On the slopes: extreme snowfall, extreme fun

Area ski resorts have added trails, enlarged lodges, expanded hours and increased the number of tubing lanes

January 02, 2003|By Molly Knight | Molly Knight,Sun Staff

Snow, snow and more snow. That's the buzz from the mountains of the mid-Atlantic this season after the premature arrival of a white winter.

Storms and freezing temperatures meant two things for nearby ski resorts: early openings and piles of powder. Almost all the resorts are boasting bases of between 20 and 30 inches, which means some of the best skiing conditions the East Coast has seen in almost a decade.

But powder isn't the only reason to head for the slopes. Hoping to realize a stellar season, resort owners spent the spring and summer improving conditions off the slopes - expanding lodge space, updating rental equipment and building more lifts. And because tubing is still the hottest trend in winter sports, most of the mountains added new, faster chutes to their tubing parks.

Below is a guide to what's new at 12 nearby ski resorts. So read on, then drag your equipment out of the attic, dust off your ski suit and hit the slopes.

Maryland

Wisp at Deep Creek Mountain Resort, McHenry (3 hours)

This season, Maryland's only downhill ski resort continues to upgrade everything from its slopes to its ski shop. The resort has expanded its Bear Claw Snow Tubing Park, opened last year, by adding two new lanes. And for daredevil skiers and snowboarders, Wisp's biggest news is its new Super Pipe - one of the largest in the mid-Atlantic, with vertical walls up to 15 feet high.

To encourage younger skiers to work hard and play hard, Wisp has introduced a program called "Ski Free With a B." All fourth graders with a B average or above can ski for free all season. (Students must bring a copy of their report card to Guest Services to get a free pass.)

Wisp has also expanded its McHenry House lodge by 13,000 square feet, making room for a much larger rental shop and a new pizzeria.

Lift passes are $17.50-$44 for adults, $17.50-$30 for kids. Call 301-387-4911 or visit www.skiwisp.com

Pennsylvania

Hidden Valley Resort, Hidden Valley (3 1/2 hours)

This 45-year-old resort recently pumped millions into new snow-making machines and lighting and grooming equipment, making for markedly improved conditions.

New for this season is Hidden Valley's "Super Lease Program," which allows skiers and snowboarders to rent equipment for the entire season ($199 for adults, $90 for kids). For frequent visitors, this means standing in line and filling out paperwork is a one-time-only hassle.

The resort is also rewarding those who stay over Friday night with a discounted lift pass for Saturday skiing. For tubers, Hidden Valley has improved its Outback Park to include longer and faster chutes, such as the Ice Monster. For some apres-ski fun at Hidden Valley, hit Dundee's, the mountain's new, Australian-American-themed restaurant located in the Outback Park building.

Lift passes are $30-$40 for adults, $24-$45 for kids. Call 814-443-8000 or visit www. hiddenvalleyresort.com.

Blue Knob Seasons Resort, Claysburg (2 hours)

At Blue Knob, the second-highest mountain in Pennsylvania, the resort owners spent the summer upgrading the snow-making system - adding more snow guns and bigger pumps. The goal was to produce enough powder to please experienced skiers.

The resort is also luring skiers with a new deal: the Six-Pack (no, it has nothing to do with beer). For $150, skiers can purchase a pack of six lift passes.

Regular lift passes are $25-$44 for adults, $18-$34 for kids. Call 814-239-5111 or visit www.blueknob.com.

Eagle Rock Resort, Hazelton (3 hours)

There's something new for all levels of skiers at Eagle Rock Resort - from the novices to the experts. The 4-year-old resort just added a mile-long beginner trail at the base of the mountain for skiers who want to take it easy. For daredevils, Eagle Rock has opened a new terrain park, a slope filled with challenging jumps and rails.

Skiers looking to add a little rhythm to their skiing can visit the resort in January on select "Broadcast Days," when local radio stations will air their shows live from the mountain top. Lots of music.

Lift passes are $25-$38 for adults, $25-$30 for kids. Call 888-384-6660 or visit www. eglrock.com.

Liberty Mountain Resort, Carroll Valley; Whitetail, Mercersburg; Roundtop, Lewisberry (1 hour)

Located just over the Maryland line, these three resorts offer interchangeable lift ticket and lesson programs. They also share some new programs this season, such as "Snow Monsters," an initiative launched to help kids learn to ski. Characters such as Powder Pig and Snowball the Snow Tiger are cruising the slopes of all three resorts, entertaining kids and offering them tips on their technique.

Roundtop's improvements this season cater especially to kids, with an expanded children's ski-school area.

The buzz at Liberty is all about snow tubing. This season the resort opened a snow-tubing park called Boulder Ridge. The park has 10 runs (all approximately 700 feet long), two lifts and a lodge.

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