December 17, 2001
While waiting for this endless summer to end, it may be fun to ask members to pick a mountain in the mid-Atlantic area that you think would be perfect for a ski area (putting money, politics and environmental issues aside). There are many big mountains in this area that could put up New England-like statistics, save snowfall, but it seems only the dinky ones have been developed.
For help, you may want to go to TOPOZONE.COM. They have topographic maps available to view on-line of the entire country, so you can check out mountain elevations and steepness.
There's a lot you could get into on this question. Looking at local areas, one of the last considerations might be the geography and size of mtn. Most ski hills seem to have been chosen for proximity to other things going on- like real estate development, golfing, recreation, etc. I'm sure zoning, roads, infrastructure, access to water for snowmaking and other boring economic factors played too. If you've ever been to Wintergreen, VA you can see importance of weather. That place could actually probably get close to another 1000 feet of vertical drop, but they get very little natural snow. I'm they stopped the runs half way down the mtn with the idea that snow would be made and hold better at the higher elevation. I've hiked in Shen Nat'l Park a fair amount. That park has numerous peaks in the 4000' foot range that would provide 2500' of vertical if developed, but no way. I'm sure many places in W.VA, maybe around Spruce Knob, would support 2000+ verts. But it wouldn't help if it won't hold snow. Almost all ski areas in east have northeast orientation to minimize sun exposure and hold snow. The problem at Snowshoe is that their small vert side holds snow real well (NE) and their big vert side (western orientation) doesn't. It's also more windy. Speaking of that, Mt Washington in NH would easily provide close to 4000' vert! But it's so frigging cold no humans could not survive it to enjoy it. Blue Knob comes to mind a a local place where they picked the biggest, coldest mtn around, with little consideration for anything else, for the site of a ski area. Good terrain, but struggling infrastructure. Life is full of compromise.
There is a mountain just north of Seneca Rocks WV with a northern exposure and a vertical of 2100', with a good mix of terrain. Mount Marshall just below skyline drive has about a 2400' vertical on an eastern exposure, but a low base elev. There is also a big north facing bowl just south of Canaan Valley with a 4700' peak elevation and over 1800' of vertical. It may be a bit steep, according to the topo maps. Locally, there is mountain on the Frederick Co/ Washington CO. line in MD, highly visible from I-70 that could have 1000'+ of long cruising trails on a east to NE exposure.
Right now with this weather, all these areas have just as much snow as the "real" resorts, so might as well keep-on-dreamin'!