White time is right time for local skiers

December 26, 1998|By MARLO BARNHART

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Whitetail Ski Resort successfully opened its 1998-99 season with two key ingredients - an enthusiastic crowd and temperatures low enough to make snow.

More than 1,000 skiers and snowboarders geared up Saturday under sunny skies to try out the six slopes boasting 18-28 inches of manmade packed powder snow.

Among them were Judy and Brian Hood, who drove about 100 miles from Odenton, Md., to enjoy the Christmas present they gave each other one day earlier.

"We're recent empty nesters," Judy Boyd said with a playful grin. "After 30-some years, we decided to do this for ourselves."


The couple spent Christmas night at a bed and breakfast in Hagerstown and hit the slopes early Saturday. After a night at a Clear Spring-area farm, they plan to head back to Whitetail for more skiing today.

Six trails were opened in time for skiers and snowboarders Saturday. They included Launching Pad, Almost Home, Northern Lights, Snowpark, Velvet and Stalker.

"It's been hectic but all our people are in high spirits," said Judy Boyd, guest services manager. Many staff members are being trained, adding to the hubbub, she said.

The temperature is the key, Boyd said. It is even more important than Mother Nature making snow the old-fashioned way.

When the temperature remains below freezing, the snow that is created by the snowmaking machines stays put, Boyd said. "It looks like the cold weather is here to stay."

Diane Harris and her son came to Whitetail from Laurel, Del. - she for the skiing and her son for the snowboarding.

"Conditions are absolutely perfect," Harris said. "I actually had to take off my down jacket because the sun was so warm."

Harris was pleased with the powder quality of the snow, which helped her stay on her skis.

"We were skiing at Seven Springs, Pa., on Christmas Day and it was so icy there. I fell about 15 times," Harris said. "This is much better."

Whitetail mountain manager Artie Speicher said he hopes to have the entire south ridge open beginning this weekend. Additional terrain, including the newly-enlarged half pipe - the longest in the mid-Atlantic region - will follow soon, Speicher predicted.

An inaugural half pipe competition is scheduled for Jan. 10.

Three lifts were running Saturday including U-Me Double Chair, Easy Rider Quad Chair and Lift-Off Quad Chair. The high-speed quad chairlift is expected to be running next week, Speicher said.

Special packages were being offered to encourage people to try skiing and snowboarding.

The Hoods took Whitetail up on one of those deals, with the couple taking their first skiing lesson together Saturday afternoon.

"I was a little scared at first but now I'm really having a great time," Judy Hood said.

Other area ski resorts also reported 12 to 24 inches of snow with their snowmaking machines working around the clock.

- At Wisp Resort in McHenry, Md., seven to 10 trails were open Saturday with four lifts in operation.

- Ski Liberty in Carroll Valley, Pa., boasted eight open trails Saturday with five lifts in operation.

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