SPRING SKIING AT WISP
by Phil King

When the sun first rose over the hill on Sunday morning, I thought of all the things I had to do to get ready for spring and summer. Tune the lawn mower, plant some bushes, clean up winter's mess and wax the boat for starters. However, the twenty-degree reading on my thermometer told me that winter wasn't over yet. It was still too cold to get started on my outside chores. Then I realized that by the time the sun warmed the day enough to do anything worthwhile, I could be at the closest ski area ready to enjoy the sport's most glorious time of year. Work or play? Work or play? I debated this for a few minutes, and being the pleasure seeker I am, soon settled on play.

After skiing in near freezing temperatures throughout the winter, spring skiing offers a reward of pure pleasure instead of fighting the elements. With temperatures in the fifties or even sixties, the extra layers of clothing that separated me from the elements all winter could be shunned in favor of a feeling of freedom. Thoughts of sunshine and warm afternoon air easily turned my mind from yard work to a celebration of spring on the mountain. The time for lawn mowing would be here soon enough, and there was still a month before I could put the boat in the lake. It was time to take advantage of cold nights and warm afternoons that would extend the best part of ski season and make up for the late start we had this year.

Getting a bit of a late start, I decided to go to Wisp, the easiest ski area to get to from Clarksburg, West Virginia. Only fifteen minutes off the new Interstate 68 in Maryland, Wisp is an easy drive even in bad weather. Today, it would be a purely pleasurable Sunday drive. I get there on Interstate 79 to I-68 from West Virginia, but it is an easy ride from Pittsburgh or the Baltimore/DC area via I-70 and I-68. Since I-68 is rather new, the crowds don't realize
how easy it is to get there, leaving plenty of room for fun on the mountain.

Even with my late start, I was at Wisp by eleven, just when the heat of the day began to warm the mountain air to really pleasurable temperatures. I was surprised to see the mountain still fully covered with snow. The late spring snowfall and cold nights for snow making had combined for cover deep enough to outlast the extended season. Half day tickets went on sale at eleven thirty and were only a surprisingly low twenty bucks with rentals. Even the holiday
weekend tickets are only $42 there. According to the ticket seller, their reduced rate spring season would last at least until Easter.
With all this snow, I was surprised with how few people were there. The lodge was almost empty. In fact, the snack bar and lounge were closed for the season. Only the downstairs restaurant and ski shop were open. I'd hit the restaurant later, but now it was time to grab one of many empty lift chairs and head to the top.

Wisp is a not a large mountain, but the trails are well laid out with ample trails and lift capacity. It has a vertical drop of 610 feet with a 3080 foot summit. There are 23 slopes and trails totaling 14 miles. There are two triple and three double chair lifts and two rope tows. One of the triple chairs is more or less a transfer chair to the eastern side of the mountain. They have an average annual snowfall of 96 inches with snowmaking and lighting for night skiing that covers 90 per cent of all skiable terrain. Judging by the surface, they do an excellent job of snow making and grooming.



As I ascended the mountain, I could see the country side still half covered in snow. Deep Creek Lake, at the foot of the Mountain, was still solid ice. That's a great place to boat and I thought I'd like to cruise it this summer and enjoy its many lake side restaurants. But now it was time to take advantage of the remains of winter and enjoy the warm weather skiing of spring. I decided to loosen up my rusty bones slowly with easy runs down Possum and
Wisp trails.

The snow was just a hair slow, but the coverage was excellent and it felt good just to get on the boards again. As I took a few runs down the intermediate trails and my speed picked up in the soft snow and so did my enthusiasm. I warmed up at about the same rate as the snow and went on to the black diamonds. Squirrel Cage, The Face and Devil's Drop were a nice challenge, although tamed somewhat by the slow spring conditions. A long run down the black diamond Eye Opener to the eastern side of the mountain gave me a real workout. Since the sun had been on it since early morning, the surface was a bit heavy, giving me a real workout. A few hours later, I had skied most of the mountain at least once.

My legs were tired from shushing in the smooth but thick powder. I had enjoyed the afternoon's exercise and was pleasantly surprised by the late season coverage, but didn't want to push my luck with my tricky left knee. It was time for a beer anyway. That was my biggest disappointment of the day. There is no alcohol sold in that rustic Maryland
county on Sunday. Oh well.

At least they have an excellent Italian Restaurant, Pizzazz Pizzeria. In fact, it is about the best food I've had at any ski resort, and at the most reasonable price. The last time I was at Wisp, my friend Jim and I enjoyed it in the more social atmosphere of Shenanigans Lounge, but you can't have it all. A quick calzone and Coke gave me enough energy to head back out to the slopes to watch some great jumping.

At the base of The Face they had three large jumps set up. Each was at least a twenty foot mound of snow that invited all the hot shots to do their stuff. I was impressed with the quality of moves made by the snowboarders and skiers as they caught lots of air off these launch pads. It was an impressive pleasure to stand to the side and beneath, watching and photographing their flips, daffys, and toe grabs over head.

That was enough for the day. I'd gotten my money's worth and more. I decided to get home before dark and have my beer at a local pub. There's plenty of snow left out there so maybe I can hit another area before the Mid Atlantic season is over.