McHENRY -- Skiing is one sport that appears to be impervious to wars, recessions and even warm winters. That clearly was the indication here yesterday at Wisp, the ski area tucked in the northwest corner of the state.
Jerry Geisler, operations manager at Wisp for the last 11 years, looked out the ski lodge window at a crowded parking lot, buses still arriving in the afternoon and ant-like figures zig-zagging down the area's 23 slopes and trails.
"Our January this year was better than January a year ago," said Geisler, 38. "Conditions today may actually be helping us. People aren't taking as many long trips as they used to. They're not flying as much or spending as much money. Here, they can drive from Washington or Baltimore at much less cost.
"The warm weather hasn't hurt us either. We have plenty of snow and we'll be making more snow around the clock through Wednesday. The only place we feel the slow economy is in real estate. We're not selling many houses -- but neither is anybody else."
Wisp was host all weekend to an 18-school intercollegiate ski competition. None of the Maryland colleges was represented.
Geisler and the man who owns and developed Wisp, Ace Heise, are excited about the weekend of Feb. 22-24, when a special MARC train will bring passengers the 190 miles here from Baltimore and D.C.
"That's how we started 30 years ago, with the trains bringing people to Oakland," said Geisler. "Then we'd bus them 10 miles up here to Wisp. Now the train is coming back and we're going to do the same thing."
John Kruk, the Philadelphia Phillies' first baseman, is the biggest sports hero in these parts. He lives in Keyser, just across the state line in West Virginia.
Though he's a local, Kruk, 29 years old and possessor of a $1.175 million contract for the coming season, is not about to pull a Jim Lonborg and blow his career on a ski slope.
Kruk says he can hardly believe the salaries being paid today, "utility players playing 50 or 60 games, making $600,000 or $700,000. But the money's there. Someone has to get it. It might as well be us."
Kruk is different. He's the only athlete I've ever heard speak of being booed as he does. Says he: "It's good to get booed once in a while. It sort of keeps you honest."
* The Orioles surely are the most Stanford-minded organization in the major leagues. O's who have graduated from the Palo Alto, Calif., school include pitchers Mike Mussina and Jeff Ballard and non-roster catcher Doug Robbins.
And somewhere out there is another Stanford man who played with the Orioles in '87 and '88 and has all but disappeared since -- Pete Stanicek. It's hard to believe that such a short time ago Stanicek was battling even up for the second base job with Bill Ripken, who's now an Orioles fixture, the leading hitter on the club (.291) and signed a $700,000 contract over the weekend.
* Arly Marshall may be the all-time unassuming Hall of Fame athlete. He was installed in the Lacrosse Hall of Fame Saturday night at the Sheraton Towson along with Jim Darcangelo, Bob Griebe, Ray Wood, Alan Lowe and Neville Smith. Marshall has coached club teams for more than 20 years, most recently the Maryland Lacrosse Club and the U.S. team that won the World Games last year in Australia.
One of this year's Hall of Fame inductees -- no need to embarrass the guy -- said: "Oh, did Arly play for Johns Hopkins?" Sure did. First team All-America in '56. Voted Hopkins' best senior player. Played in the North-South game. Marshall also pioneered the sport at Southern High.
All that was a long time ago and Arly never talks about it, so a lot of people don't know it happened. It's good to see him finally recognized for a lifetime of excellence in the sport.
Towson State University had never had one of its lacrosse players make the Hall of Fame until now. Saturday night two Tigers greats -- Darcangelo and Griebe -- were admitted.