Category Archives: Skiing

Pronounced “shee-ing,” skiing is fast becoming the most popular of all winter sports. And small wonder, for there is no finer conquest than that of a mountain clad in its glorious winter mantle of glittering white.

protractor_measuring_snow_northern_virginia

Winter 2013-2014 post-mortem

You know, I think what everybody wants to read about right now is the never-ending winter we just had, right?

My original intention was to post this concurrent with the spring equinox, but the looming threat of a Nor’Easter had me re-evaluating whether it made sense. Sure enough, we got more winter precipitation this week. It’s becoming a pattern:

This winter, BeltwayLand experienced an unprecedented amount of measurable snow storms. For a while there, it was not that different than the winters I remember growing up. Then it snowed two more times, closing everything in each occurrence. Than it snowed on Tuesday.

This post is also a mea culpa of sorts – at the beginning of the year, I changed jobs and entered the world of federal contracting. Gone were my four weeks of vacation and in was OPM deciding when I could work.

I’m sorry I jinxed us all.

For me, I lost almost a week of work which meant either taking leave or taking a hit. Due to vacation time at my previous job, federal holidays I now get to celebrate and all the FOUR OPM closures, I have not worked 10 work days in a row since the week of Thanksgiving.

Here is a recap of this year’s snow and what I measured:

12.08.2013 – I always celebrate the first snowfall with grilling | Football in the snow is the best football (ehh, they stunk up the joint that day, too bad). Then Fairfax, Loudoun

12.10.2013 – Alexandria, Va. December 10, 2013 snow fall total at 10 a.m. | Tysons, Va. December 10, 2013 snow fall total at 10 a.m. – THE PROTRACTOR IN SNOW STORM!

PROTRACTOR IN SNOW!

01.03.2014 – No measurement, but some sledding the day after
Arlington snow

01.22.2014 – 2 7/8 inches in Alexandria | 6 inches in the Town of Vienna

02.05.2014 – Enough snow for a two hour delay

02.13.2014 – Alexandria, Va. Pitchers and Catchers Day Storm snowfall total at 8 a.m. – 8.5 inches! | Burke, Va. Pitchers and Catchers Day Storm snowfall total at 9:18 a.m. – 12 inches!

Pitchers & Catchers Day storm snow man

02.25.2014 – It snowed during the day, but didn’t stick around

03.04.2014 – Alexandria, Va. final snowfall total for March 3, 2014: 5 inches

03.17.2014 – ErinSnowBraugh! SnowPatricksDay storm dumps over 7 inches of snow on Alexandria, Va.

Capital Weather Gang’s recap is up too: The long, white 2013-2014 winter: Bringing snowy back to the D.C. region (season statistics)The Post

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE

Massanutten Ski slopes view

I went skiing twice during official winter and thrice during meteorological winter. My ski trips in December were the first time I ever made it out in that month, so I’ve got 4 months of the year. I also skied in the Commonwealth of Virginia for the first time at Masanutten. Should the cold return in April, the temptation to go then and clinch a fifth month will be strong. For regional ski resorts, it was a robust season. If Whitetail remains open until next Sunday, they’ll hit 117 days for the season and has already broken a record.

Ski Roundtop also had a strong year:

PRIME SLEDDING YEAR

Remember last year’s weird slush storms in March? State of NOVA blogger Tom Jackman summed it up well:

Safe to say, the childrens were not robbed of a prime sledding year this winter.
sledding-cropped
In Alexandria, we had more sledding days than the previous 4 years combined! Throw in a day of ski camp and ice skating lessons and we embraced this winter and therin lies the lesson.

Don’t fight winter, USE IT.

Now bring on baseball, cherry blossoms and dining al fresco!

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December 16, 2013 Whitetail recap

Snowdancer
MERCERSBURG, Pa. — The cold late November and December has given ski areas across the Mid-Atlantic a head start on their seasons. That and a combination of use-it-or-lose-it vacation time led me to Whitetail for my first ever December skiing.

Difficult traffic getting out of Northern Virginia delayed my arrival until 11 a.m. I was surprised to see about 100 cars in the parking lot. There was no line to get lift ticket and rental throughout the process. I went with some 170s instead of my usual 160s to see how I would do.

empty whitetail

I started on the green slopes serviced by the EZ Rider Quad lift. A run down Snow Park or Stalker confirmed that I had not yet done enough wall-sits, but I would be okay. It got a little sticky at the bottom though which was an omen for the day.

