Spring ski - please help me decide where
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janej
October 22, 2004
Member since 09/20/2004 🔗
42 posts
Hi All,

I own a timeshare and try to use it for next Spring break. Our school break will be March 21-25. My choices are Cannon Valley/Timberline, Shawnee, Jack Frost and Big Boulder, Bryce, and Massanutten Resort. I have a few more choices in Massachusetts and Canada. But I would prefer to be closer to home if the ski condition in these local resorts are reasonablely good. Please help me decide where to go.

Many thanks for your help,

Jane
PhysicsMan
October 23, 2004
Member since 11/20/2001 🔗
218 posts
The local hills (WT, RT, Liberty) typically shut down for the season right around the time you are interested, ie, the 2nd or 3rd week of March, and the Pocono resorts are usually only a week or two behind us.

In the late spring, you need to figure out which of the ski areas available to you have the coldest avg temps. Unless you decide to go all they way up to Canada (or N. Vt., N. NH, or Maine), that means you should be going for as much elevation (~3 deg F per 1000 ft) as you can find.

Of the semi-local areas you mentioned, the Canaan V / Timberline option sounds like the best to me. I forget the exact number, but their bases are at least 2500' above sea level. This is probably at least 1000' or 3 deg (on avg) colder than the bases of the other resorts (all things being equal). 3 deg is a big deal.

Also, be prepared for the possibility of running into some wildly varying and tough conditions that late in the season. That time of year, it's fairly common for the slopes to be rock-hard in the morning, turn to bottomless, slurpy-like mush in the late afternoons, and then, in the evening, with light skier traffic, the criss-crossing, steep sided ruts that skiers left in late afternoon get frozen rock-hard into place (ie, "coral reef"), making skiing on it almost impossible.

It's not always like this, but such conditions happen often enough to mention. When it does happen, it can be pretty frustrating for vacationers for whom this is one of the few chances they get to ski each year.

If you run into conditions like I described, (1) ski high on whatever mountain you are at because that is where the better snow is; (2) take a lesson from a pro. We can show you techniques to help get you through this stuff. Last season, I think that the students that appreciated my pointers the most were the students I had when the snow was difficult.

Anyway, that's my $0.02,

Tom / PM
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
October 23, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,922 posts
Of the local choices you mentioned, Timberline is your best bet. Over the past three years, I have had very luck skiing there in March--low crowds and generally fine conditions. Last year, we even experienced a freak storm on the final weekend of the season.

On the whole, however, Tom is right about late March. It can be an iffy time here. You might consider a trip out west or to a northern New England resort. Stowe is an 11 hour drive and that mountain would be my choice.
tskski
October 23, 2004
Member since 03/13/2003 🔗
117 posts
I use my timeshare week for ski vacations and have stayed at Shawnee. We enjoyed it there. You can ski at a different mountain each day and not drive more than 45 minutes. Shawnee is not a bad place to ski. Camelback is better and only 10 minutes away. We also went to Jack Frost and Blue Mountain. We went earlier in the season and are going back this February. You never know about the snow conditions that late in the season. Good luck.
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Denis - DCSki Supporter
October 24, 2004
Member since 07/12/2004 🔗
2,212 posts
I want to add a little more to what others have said. In my 25 yrs. of local skiing, spring skiing is great but it isn't something you can plan in advance and rely upon. I've experienced 0 deg. with bulletproof ice in Canaan, Snowshoe, Blue Knob, Seven Springs, Wisp in late March. I've also had a foot or more of new light powder, and perfect spring corn. In short every possible condition. Closer in: Whitetail, Liberty, Roundtop, etc. you are more likely to get spring snow but it is also more likely to go all the way to mush. If you just go skiing in late March you will sometimes hit it perfect and other times nowhere near. I realize that isn't much help to a young family with limited vacation time and budget. Been there, done that. What you can rely upon is longer days, no crowds, possibly reduced prices, and a better chance of good corn snow skiing.

The need to have fun with whatever happens is a very good reason to take lessons when you can and learn how to handle and enjoy all kinds of snow. Your little one will do this naturally. You're not going to believe how good he will be at 10. You need to get busy so you won't be left behind with the fun.
andy
October 24, 2004
Member since 03/6/2004 🔗
175 posts
More times than not the march 23rd give or take a few would be very good at timberline.I go up there a lot in march & have rarely been disapointed.You could plan a trip in mid jan & get rain..this is the mid atlantic.Timberline's base is at 3200+ with the top at almost 4300' so when the cows are grazing down in the lowlands at 60 degrees with little puffy clowds floating by...you could be wiping the snow off your vehicle after a great day of skiing!
ski_guy_59
October 24, 2004
Member since 11/9/2001 🔗
221 posts
It's definately hit and miss. Both times I've been to Canaan Valley (Timberline first, then CV six years later) in late March, snow has been falling. I was at CV from March 21-23 last season. Only two or three trails were closed. The first day I skiied in two to three inches of powder and the second day the slopes were groomed and fast.

