Sunday 1/20 Whitetail Report
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JohnL
January 21, 2002
Member since 01/6/2000
3,509 posts
I skied at Whitetail on Sunday, January 20. Heading out, the day was expected to be one of the most crowded days of the ski season:
it fell on one of the two mid-winter holiday weekends, was a sunny day, and was the day after the first significant DC-area snowfall. I decided to risk the crowds since I hadn't skied all season and was developing some serious ski-withdrawal shakes. Crowd expectations turned into reality as the lift lines were robust most of the day and the parking lot was a sea of cars viewed from the top of the mountain (hill?). Based on chairlift conversations, the parking lot was at full capacity by around noon (if not sooner). I'm not sure if people were turned away due to the full lots.

Fortunately, my group was able to avoid most of the worst congestion by observing the tried and true techniques for ski areas:
1) Arrive early (8:45 in our case - still hoping to one day make the 8:30 opening chair).
2) Take lunch early or late (early for us).
3) Ski where most people don't when the crowds are at a peak (tough to find a true out-of-the-way section in an area as small as Whitetail but the Expert's Choice chair comes close). However, if you can't handle the lifts/terrain on the expert area, please stay away. See complaint below.

My liftline estimates are highly subjective, so take them with a grain of salt. Whitetail's official numbers may differ, but I'd probably take them with an even bigger grain of salt. The high-speed quad lift lines were manageable (< 5 minutes) until around 11 or so. After that, 10+ minutes (or even 10++) was probably the norm for the rest of the day. The Expert's Choice lift lines varied from 5 to 10 minutes, with surprisingly short lines during an early to mid afternoon stretch. The Expert's Choice lines became heinous around 3:15, probably due to skiers/sliders arriving mid-afternoon hoping to catch a run or two before that section closed for the day. It almost looked like the lines would extend up the slopes! Pity the poor person who skis to the bottom only to have some liftie say to him, "Uh, the end of the line is back up the hill. Start climbing."

Returning to the front side around 3:45, the decision to call it a day was an easy one as the lines for the high-speed quad and beginner's lift had merged into one single mass. A stream of skiers arriving from the slopes was trying to penetrate the center of this mass to either get to the end of the lines or to get to the lodge. Ugly site. Where's Moses when you need him?

By skiing smart, we got our money's worth ($45 for an 8-hour ticket) on a very busy day.

Since it had snowed the day before, the high-speed quad trails had ideal packed-powder conditions during the morning. However, no trails can support the amount of skier traffic from a heavy holiday weekend, so by mid-afternoon, the surface of the busier trails (Angel Drop, Exhibition, etc.) turned into the standard layer of impenetrable perma-frost with piles of powdered sugar scattered about.

The double-black Bold Decision was not groomed and it bumped up nicely during the day. It wasn't freshies, but there was enough soft snow to make taking aggressive bump lines relatively easy on the body. Whitetail's decision to not regularly groom Bold Decision has turned out to be very wise - the trail has enough terrain variation to make it a very nice trail for advanced skier/sliders. Whitetail seems to make a lot of snow on Bold Decision, since the cover was outstanding.

Couldn't say the same about the cover on Exhibition (under the chair) and Far Side. The last bottom face of Far Side (it receives a lot of sun) was a ski tuner's dream, as there were bare spots and plenty of loose small rocks hidden in the scraped-off snow. Even if you avoided the bare spots, you were still playing Russian roulette with your bottoms. By the end of the day, Exhibition also had a lot of bare spots on its bottom section. Both Exhibition and Far Side are in need of significant man-made snow.

One note about the Expert's Choice lift. There was an inordinate number of lift stoppages throughout the day. At the worst, the lift would stop 10 times or so during one trek up the hill (stopping about every three cars). I'm not sure if it was lift problems or the huge amount of beginners who can't handle loading on a non-detachable quad. (Warren Miller would have shot a lot of blooper film.) My guess is that it was primarily the former, perhaps the full loads on the lift caused some automatic stopping mechanism to trigger. The lifties seemed as baffled as the rest of us. The situation improved slightly as the day wore on; nonetheless, I don't think I had one trip on the lift where it didn't stop at least once. Hopefully, Whitetail resolves this problem before the next busy day.

ski_guy_59
January 21, 2002
Member since 11/9/2001
221 posts
thanks for the report John!
Mo
January 21, 2002
Member since 03/26/2001
33 posts
That sounds pretty similar to what I saw at Liberty on Sunday. After 3 pm the crowds were huge! We stuck around and tried to make the best of it. On the front side of Liberty, the lift lines were backed up about 10 to 15 minutes, with the First Class quad being the worst. I didn't go to the back side -- I'm not a confident enough skier for that yet. So it may have been better over there. We thought about going to Whitetail instead, but I see that wouldn't have been any better. I asked one of the Liberty lift attendants about the huge number of skiers and he said he expected it to be even busier on Monday (the 21st)!!
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