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Hitting the slopes

Ski buffs welcome Whitetail's opening

Ski buffs welcome Whitetail's opening

December 10, 2006|by DON AINES

MERCERSBURG, PA. - The parking lots were filling up early Saturday morning for the first day of skiing at Whitetail Resort, with cars and sport utility vehicles sporting license plates from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., along with at least one from Texas and another from - of all places - Maine.

Events coordinator Amy Stine said she and other resort employees sometimes walk through the lots just to see where people are coming from.

A week of cold days and frigid nights had allowed the resorts 94 airless snow making fan guns to pile up a base of 12 to 18 inches on eight runs and open the slopes for the 2006-07 season. The machines still were spraying out a crystalline mist Saturday as the first skiers and snowboarders headed toward the lifts.

"Our goal is always to open the day after Thanksgiving," said Stine, who began working at the resort when she was 17.

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The balmy winters of recent years, however, only have allowed the resort to hit that target once in the past six years, she said.

The resort could stay open through March 20 "as long as Mother Nature accommodates us," Stine said. Judging by the Farmer's Almanac and woolly bears, Stine said this could be an unusually cold winter.

"Over here, there was some chunky stuff at the top, but pretty good for the first day" Donald Einck of McLean, Va., said, pointing at one of the runs. Einck said he comes to Whitetail six or seven times a year for day trips.

Once it is in full swing, the resort will have 19 trails open, Stine said. With the addition of lights to the Farside black diamond trail this year, 17 of them will be open for night skiing, she said.

"Some of the runs are in decent shape," said Mark Adjoodani of Glen Burnie, Md.

"Most of them are, actually," said Zac Carter, also of Glen Burnie.

"This is our first time up here," said Sydney Hannon of Burke, Va. "We were just kind of getting bored with some of the other areas."

"This one has been skiing since she was 18 months old," said her father, Mitch Hannon.

Most of the younger people at the resort were toting snowboards instead of skis, and Stine said the resort purchased 900 Burton Learn To Ride snowboards and more than 1,000 pairs of boots.

"They facilitate quicker learning," Stine said of the boards.

Another new feature is "an enclosed Magic Carpet" to replace the snow tubing lift - essentially an enclosed lift to protect tubers from the elements, Stine said.

Along with tourists, Whitetail also brings jobs to the Mercersburg area. Stine said more than 800 people can be employed by the resort during the winter.

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