MERCERSBURG, Pa. — My annual ski trip with my friend Ryan returned to where they all began four years ago – Whitetail. Unlike that time, we were both on skis on this trip. The unseasonably warm weather scuttled our plans to go to either Massanutten or Wintergreen, so we elected to keep it close to home. Whitetail has 935 feet of vertical drop and is just a few hours from the Capital Beltway.
A later than planned start had us arriving at Whitetail just before 11 a.m. Our lift tickets said 11:17 a.m. Despite the late start, we got going right away and didn’t let up. Our first lift ride was the Easy Rider Quad up to the blues. Our first ride down was ■Limelight, a quick straight shot down the mountain. Conditions were decent — some packed powder, but spots that was clearly icy in recent colder weather. Back up the lift, we went down ■Fanciful and enjoyed better conditions and what Ryan said was the best part of the mountain in the top half of the slope. We took a few rides down that, but also checked out ■Snow Dancer.
The blues were getting crowded and we were warmed up, so we decided our next ride up the Express Quad would be our last. Unfortunately, there was a lift malfunction and we got stuck for 10-15 minutes in line. A number of people decided not to wait it out and hiked up to the Jib Junction Double Lift. We waited it out and thankfully, it wasn’t much longer. Once up the lift again, we head down ■Angel Drop into ♦Drop In to get the black diamonds. One there we skied down ♦Exhibition and ♦Far Side with the agreement that Far Side was the superior slope. The conditions on Far Side were the best overall on the mountain. After 4 or 5 runs, we made our way over to the lodge for some lunch; unfortunately I missed the turn for Home Run and wound up slogging along ■Fallmount which is flat for the bottom portion to get back to the lodge. Ryan got something from Trailside Grill while I satisfied a nachos craving (but for $10+?). We sat outside in sunshine and temperatures well above 40°; I was overdressed. Had I thought to put my lift ticket on my snow pants I might have stashed my parka in a locker.
After a break of less than 45 minutes, we were headed back up the top via the Express Quad and over to the blacks. We just kept going down Far Side over and over again with a run or two down Exhibition and one run down ♦♦Bold Decision which was empty. The dearth of other skiers or snowboarders was immediately apparent once the slope started down Bold Decision. We made it down, but saw no reason to go again. So, it was back to Far Side and tried a little “glade” skiing. That was ultimately a waste of time, but hey we tried it. We took about five more runs total down Far Side about three of which were our “last run.”
Moving back over to center of the mountain to end the day, we took ■Ridge Runner down to ■Home Run and felt so good we decided to head back up the mountain for one more ride down Fanciful. Then we did it again. Finally, with the sun setting and conditions deteriorating, we called it a day around 5:20. Over all, we were on the mountain for over five of the six hours with just the limited down for lunch. The warm weather may not provide the finest quality snow, but it certainly provided quantity and overall the conditions held up pretty well.
Lift ticket – $71 for 8 hours
Skis – $46 (though I rented from a Northern Virginia establishment)
Whitetail is about 75 miles from the Capital Beltway (I-495) via I-270, I-70, MD 68 and Blair Valley Road (watch your speed).
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On the scale of green circle to black diamond, I give the day a ■. Conditions were pretty good and Whitetail’s operations are as good as anywhere.