joe for dessert, and a duet playing old school country and folk/bluegrass? in the background, I wasn't complaining.
Until we exited the building to find out it was raining pretty good outside. A bit earlier than expected. Heard the rain on the roof all night and it was off and on Sunday AM when I woke up. Since I had purchased a two day lift ticket the day before, I was skiing at least a bit rain or shine. Fortunately, my strategy of waiting until later in the morning paid off. I skied 11 AM to past 3 PM, with no need for Goretex (but with some light precip here and there.) TL was a ghost town; very few skiers were on the mountain and the Silver Queen chair was not running.
The main challenge was the fog; it wasn't the worst conditions I've skied in, but the occasional bump or two on White Lightning appeared suddenly. Fortunately, the Titanic was not sunk. Despite the overnight rain, the surface was surprisingly firm. Skiing in rain-soaked snow can be similar to skiing in corn snow, but it was not the case on Sunday.
Played around skier's far right on Off The Wall; skiing around some small saplings to make things interesting. Tried to let my skis run a bit, but early season soreness in the legs and not the best visibility resulted in poor results. Found out the best snow was right over the whales. Skied a bunch of runs with that line, hitting tons of nice, soft, water-soaked snow.
It was depressing to see that the previous day's blanket of white on the valley floor was no mas. Worse yet, most of the snow between the trails and on the trails where snowmaking had not yet started had vanished. It was Winter Wonderland transformed to mud city. Some occasional mud turds were at the bottom of White Lightning and there were two major bare spots near the bottom of Off The Wall. After the tropical onslaught of this upcoming week, I'll bet that Timberline will need to run the guns at least one day on WL and OTW to replenish the surface.
Hey, this is the Mid-Atlantic. Carpe Skiem.