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Ski resorts ... Let it snow

November 15, 1997

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer

The 200,000 skiers expected at Whitetail Ski Resort in Mercersburg, Pa., this year can test the new super sidecut skis, check a Web site for a still photo or a video showing the latest trail conditions or move into a new townhouse neighborhood when the resort opens its seventh season next month.

With winter slightly more that a month away area cold-weather recreation facilities are getting ready for a new season of business.

Ski Liberty, near Gettysburg, Pa., has 16 trails covering 100 acres on a vertical drop of 600 feet, said Missy Merrell, marketing director. While downhill skiing still makes up about 80 percent of the resort's business, snowboarding is quickly gaining ground, she said.

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"It's the fastest-growing sport in the world," Merrell said. "Eventually it will be half of our business."

She said more downhill skiers are crossing over to snowboarding.

Basically a snowboard is a skateboard without wheels.

She said with 600 snowboards on its shelves, Ski Liberty has one of the largest rental inventories in the area. The resort has improved and enlarged its snowboarding park and has bought expensive new grooming equipment.

Also, a new skier's terrain park will open this year that will allow skiers to experience some of the same playground thrills as snowboarders, she said.

They don't have skiing or snowboarding on the mountains around Coolfont Recreation near Berkeley Springs, W.Va., but a new 10-lane snow-tubing park opens for the first time this year, said Paul Klasse, spokesman.

With runs 800 to 900 feet long with vertical drop of about 95 feet, tubers in this latest winter craze careen and bounce down at speeds up to 35 mph, Klasse said. The sport requires little skill other than the ability to sit down and hang on

When the ride is over tubes and riders are hooked to a lift and for hauled back up for another run.

Coolfont has invested about $600,000 to build and equip the new facility, including the purchase of a snow-making machine, he said.

This year Whitetail is committed to stockpiling snow on the top of its mountain to ensure that will be enough to end up the season in the spring, said resort spokeswoman Rachel Nichols.

"Last year we covered fewer slopes with more snow so we were able to stay open when the other resorts closed," she said.

Last year's warm temperature shortened the season to about 70 days, Nichols said. A normal winter, like the one predicted for this year, has about 100 ski days, she said.

"We hope to start by mid-December, but we'll need a good week of freezing to lay down a good base of snow," she said.

Whitetail ranges over 1,600 acres, has 17 downhill trails plus runs for snow boarders. It has 40 full-time employees and adds 800 seasonal workers for the winter, she said.

Nichols said the new sidecut skis are revolutionizing the industry. The new skis allow faster turns, more control and are easier to learn.

So far the resort has built and sold 30 of its proposed 48 Trailside Village townhouses. Prices start at $178,000 for one-bedroom units.

This month ground was broken for Blair's Ridge Townhomes, Whitetail's newest residential village. Prices for the smaller and cheaper units start at $117,000, Nichols said.

The residential development, 30 miles of hiking and biking trails, a fly fishing school and, someday, a golf course are all aimed at making Whitetail a year-round resort, Nichols said.

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