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Whitetail season has promising start

December 02, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

MERCERSBURG - About 300 skiers and snowboarders took to the trails at Whitetail Ski Resort on Saturday for the opening day of the 2002 skiing season.

It was only the second time in the resort's 11-year history that the season has opened in November.

October's above-normal rainfall in the area is a harbinger of a cold, snowy winter, said Chris Black, marketing director at Whitetail. He said the resort is expecting excellent snowfall this winter based on the fall rains.

"It shows a trend," he said.

The 2001 ski season started off with snow and cold weather but it didn't last. The resort had to shut down earlier in March than usual.

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Black said the fall rains last year were low.

"We only had a few inches of rain in October," he said.

Don MacAskill, general manager at Whitetail, said he was happy with the number of skiers and snowboarders who showed up for the first day.

"It's great to be able to start this early," he said.

MacAskill said there is usually a higher percentage of snowboarders than skiers early in the season.

"Snowboarders tend to be more enthusiastic for an early start," he said.

Jordon Fuller, 19, of Glengary, W.Va., is a snowboarder. He said the slopes "were about what we expected this early in the season."

"It's good to practice this early," he said.

Fuller, who said he snowboards "every waking moment," said he likes coming to Whitetail because it's "close and cheap."

Vinney Nguen and Ky Ho, friends from Falls Church, Va., also went to Whitetail on Saturday to run the slopes on their snowboards.

Nguen said he expected more slopes to be open, "but it was still a good day just to warm up."

He, too, said he likes Whitetail because of its proximity to home.

Freda Victor and her son, Cody, drove up from Richmond, Va., to ski Saturday. She said she and her son are beginners.

"We thought the slopes were pretty good," she said.

Cathy Klappert was there from Greencastle, Pa., for the day. She said she is just getting back into skiing for the first time after a three-year hiatus. It was her first time at Whitetail.

Klappert's son Kevin works at the resort in guest services. He was skiing, too.

Her younger son, Ben, 10, was on his snowboard. He said it's more fun than skiing.

"It's more challenging," he said.

New at Whitetail this year is a building housing the Mountain Sports Shop, an expanded retail center, administration offices and guest services facilities.

Also new is the tubing hill with its own runs. Snow tubing, like water tubing, uses a device similar to a truck inner tube which participants sit or lie on and slide down the slopes.

At the height of the ski season, Whitetail has more than 700 employees, mostly part time. So far this year, there are about 150 people on the payroll, MacAskill said.

Whitetail opened in 1991 under its first owners. The resort fell on hard times in the mid-1990s.

It was bought by Snow Time Inc. of York, Pa., in 1998 for $13 million. The company also owns Ski Roundtop near Harrisburg, Pa., and Ski Liberty near Fairfield, Pa.

The resort will be open today from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"I think we'll be open for the winter. The snow-making temperatures look good for the week," MacAskill said.

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