Local resorts with consistent early snow?
June 10, 2004
Hi all! We hope all you local ski experts can help us. We have family who just decided to fly in from overseas to spend Christmas 2004 with us, and they want to ski locally. We'd want to go several days before Christmas (December 18 through 23), which will help with booking lodging at this late date. Also, there will be four kids in our group (8, 6, 4, and 2). All of us are beginners, and none of us has ever been to a local resort. What is a good, family-friendly resort within 5 hours of DC that will have snow (man-made or natural) by December 18?
From where in the DC area are you coming from? Snowshoe does seem to advert open trails the earliest I think. Maybe the (greater) Canaan/Timberline/Wisp area is 2nd? Just a guess. 7 springs, not sure.
I would definitly check out 7 Springs. Great resort, great beginners terrain, easy drive (all interstate)from DC area and if they're not fully open by first week in December no one will be.
Warren is exactly right about Snowshoe, but depending on where you're coming from, the trip down can be quite an adventure.
Canaan Valley and Timberline will probably still be opening terrain the week you're going.
Wow, you are all so helpful and fast! You've all mentioned the usual suspects.
Well, I've done some calling. Snowshoe said they usually open the weekend before Thanksgiving, Canaan Valley Thanksgiving weekend, and 7 Springs was a bit more erratic (2003: mid-Dec; 2002: Xmas; 2001: mid-Dec; and 2000: beg-Dec). Snowshoe can't do the dates we want, without cobbling packages together and us overpaying for days we don't need. Canaan Valley has accomodation available, as well as 7 Springs.
KevR, what else is there to do at Wisp or nearby? My colleague really talked up Wisp, but also called Canaan Valley "beautiful," but more "rustic."
Warren and Jimmy: When you say they (Canaan Valley/Timberline) are slow to open terrain, what does that mean? In other words, say they have just a couple of advanced trails open, so the resort is open? In that case, there may as well be no snow for all of us since we're all beginners. Do certain trails tend to open early, or is it a bit of a crapshoot from year to year?
I know my husband is interested in tubing, and my nephew is into snowboarding.
By the way, Snowshoe is taking names and putting people on waitlists now for this winter, and then when the "open" the books, they'll fill from the waitlists. At least that is what I was told.
We are in Arlington, VA.
Canaan and Timberline will not open without beginners terrain. 7 Springs opens their "Front" face first which is a nice blend of beginner and intermediate. As far as 7 Springs opening dates, my first day there the last four years- 12/6/03, 12/1/02, 12/22/01 (this was a bad year all over our area), 11/23/00.
Wisp is a good choice, but I'm not sure about how early they open.
Canaan says they plan to open for Thanksgiving but I don't think they have recently.
You've received good scoop. Snowshoe, Seven Springs, and Wisp are leaders in snowmaking ops and usually start them as early as any resort in the region due to favorable geographics. But even the best snowmakers can't totally control Mother Nature, so making advance plans for a pre-Christmas ski trip in the mid-Atlantic always involves some risk. If you're shying away from Snowshoe, then Seven Springs might fit your interests. Here's a report I wrote a few years ago about a trip to Seven Springs, bottom line was that despite a slow starting ski season that year (worst start of 4 years you cite) Seven Springs offered some of the best skiing available in the region that December: http://www.dcski.com/news/2002/01_02_2002/7springs.php
Wisp can open just as strongly as the other two, has some outstanding terrain/conditions and is only 3 hrs away from Arlington, but for variety of accommodations, non-ski activities and services all available directly adjacent to the lifts the edge goes to Seven Springs and Snowshoe.
Just to confuse you here's a report I wrote about great pre-Christmas skiing at Wisp in Dec 2002, one of best starts/seasons in memory: http://www.dcski.com/news/2002/12_16_2002/wisp.php3
Well how 'bout Wisp? Do they often have snow by Dec 18? And having now been once, I think it's a good beginner ski 'mountian', with plenty of places to stay nearby and other activities to partake in should the skiing turn out to be a little off.
Any other opinions?
