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Forecast looks bright for resort

December 30, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MERCERSBURG - From a distance, one could see countless inch-high black specks making their way down pristine white slopes Saturday afternoon at Whitetail Mountain Resort outside of Mercersburg.

Up close, most of the men, women and children had red noses and cheeks as they enjoyed a day in a ski season that officials are saying could be one of the best in years.

Rain in October, snow before Christmas and cold temperatures after the sun goes down have created the type of conditions for which skiers - and employees of ski resorts - long.

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"We're off to probably our best start in the brief history of Whitetail," said marketing coordinator Chris Black.

The ski resort opened in 1991.

"We've been very fortunate to get some of this weather," he said. "It's phenomenal."

Sitting in the resort's crowded lodge, Black had on a thick coat and knit cap. He anticipated hitting the slopes later in the day to take updated photographs for the ski resort's Web site.

With two significant snowfalls before the end of the year, including one of several inches on Christmas day, Black said the weather has made some people's minds lean toward the mountains. Several thousand people visited the resort Friday.

Warmer weather and no snow in the winter can inhibit some people from skiing, Black believes.

Despite the natural snow, Whitetail officials have been making manmade snow for weeks, using recycled water pumped in from a nearby multimillion-gallon reservoir.

As of Saturday, 14 of Whitetail's 19 slopes were open and all six lifts were carrying people up the mountain. A new, separate snow tubing area should open in about a week or so, along with the remaining five slopes, Black said.

Outside the lodge, Jay Ponte, of Ashburn, Va., smoked a cigarette and downed a hot drink.

"The snow's good today," Ponte said. "Better than it's been in the past."

A skier whenever Mother Nature allows for it, Ponte said the snow was probably the best manmade he has seen.

"Usually it's like a sheet of ice," he said.

At the base of the mountain, wearing a black hat with "Ski School" stitched across the back, instructor Mick Larsen stood next to coin-operated racks people could use to secure their equipment while they took a break.

"The snow's actually pretty nice," Larsen said.

He offered one piece of advice to those heading to the slopes for the first time: Take a lesson.

Sitting at a round outdoor picnic table, Tom Hartman was waiting for his fiance to finish skiing before the pair headed home to Silver Spring, Md. It was Hartman's first trip to Whitetail, and he was using a $4 pair of skis found at a church yard sale.

"It's just as nice (as other ski resorts)," Hartman said. "The snow's in good shape. There haven't been long lift lines."

By the lodge's entrance, a young girl seemed content to use the slopes as a picturesque backdrop. She was busy sliding down a small hill using a blue plastic saucer sled.

Whitetail is open seven days a week, and will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. New Year's Eve and from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Jan. 1.

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