by Paul Maraschiello

New England was experiencing a "cold snap" where the temperatures was not expected to rise above zero all weekend and that was at the BOTTOM of the mountain. I remember those "cold snaps". When I lived in Vermont and had to put on my parka, hat and gloves just to go to bed, so I decided to visit a local ski area instead. I had taught at Whitetail many years ago and still had a few friends there. I headed to this little ski area in southern Pennsylvania, just across the line from Maryland for a day on the snow.

It was cold but not too cold. It seems that the Washington, D.C. ski trade had forgotten about this little gem located just over an hour from Washington. Luckily, I had not. I was sort of chuckling to myself as I drove on Interstate 70 to the Clear Spring exit, just six miles from Whitetail. I had spent the last few years skiing some of the biggest and best ski areas in America, as all you readers well know. Now, because of the weather, I was going to ski a mountain that has less that a thousand-foot vertical. My inflated ego was making me poo-poo my old stomping grounds.

Whitetail has 18 trails and six lifts, including a high-speed quad and a quad that services the steeper area that everybody calls the "backside". There are three "blue" trails on the front off the high-speed quad and three "black" trails on the backside called Bold Decision, Far Side and Exhibition. They groom Far Side and Exhibition and usually let the bumps build up on Bold Decision. Those bumps can be intimidating, especially when they get icy. All the other trails are suitable for beginners.

The snow was firm, the lift line was small and I was ready for a great day on the slopes. I took a few runs under the high-speed quad and then headed to the backside to ski on the steepest trails this little resort had to offer. One run down Exhibition and I remembered why I was so delighted when Whitetail first opened. Their expert runs had a fairly steep, consistent pitch and were just long enough to keep me in shape for the really big mountains, and they were really FUN for even an expert skier like myself. The runs are short and with no liftline, I could make a round-trip in a little over six minutes. I made run after nonstop run and had a really great morning.

I went into Windows restaurant for a really great lunch and ran into some old friends and met some new people. After lunch, I immediately proceeded to the backside and demonstrated my turning skill right under the chair on Exhibition. I met a lot of nice people skiing single and had another really good day. I kept my eye open for old friends and skied really hard all day. Almost all of the trails at Whitetail were open and I skied all the intermediate and expert trails. By the end of the day my thighs were burning and I was getting tired. A good sign that I had put in a really hard day on the slopes.

The terrain park has a series of jumps, rails, tabletops and other items that seem to thrill all the snowboarders and many of the younger skiers. There were a lot of kids that love this section of the hill. I must be getting old because I felt no urge to slide along a rail on my skis or do a Zoodnick of a big kicker.

I did manage to make the Slam-Bam Huck Jam and really enjoyed the events. The staff was all duded up in cowboy attire and there was a Slope Style competition where the skiers and riders took big hits on the various jumps and rails in the alpine park.

The next day, they held a Border Cross and Skier Cross competition that was really gnarly. Every time I see this event, I am reminded of the Chinese Downhill in the movie "Hotdog". In this contest, four skiers or riders go down the hill at a time through a course with jumps and banked turns I would never attempt (and I'm a pretty good skier). After each heat the number of competitors was narrowed until a winner could be crowned. It was a wild contest that drew a lot of the local talent. It was really great to see a little bit of the X Games at Whitetail. Watching that event was thrilling and I was able to get in a lot of good skiing too.

Whitetail has a lot to offer skiers in this part of the country. It is the best ski area within four hours of D.C. and they have uncrowded slopes, night skiing and reasonable ticket prices. You can purchase a four-hour flex ticket ($35 midweek $43 weekend), eight-hour flex ($41 - $48) or an Extended ticket (open-10 PM) for $47 - $54. Reasonable prices combined with easy access to both Washington and Baltimore makes this ski area very doable for those refugees from New England and the Rockies who want to ski on weekends or after work and get their dose of moguls or high-speed cruising.

For several years (after I gave up teaching and before I became a ski writer), I would purchase a season pass at Whitetail. This is such a fine little mountain. Because I skied regularly at Whitetail, I was able to keep up with my friends who were "regulars" at Killington or other major ski resorts.

Whitetail may be small but the services they offer are comparable to many resorts that are a lot bigger. The ski school is excellent for beginners and intermediates. Many of the staff have years of teaching experience and some have an impressive ski resume. This is a friendly mountain that really strives to ensure their visitors have an excellent skiing or snowboarding experience.

If you can't make it to the big ski areas in New England or out West, head to Whitetail. For skiers and snowboarders living in the Washington, D.C./Baltimore area, Central Maryland, Southern Pennsylvania, Northern Virginia or Northern West Virginia, Whitetail is the best ski area within a hundred miles. The staff is very friendly and they make a lot of snow. They have a really good Ski School, the Skiwee Program is a great place for children to learn to ski and the prices are reasonable. They even have a racing program for aspiring racers.

Friendly bus drivers shuttle you to and from the parking lot and they have many of the amenities found at much bigger ski areas. The lifts and all new and no matter what kind of skier you are, you will have a really good time.