Snow, frigid air `fabulous' to ski slopes' managers

Nearby resorts in Md., Pa. are having record season with Arctic conditions

January 18, 2003|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

Helped by plenty of snow and low temperatures, Wisp at Deep Creek Mountain Resort and other nearby ski slopes are on track for a record year after slogging through a disappointing season last winter.

One key reason: Cold snowy weather allowed many slopes to open several weeks sooner. Also, snowfall in populated areas such as Baltimore has enticed people to Wisp in Western Maryland or to mountains in Pennsylvania, ski industry officials said.

"It's an excellent season," said Paula Yudelevit, Wisp's marketing director. "So far, it's our best. ... The conditions are fabulous."

Many ski slopes across the country reported that attendance during the holidays was better than in the 2001-2002 season, according to a National Ski Areas Association spokeswoman. The association represents more than 300 ski slopes in the United States.

"The general trend is that there's a healthy snowfall across the board," said spokeswoman Keri Hone. "So far, most of the mountains have done pretty well."

About 76 inches of snow has fallen on Wisp in Garrett County, eclipsing the snowfall for the entire 2001-2002 season by 4 inches.

Other slopes, such as Liberty Mountain Resort and Ski Roundtop in Pennsylvania, have received nearly double the snow that fell all last season.

The good conditions have lured skiers in droves, ski resort officials said. Wisp and other slopes are comparing this year to the 2000-2001 season - the best since the National Ski Areas Association started keeping track 25 years ago.

At Wisp, nearly double the number of people have strapped on skis and snowboards this season, compared with the previous season.

As of Jan. 12, the resort had sold 48,785 lift tickets - nearly double the 26,455 tickets sold by that date last year, said Wisp's Yudelevit. The resort raised the price of its weekend lift tickets per day by $2, to $44, this year.

Liberty Mountain Resort in Carroll Valley, Pa., is in a dead heat with its 2000-2001 season, said marketing coordinator Anne E. Weimer. "That was a phenomenal year and we are right there with it," she said.

Lift-ticket sales at Ski Roundtop in Lewisberry, Pa., are 50 percent ahead so far this year compared with the similar period two seasons ago, marketing director Chris Dudding said.

"We opened the day after Thanksgiving and never looked back," Dudding said. "Last year, we opened the day after Christmas."

"What made last year so difficult was it didn't get cold until Christmas, so we didn't have any preseason at all," Dudding said. "So we were playing catch up all year."

Bookings at hotels and vacation homes are also up. Hotels at Wisp and Liberty are all booked up through the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

Railey Mountain Lake Vacations, the largest vacation-home rental agency in the Deep Creek resort area, reported that bookings as of yesterday were up 43 percent in January and February compared with those months last year, said Linda Taylor, a Railey partner.

The Deep Creek area has experienced a construction boom in recent years, with property owners building vacation homes that they can rent year-round.

"It's incredible," Taylor said. "We only have six homes left to rent for this weekend out of approximately 380 homes."

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