SNOW STILL HOLDING AT WHITETAIL
by Paul Maraschiello
This February thaw may have melted the snow on the streets, but there is still plenty of snow at Whitetail, just over an hour's drive north of Washington, DC. With fair skies and warm temperatures, skiers and snowboarders are greeted by sunshine and short liftlines day after day. Even though the temperature might soar into the 50's during the day, at night when the mercury dips into the 20's and low 30's, state-of-the-art snowmaking provides local skiers and snowboarders with man-made snow to augment all the natural snow that fell during the big snow storm that blanked the East this January.
Hay riders in Washington and Baltimore and skiers in Southern Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, don't hang up your skis and boards just because there is no snow in your back yard, head for the slopes. Local skiers often gage the snow depth at neighboring ski areas by the snow depth on their front lawn, mobbing ski areas after a big snowfall and failing to take advantage of excellent conditions when the snow has melted in front of their home. The excellent skiing found in the Washington, D.C. area from Christmas until April is a well-kept secret. On most days, the long lift lines are gone, high-speed chairlifts whisk skiers and snowboarders up the mountain for days of fun on the snow without the bone-chilling cold our neighbors to the north must endure.
Modern snowmaking equipment has made many ski areas independent of natural snow. Whitetail purchased state-of-the art snowmaking equipment from Killington, the largest ski area in New England and a leader in the snowmaking field. Whitetail's snowmaking system received a "Best Man-made Snow and Grooming in the Mid-Atlantic" accolade from Skiing Magazine. With 100 million gallons of water stored in a reservoir and pumped to the mountain via cooling tanks, and a computerized snowmaking system to tell the snowmakers just what settings to use, Whitetail can make snow when other ski areas can only pray.
The results are evident, happy skiers zipped up the mountain and skied down on well groomed slopes. Plenty of snow, warm temperatures and very short liftlines greet those who travel up to this lovely new ski resort located just past Hagerstown, six minutes from interstate Rt. 70 in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania.
Whitetail has enjoyed a ski season longer than most local skiers realize. The season usually starts just before Christmas and runs long after Saint Patrick's Day. When others are dusting off their golf clubs, Washington area skiers and snowboarders enjoy excellent ski conditions on man-made snow.
One transplanted New Englander reports, "I was heartbroken about the lack of quality skiing in the area, when I first moved down here. But now that Whitetail has opened up, I get in all the skiing I want. Almost 1,000 vertical feet of skiing, keeps me in shape for the really big ski areas like Vail, Killington, Sugarbush, and Stowe."
Snowboarders are delighted by the half pipe and Snowboard Park, known as the Phat Zone. The Snowboard Park has been relocated to the intermediate Stalker Trail and is ten times as large as it was last year. The new Snowboard Park features a number of snow-made components like tabletops, spines and quarter pipes, mailbox slides and other stationary objects where the "gnarly" can take a really "hard hit". They have added lots of obstacles formed from snow, to vary the terrain of the park to provide a "totally awesome time, dude." If you're looking for some "hard hits" and "rad air," the new improvements at Whitetail will really turn you on. At the Underground (snowboard rental shop) they have increased the number of rental boards from 100 to 200. So, put on your funny hat, a pair of cool shades and a baggy "grunge" outfit and boogie down the half pipe, take a "hard hit" off the tabletop, or cruse down the slopes on all the trails at Whitetail.
For people who have never ever skied or ridden a snowboard, there is a package deal which includes lift ticket, equipment rental, and lessons for a few dollars more than a lift ticket alone. The ski school has a very talent crew who is experienced in teaching skiers and snowboarders of all levels. By taking advantage of this introductory package, the new skier can learn the basics for a very reasonable price.
Novices access Whitetail's beginner trails by using the U-Me double chairlift which allows them to ski Velvet and Almost Home. The Lift-Off Quad will bring a beginner to Northern Lights and Fist Track. All of these trails are gentle and wide, a perfect place to learn to ski or board.
For the more experienced skier or snowboarder, there is the Easy-Rider Quad and Whitetail Express Quad that whisk you to intermediate trails that vary from groomed snow to moguls. The trails off the Easy Rider Quad are well groomed and easier to ski than the slopes accessed by the Express Quad.
Once a skier masters Snow Park and Stalker, they are ready to ride the Express Quad and sample the more advanced intermediate trails. The trails this chairlift accesses, offers over 2/3 of a mile of groomed slopes with a very consistent pitch. Limelight is an intermediate slope that runs right under the chairlift. Fanciful, off to the left, often offers a mixture of moguls and groomed intermediate terrain. Snow Dancer is between Fanciful and Limelight and has a surface that varies, but Limelight is usually groomed smooth, as is Angledrop and Home Run. As the day goes by, small moguls will build up but they are often groomed away in time for night skiing.
There is a NASTAR course on Angledrop for those that enjoy racing. The intermediate terrain serviced by the Express Quad is an excellent place to improve your skiing skills, or just have fun cruising the mountain.
For those advanced skiers, there is the Expert's Choice Quad, which is accessed by a short steep trail called Drop In, which comes off the left side of Angledrop. This chairlift brings you to the "Black Diamond" terrain at Whitetail, providing almost a 1/2 mile of the most challenging terrain within an hour of the beltway. The expert trails are called Bold Decision, Exhibition and Farside. These expert slopes will provide enough steep terrain and bumps to gratify any advanced skier. The lift line is usually the short and the skiing thrill factor long.
Whitetail tries to keep at least one of these slopes groomed smooth, and sometimes allows moguls to build up for several days on others. The expert trails at Whitetail may not be as long as those at Aspen, Colorado or Killington, Vermont but they will allow you to perfect your skills on steep mogully terrain so that you will be able to hold your own on the "Black Diamond" trails at any ski area. When they let the moguls really build up on Bold Decision, you get a small taste of what it is like to ski a challenging mogul run. It is every bit as challenging as the steepest, man-eating moguls any ski area has to offer, it is just not as long.
Although hundreds of miles from the ski areas of New England and thousands of miles from the great ski areas of the Rockies, Whitetail has brought excellent skiing within an easy drive Washington and Baltimore. This new ski area brings a day or evening of fun in the snow to all of us who love to ski and snowboard. We no longer have to put up with the monotony of daytime TV or face cabin fever when the snow flies. Even if the temperature is 40 or 50 degrees, the skiing can be excellent at this beautiful ski resort, nestled in the mountains of Pennsylvania, just a few miles from Hagerstown, Maryland.