The 2019-2020 Washington, D.C. area commuter ski season started early.
The transition seemed more abrupt than normal this year — the end of summer and early fall activities like kayaking and baseball (a little later this year!) gave way at the same time as Daylight Saving Time. A little more than two weeks after trick or treating in the 70° temperatures, ski areas as close as Bryce in Virginia and Roundtop near Harrisburg, Pa. opened for business.
Snow started falling in West Virginia in October, as it often does, in mid-October. Snowshoe Mountain may or may not be a daytrip for Washingtonians, but the first snowflakes are always noteworthy. Seven Springs, in Western Pennsylvania saw some snow on November 1. Snow guns started firing up by the second week of the month throughout the Keystone state (though not the closest to D.C.).
As I have for several years, I publish a guide for commuter skiers form the Washingtonian perspective — folks like me that may take a day trip or three to regional ski areas. I have been fortunate to ski throughout the mid-Atlantic and I like to share the experience and encourage others. When it comes to these dark, cold months I have a a saying:
January 21 Update
I skied Elk Mountain in Northeast Pennsylvania for the first time on January 18.
December 22 Update
Just in Time for the Holidays, All Mid-Atlantic Resorts are Open – DCSki
Every thing seems to be open, but a warming trend has arrived. Hopefully, the New Year begins, snowmaking will get going full power.
Also, Captial Weather Gang will post ski reports every Friday again this year.
Another offseason of change
The closest ski areas to D.C., the former Snowtime resorts, Liberty, Whitetail and Roundtop, were sold again (DC Ski). Vail Resorts bought out Peak (the Sacklers also own Purdue Pharma and are having some problems) after only one season. The upshot of this latest consolidation — high costs for skiers who just want to ski nearby (Patriot-News). Skiers willing to travel further have options with their seasons passes.
Speaking of ski area ownership with that may or may not have issues with prescription drugs, Timberline in West Virginia’s chronic impending disaster is no longer impending — it closed. It was purchased at auction by an Indiana state senator that wanted to abolish child labor laws. Perfect North, the new company, wants to open T-Line next season.Nearby Canaan Valley is trying to pick up the slack (DC Ski).
|Big Boulder, Poconos, Pa.||●||17||My two semesters of college phys-ed were here, so I have a soft spot for it, but since then it’s been turned into a snowboard park and apparently a good one. If I had a month of ski days in a season, I’d take a day there since the bordercross runs are fun. SkiTheEast was there the year before.|
|Blue Knob, Claysburg, Pa.||■||1||Rustic, prone to ice and not as big as they claim, but get a little bit of fresh snow and it’s a really fun mountain that I really want to visit again. It’s also an inverted lodge (on top of the mountain) despite being the highest skiable elevation in Pennsylvania. They are on the Indy Pass now, but badly need some new snow-making infrastructure or big storms..|
|Blue Mountain, Palmerton, Pa.||●●||1||My grade is a bit incomplete since it was a spontaneous trip in March one year, but I think it’s worth a second look. The vertical drop is amongst the best in Pennsylvania. The touchscreens instead of paper forms in the registration area would be welcome everywhere.|
|Camelback, Poconos, Pa.||■||5||The biggest ski area in the Poconos has over 30 trails and is very popular, perhaps too popular. I have lots of great memories here, but its a bit far for over 800 feet of vertical and huge crowds on holiday weekends. It’s all interstate highways to get there though.|
|Elk Mountain, Poconos, Pa.||■||1||The northernmost ski area in Northeast Pennsylvania, Elk is a “skiers mountain” with quality cruisers and short lift lines not far from I-81 past Scranton.|
|Jack Frost, Poconos, Pa.||●||1||Inverted, small and probably a good choice for younger skiers, but again, kind of far from DC. Biggest plus — shared passed with Big Boulder, so you can ski two hills in one day.|
|Massanutten, Harrisonburg, Va.||■■||1||It’s small, hence Massa-nothin’, but the black diamond runs are really fun and the scenery is stunning. The Poconos, it ain’t. I had my best day of skiing here, right after the Pitchers and Catchers Day Storm in 2014. Another one I want to get back again.|
|⚰️||1||Even in 2013, it was in decline, but perhaps the new owners will fix it, reopen it for 2021.|
|Whitetail, Mercersburg, Pa.||■■||9||The elevation is under 2000 feet, but is over 900 feet of vertical drop. At only 90 minutes from the Capital Beltway, it’s an excellent option for D.C. commuter skiers. It’s been well-run, but moves its third owner in as many seasons|
Other Mid-Atlantic ski areas
I have also skied at Liberty, Roundtop and Montage Mountain but that predated the blog. Liberty is closest, just over the Mason Dixon Line off of US 15. Roundtop is near Harrisburg, so further away than Whitetail with less vertical. Maryland’s only resort Wisp was also visited when I was in scouts, but that’s too long ago to to count. Montage though, that’s a steep mountain near Scranton — quite a distance, but on my list to revisit with Pennsylvania friends.