The first resort that comes to mind for me would be Snowshoe, WV Snowshoe Mountain
They are generally open by Thanksgiving (if not before). They have many lodging options to offer. For that time-period, I would suggest booking early though as they fill quickly (They usually open the winter reservations in early August). They have a very large portion of the mountain that is all beginner terrain (The Northern Tract). There are several restaurants and shops in the village as well as the Split Rocks pool/spa complex for Apres Ski. They have a good ski school for both the children and adults. My daughter (now 8) has been in their program for the last 3 years and is now a solid advanced skier
. Other places that may have decent coverage by that time period would be 7 Springs, Wisp, possibly even Canaan Valley WV, and Timberline but they are slow to open terrain. If you have other/more detailed Snowshoe questions, please let me know.
As for Wisp vs Canaan, I can't really say with only 1 weekend at Wisp but generally speaking I think most folks consider the terrain to more advanced at Canaan and Timeberline. Wisp is ... well a little bump really but they get a lot of snow starting fairly early just like the relatively nearby Canaan/T-line areas. In and around the greater deep creek lake area by wisp are state parks, some shopping, other outdoor activities, dining and so on. In essence, I think a pretty good location for a family outing with limited skiing experience that is relatively close to DC, and POSSIBLY open in early December.
It's a crapshoot - who knows with Mother Nature.
I skied Snowshoe on Thankgiving many years ago. BUT, I also remember they played hell getting ONE top-to-bottom open on Xmas one year !!!! But, for "local" if there's anything, it'll be at Snowshoe.
NOTE: everyone's right about one thing: BOOK NOW if you even THINK you'll be there around Xmas. SERIOUSLY (I've done the 'Shoe 6 years at Xmas): start dialing @ 8:00am Aug. 2nd this year for packages....SERIOUSLY!
Oh...they'll open the Beginners area FIRST.
Although it occasionally happens, Thanksgiving skiing in the Mid-Atlantic is more myth than reality. Even Snowshoe rarely opens that early.
Most of the Western resorts (those west of Cumberland, MD), however, do open with decent terrain and coverage by about 10 December. Snowshoe, Wisp, and Seven Springs have the best snowmaking so they can get more terrain open faster than Timberline or Canaan Valley, but Timberline, it should be mentioned, has been improving snowmaking over the years. In short, I expect it to open two significant slopes by 10 December (the 2 mile long Salamander green slope and the black White Lightning).
My pick is 7 Springs. At just 3 hours drive from DC, you'll get your biggest bang for the drive and the buck early season (unless Snowshoe has Western Territory open). I went there on opening day last season and loved it. Here's my report: http://www.dcski.com/news/2003/12_09_2003/sevensprings.php3
Thanks for the input! We called some real estate agents around Snowshoe, and it is just too pricey. So, it looks like 7 Springs is our choice. We've booked two townhouses, right next to each other. (Shuttle bus is fine for us.) 7 Springs seems to have enough to keep everyone entertained, and we like the location. I like the fact they seem to be aggressive about snow-making -- thanks for those start dates, Jimmy! I also realize that it is all a bit of a crapshoot, but I have to say, based on what you all have said, Seven Springs was the most honest with me when I asked them point-blank when they opened the last few years.
Also, it's not too far from Arlington, and there's a lot to do around 7 Springs, both at the resort and nearby. Fallingwater, I realized, is only a short drive away, so I think we will send the relatives there to see that. (We've been before and don't want to drag a 2- and 4-year-old there.) We may make a day trip to Hidden Valley, since they seem to have a snow play area for toddlers (assuming there is enough snow to open it). In any case, I think we can keep everyone well-entertained.
Here's some other sights to consider within a 1.5 hour drive of 7 Springs:
Andy Warhol Museum (Pittsburgh)
National Aviary (Pittsburgh)
Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittburgh)
Carnegie Science Center (Pittsburgh)
Carnegie Museum of Natural History (Pittsburgh)
Pittsburgh also has some interesting neighborhoods to explore with good restaurants and shopping. Also, have your relatives take a ride on the famous Pittsburgh funicular for great views of the city and the three rivers.