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Whitetail season good for new owners

March 29, 2000|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - This winter was a good sign for the new owners of Whitetail Resort.

Thanks to more snow and colder temperatures, Whitetail opened all 17 of its ski and snowboard slopes for the first time in three years, said Donald McAskill, Whitetail's general manager.

Snow Time Inc. bought the resort last fall for $13 million and spiffed it up for the 1999-2000 season. The company also owns Ski Liberty near Fairfield, Pa., Ski Roundtop near Harrisburg, Pa., and Ski Windham in New York.

"We started off slow. It was mild in December but we managed to open on Dec. 24," McAskill said. The resort stayed open through March 5, when warmer than normal temperatures forced it to shut down. Even though the season was shorter than usual, the resort hosted as many skiers and snowboarders as in the longer season the year before, he said.

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The resort had 130,000 skier visits this year, about the same as last year, McAskill said. All four of Snow Time's resorts did well this winter, he said.

Increased snow-making capacity, better food service, a more flexible ticketing system and improved equipment rentals helped to boost business at Whitetail, he said.

Employment for the season peaked out at around 750 part-time workers. Full-time, year-round employment hovers around 30 workers, McAskill said.

More improvements are planned for this year, including $1 million in new snow-making equipment, a 10,000-square-foot addition to the main lodge and a 2,000-square-foot addition to the rental shops.

"Overall, Snow Time is pleased with the purchase and the way the public has responded," McAskill said. "The outlook for the next three or four years is optimistic."

Whitetail, which opened in 1991, has the highest vertical drop at 935 feet of any ski resort in the mid-Atlantic, McAskill said.

Summer activities at the resort will include the fly fishing school and mountain biking.

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