I have yet to make it to Seven Springs and Hidden Valley in Western Pennsylvania or several Poconos venues like Shawnee, Big Bear and Elk. I’ve heard good things about the latter.
Stocking stuffers for your 4th and 5th graders
Pennsylvania and West Virginia both have state wide ski passes available for 4th and 5th graders. My oldest received his PA ski pass ( $40) for Christmas the last two years, but has aged out of it. This year, West Virginia has started selling passports ($25).
Other states offer it — learn more on this DC Ski forum post.
January is also “Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month” in Pennsylvania. Details from the Tribune-Review: Pa. resorts offering January ‘Learn to Ski and Snowboard’ specials
As reported earlier this year, an indoor ski slope may be coming to Fairfax County. The plan would build a facility with 280 feet of vertical drop at the Lorton landfill.
More skiing sites
Several sites provide important coverage of our region’s ski areas. They are great for finding special deals, getting insight on what ski areas are really like, conditions and the community of Mid-Atlantic skiing.
Since time immemorial dcski.com has shared news, snow conditions, weather, in-depth resort profiles as well as a facebook page & forums. Way back in 2012, publisher M. Scott Smith joined me in a Q&A. The community in the forums is strong.
Skidome.org focuses on the southern Pennsylvania resorts closest to D.C. and has discounts for regular skiers. The site is quite extensive and it turns out, one of my co-workers (now in the Sierra Nevadas) was a founder.
According to some (like the NBA; the NHL realized the folly & realigned divisions), DC, Virginia & Maryland are the Southeast. I suppose the case for most of the Old Dominion is fairly strong, but semantics aside, SkiSoutheast has profiles & news of Virginia, Maryland, West By God Virginia & more southern resorts. It’s a fan site updated often, a must-read if you want to go to a WV resort or further south. They also run ResortCams Ski cams.
LiftTicketTV gives a family perspective on skiing, mostly in Pennsylvania, but sometimes further out. They are most active on youtube, but also twitter. The dad is apparently a colleague of one of my Penn State friends — the one with the Reagan-era Rossi
SKI THE EAST celebrates eastern snow sports with an extensive store. I got the mule kick tie as a gift, but sadly the SKI THE EAST stickers didn’t come with it. They are also affiliated with Meathead Films. Though both are New England focused, 2010’s Work it Out features freestyle skiing at the Lincoln Memorial. Ah, Snowpocalypse, you were memorable. Or was that Snowmageddon?
Mount Brodie Ski Shop sells merch inspired by the great ski movie of the 1980s, Better Off Dead (sorry, not sorry, Hot Dog, Ski Patrol, Ski School). Would I like to have a who wall in the basement dedicated to my skiing equipment and swag from these two stores? Duh. Do we still need lightsabres imposed onto the ski pole duel? Double-duh. Is Charles De Marr the greater skiing coach alive? Duh duh duh.
MSM skiing news and openings
WINTER WON’T WAIT: Cold Weather Allows Massanutten Resort To Open Slopes Earlier Than Ever – Daily News Record (Harrisonburg)
Seasons blend at Bryce this weekend – Northern Virginia Daily
Slopes will open at Seven Springs, Hidden Valley resorts – Tribune Democrat (Johnstown)
Tussey Mountain ready for its earliest ski opening ever – statecollege.com
Blue Mountain Resort earliest opening ever – The Morning Call (Allentown)
Your guide to ski resorts in the region – Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh)
WV’s 2019-20 ski season opens Friday at Snowshoe Mountain – Charleston Gazette
DC Commuter skier twitter list
Everything a commuter skier needs for keeping up with what’s within a daytrip of DC.