Having limited time and eager to challenge myself more, I headed over to the Whitetail Express Quad and started skiing on the trails on the middle of the mountain. Fanciful was in pretty good shape on the top 2/3s, but slowed me up at the bottom with its fresh, ungroomed machine made snow. Getting back to the lift was work. It was a good run though and probably had the most consistent conditions of the day. After a few runs on Fanciful, I headed over to Snow Dancer which mostly more of the same, but a little uneven snow-wise. After a run or two, I was able to find better paths to keep my momentum going close to the lift. Next, I head to the right of WEQ and skied down Homerun which was satisfying. Limelight was closed and several days from being ready, even with continuous snow-making in progress.

I next took Angel Drop into the Drop, but made the mistake of heading onto Fallmount instead of over to the black diamonds. Fallmount might as well be cross country skiing because it nearly completely flat. I gave up and picked up the skis, dropped $9.84 on chicken tenders & fries basket and a Pepsi at the cafeteria.

Exhibition and Ridge Runner

For the second half of the day, it was another couple of runs down Homerun and Angel Drop and then over to the Experts Choice Quad. Exhibition and Bold Decision were the only two open. I took a few runs down Exhibition, then moved over to Ridgeline to head back onto Angel Drop. Following that, I head over to Bold Decision which was deserted, ungroomed and sticky. It was the toughest run of the day and not in a fun way. Going down it felt like a chore and I took a minor tumble. I hope the groomers got it for skiers later in the week.

Running out of time, I skied Ridgeline back to the middle of the mountain and completed the day with a trip down Homerun.

OTHER NOTES

Lift ticket and rentals cost me $105 and included a lesson that I did not use.

snowmaking
Snow guns were in use throughout the day, despite periods of bright sunshine. Getting a little blast from them was no big deal.

The lodge reminds me of a college dining hall more than a ski lodge, but the lack of alpine ambiance is no big deal because the features are above average for mid-Atlantic resorts, though it is worth mentioning Whitetail is dry.

Some of the trails had only about 60% of the surface area available for skiing since it is early in the season.

Grading on a curve because it was mid-December, I award Whitetail a on a scale of green circle being the lowest and black diamond being the highest. More grooming was needed and Bold Decision probably should not have been open. Overall, I was pretty happy to knock another month skied in off my list. Also, with 935 feet of vertical drop, Whitetail is the best option for a quick trip from the DC area. I may be back to teach my son how to ski if the weather cooperates.

GETTING THERE

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).


View Larger Map

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Skiing: Whitetail, Liberty, Roundtop already open


Whitetail and Liberty post earliest openings since 2002WUSA
The two ski resorts nearest to Washington, D.C., Liberty in Carroll Valley, Pa. near Emmitsburg, Md. and Whitetail, near Mercersburg, Pa. are OPEN this weekend. Additionally, the next closest, Roundtop near Lewisberry, Pa. is also open, including Monday. Whitetail is considering a Monday opening as well:

This is a great start to the 2013-2014 season — of late, December has been a no-go. I think I’m going to have to investigate.

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2013-2014 Mid-Atlantic ski season preview

Bottom of the mountain
Halloween is over, we had frost at the end of last week and there were even scattered reports of snow flurries in BeltwayLand. Let’s start thinking about skiing.

DCSki.com, whose owner I profiled in 2012, has been redesigned. You can follow them on Facebook too.

Big Boulder in the Poconos, where I skied more than any other place before it primary shifted to snowboarders, opened on Friday, November 15. It was only one lift and one trail, but they did it, the ninth year in a row they were the first in the Poconos to open (timesleader.com).

Timberline, which I skied last winter, has had snowfall and has their snow guns blowing. Opening date – December 12.

Elsewhere in West Virginia, Snow Shoe plans to open November 27. That’s less than two weeks away! They had 8½ inches of snow as of Friday night.

My favorite place to ski in the Poconos, Camelback, is celebrating their 50th season and begun snowmaking on November 12, according to Pennsylvania Ski Areas Association

Hunter Mountain in New York State is also making snow. I have discussed going up there with a friend this year — we were thinking of it last year but several factors led us to Timberline.

Some other places I have skied over the years: Jack Frost, Whitetail, Blue Knob

No word on when the closest resorts – Liberty, Roundtop and Whitetail will open.