http://www.dcski.com/articles/view_article.php?article_id=18&mode=headlines

That's a link to the firsthand report from that trip.
The Colonel - DCSki Supporter
October 24, 2004
Member since 03/5/2004 🔗
3,107 posts
Personally, I have gone to Snowshoe about that time for multiple years in a row and always found pretty good to excellent conditions, in fact have been snowed in twice. Sometimes around the timeframe you are talking abou Snowshoe will close down their Silver Creek ski area, but usually all trails on the basin and western side are open. But as others have said, nothing is guaranteed with the weather. I agree with most of the posters, you should not even consider WT, Roundtop, Liberty, Bryce, and Massanutten. You might be OK at Wintergreen. Another option would be to stay in the POCONO Mtns. in PA and ski at Camelback, which usually has good cover and stays open later than most. But if you are stuck with the resorts you mentioned, then probably the Canaan Valley/Timberline area will be OK. The Colonel
janej
October 26, 2004
Member since 09/20/2004 🔗
42 posts
Thanks all for the information. Looks like Cannon Valley/Timberline is the place to be among all I listed. I checked out the options for places farther north, and here is what I found: Sunday River and Mt. Abram in Maine, Otis Ridge and Butternut in MA. Are these places worth the drive? Also another reason we'd like to stay closer to home is the possibility of splitting the week with friends. We might not able to take the whole week off.

Thanks a lot,

Jane
JimK - DCSki Columnist
October 26, 2004
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,714 posts
Agree that CV is best local bet in your scenario especially for a split week. However, if the more avid among your group won out, you might enjoy a full week at Sunday River. It is one of the more significant east coast ski areas. See this story by John Sherwood:
http://www.dcski.com/articles/view_article.php?article_id=391&mode=search
John also happens to be very familiar with the CV area.
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
October 27, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,922 posts
Timberline usually has a better base in March than Canaan Valley due to its superior snowmaking. However, CV is building new ponds so that may change the equation a bit this year providing those ponds are operational.

With regard to the New England resorts mentioned, Sunday River definitely has the most terrain and its location should translate into decent skiing in March. SR also has an excellent snowmaking system--one of the best in New England.

Other resorts in NE that you might consider for this period are:

Okemo-VT
Stowe-VT
Sugarbush-VT
Gore-NY
Stratton-VT
Mt. Snow-VT
Tremblant-Quebec
janej
October 27, 2004
Member since 09/20/2004 🔗
42 posts
Thanks for the link to Sunday River. It looks like a huge place. We have never took a weeklong ski trip and I have no idea if our interest would last that long. Last time we went for three days and felt it was kind of short. Is there anything else to do in that area?
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
October 27, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,922 posts
Jane:

Once you get into this sport, it no longer becomes a matter of "how many days" but "how few." Most of us would ski every day of the year if we could.

Sunday River (SR) has more than enough terrain to keep a group of skiers busy for a week. There's also a lot of slopeside lodging, and some good learning and kids programs. Outside of skiiing, however, SR has limited offerings. Bethel is not as well-equipped with shops, spas, and restaurants than say, Stowe, Vermont. As people at DCSki know, Stowe holds a special place in my heart. But Stowe is not for everyone--especially lower intermediate skiers. SR has much more terrain for this type of skier. It's also got some decent upper level intermediate terrain and even some challenging expert trails. Families who just want to hang out and ski love SR and go year after year. It's 3.5 hours from Boston if you wish to spend some time there and about 12.5 hours from DC give or take. Stowe, by contrast, is about 11 hours from DC.

One resort that might fit your group is Killington. It's huge with lots of benign intermediate terrain. Woodstock is nearby for those who'd rather spend a day shopping and seeing a quintessential Vermont Village. Killington is also a fairly easy drive from DC-about 9 hours. There are many good restaurants in the area and a legendary après ski scene. It is big and can be intimidating but once you figure the place out (which takes 2 days or so), you start to enjoy the mountains a lot more. It might be worth taking an orientation class at Killington for your first day. Also, don't miss Pico.

http://www.dcski.com/articles/view_article.php?article_id=286&mode=search

Okemo and Stratton are also good intermediate mountain, although I've never visited them so I can't speak from personal experience.

One last word about Stowe. My father was a consummate advanced beginner and loved Stowe. He was happy to ski Toll Road the entire day because of its length and diversity. Stowe's Spruce Peak area also has some easy transitional blues like Smuggler's and Sterling, but Spruce has a southern exposure, so there could be a snow problem there late in the season. The problem with Stowe for the Mid-Atlantic intermediate is that their signature blue trails--Lord, Perry Merrill, and Gondolier-would rate as black trails in this region. You don't see double fall lines on most Mid-Atlantic blues. Also, most of Stowe's double black trails are well beyond the capability of a "Mid-Atlantic" expert. As I've said before, I'm still trying to summon the courage to ski Goat. And then there's the off-piste at Stowe, which is extreme by any stretch of the word.
andy
October 27, 2004
Member since 03/6/2004 🔗
175 posts
Speaking of weather..what a great time for the east to be having mild weather. This is a good set up for T-giving skiing! soon the cold air will shift from the west(where its kicking butt)to the east..just in time for turkey day.Looks like the chill will begin toward the end of the 1st week in nov..PERFECT Think pos & Think SNOW!!
Murphy
October 27, 2004
Member since 09/13/2004 🔗
618 posts
Thanks Andy. I was quietly starting to worry about the weather we've been having. Your positive thinking makes me feel better.
jimmy
October 28, 2004
Member since 03/5/2004 🔗
2,650 posts
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