GETTING READY

As always, I’m getting ready with daily exercises, specifically wall-sits. I can’t emphasize enough how helpful just a few minutes every day improves both the experience and my ability.

Another thing, if you don’t own your own equipment, rent locally. There are two big advantages of renting your skis near where you live:

1.) Renting in advance allows more time on the day you go skiing. Doing the paperwork on a weeknight in an empty, warm ski shop is better than doing it packed, chilly ski area. It is probably cheaper too.

2.) Your boots are warm when you put them on, as opposed to putting on the ski area rentals that have been sitting in a room that is 45°.

Also, wear a helmet. it keeps your head safer and is nice and warm.

A FINAL NOTE

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Eastern Pennsylvania ski resorts hanging in there

Pa. ski resorts adapt to the mild conditionsThe Inky
Another season of poor snowfall isn’t holding back the ski areas in Eastern Pennsylvania like as much as last year. Cold nights have allowed for
snow-making even though the days have been a bit warm. Just a new normal it seems.

Seven Springs and other Western Pennsylvania ski areas seem to be fairing okay — they have had actual snow out there.

Southern Pennsylvania resorts are reporting “loose, granular” which I think means the slopes are covered in gravel.

I was supposed to go skiing today, but the temperatures in the 50s everywhere made me change my plans. Perhaps next weekend will work out better.

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The 2012-2013 Mid-Atlantic ski season begins today

Over the weekend, a number of resorts within driving distance of Washington, D.C. have fired up the snow guns (DC Ski).

EARLY OUTLOOK

The real stuff has been falling as well with about four inches in the Poconos yesterday after flurries throughout Pennsylvania last weekend. It is still early though and warm weather is expected in BeltwayLand in early December, according to Capital Weather Gang. I don’t know how much impact that will have for the resorts north of here, though CWG thinks we could be in for a colder, snowier winter. The Pocono ski areas are expected to open about two weeks earlier than last year with Jack Frost/Big Boulder are planning on opening this afternoon, according to yesterday’s Pocono Record. Camelback is planning on a Saturday opening, while Shawnee and Blue Mountain are aiming for that as well. Hunter Mountain is New York State is aiming for December 8.

UPDATE: Seven Springs and other ski resorts in Western Pennsylvania are forecast to get more snow than normal according to Pittsburgh’s WPXI-TV.

LAST YEAR

Last year was the winter of discontent for skiers, snowboarders and snow-lovers. My plan of going skiing three times became once and I was lucky to get that one in. If not for a couple of inches of snow falling at Blue Knob during the day, the conditions would have left a lot to be desired.

NEAR-ISH SKI AREAS

Over the last several years I have been to several ski areas, all in Pennsylvania and I have blogged about those trips: Big Boulder | Blue Knob | Camelback | Jack Frost | Whitetail. I’m hoping to get up to Hunter this year to ski in New York State for the first time. West Virginia will also be under consideration.

GETTING READY

As always, I’m getting ready with daily exercises, specifically wall-sits. I can’t emphasize enough how helpful just a few minutes every day improves both the experience and my ability. This year, I started off by watching the Franz Klammer Gold Medal run at Innsbruck for inspiration.

Another thing, if you don’t own your own equipment, rent locally. There are two big advantages of renting your skis near where you live:

1.) Renting in advance allows more time on the day you go skiing. Doing the paperwork on a weeknight in an empty, warm ski shop is better than doing it packed, chilly ski area. It is probably cheaper too.

2.) Your boots are warm when you put them on, as opposed to putting on the ski area rentals that have been sitting in a room that is 45°.

Also, wear a helmet. it keeps your head safer and is nice and warm.

THE ONLY COACHING YOU NEED

FURTHER READING

DCSki is a great resource for Mid-Atlantic skiers. I did a Q&A with it last winter.

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Yup, this winter was that bad for Mid-Atlantic skiers

Lousy end to lousy mid-Atlantic ski season – Capital Weather Gang, The Post
This was going to be the winter that I went skiing several times. I had the “time off” accrued and had worked myself into pretty decent shape for skiing. There were even some late October snow falls where I planned to ski. Then, nothing. A dispiriting winter all-around for snow lovers.

I did make it out once; Blue Knob, on a day it actually snowed. It was good thing, because conditions would have been pretty awful otherwise.

Thankfully, this false winter was greeted by early spring, long-sustained periods of warmth that made it easier to put winter behind.

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