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Whitetail Resort offers preview of winter fun

October 27, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

MERCERSBURG, Pa. -- At least a month remains before the slopes at Whitetail Resort will again be coated with snow, but the employees responsible for making the powder showed off their equipment to visitors this weekend during the eighth annual Great Outdoors Festival at the resort.

"We are totally reliant on machine-made and man-made snow here," said Oscar Weller, snow-making administrator.

On Sunday afternoon, Weller hosted tour groups, while other visitors participated in a number of activities, including chairlift rides, paintball, Euro Bungy and a climbing wall. Food vendors surrounded the lodge, which hosted equipment swaps and a craft show.

Resort officials said they expected 3,000 visitors over the course of the weekend. Although inclement weather on Saturday kept attendance low, the mountaintop resort had two times the average number of people visiting on Sunday.

Many people were buying season passes because the price increases from $399 to $599 after Friday, according to Matt See, marketing coordinator.

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He said the wet September prompted predictions of a long, snowy winter. The resort, which employees 1,000 people each winter, opened on the first weekend of December in the past few years. The earliest it has opened was the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Weller said 50 to 60 people will fill snow-making shifts. Many of those will be skiing the slopes to monitor conditions, while others will be carrying propane tanks and torches on their backs to melt frozen equipment.

"It's a challenging job, but it's a fun job," Weller said.

Water used to make snow at Whitetail Resort does not have additives because the melted snow replenishes the resort's 100-million-gallon reservoir.

"All the snow you see up there goes right back to our reservoir," said Jeff Main, manager of snow making and grooming.

"When this resort was built, it was very green and ecological in nature," Weller said.

A dozen of the 111 fan guns are fully automatic. The 26 fan guns on the new trail, Sidewinder, are not yet automatic, but they have the capability to be converted.

"When water is leaving (the control center), we're pushing it out at 6,000 pounds per square inch. When it gets to the top of the mountain, which is 900 feet higher than this, it drops off about 100 psi," Weller said.

"We're cooling both our water and our air. It's more effective that way because when it hits the atmosphere, it's almost ready to go," Main said.

The resort has seven miles of hose in storage, he said.

"The system will run seven days a week, 24 hours a day. The longest we've run it was 27 days straight," Main said. "Allegheny Power loved us," he joked.

Dave and Jean Fulk of Martinsburg, W.Va., appreciated their afternoon tour through the snow-making control center.

"It was really nice, very informative," Dave Fulk said.

His wife said she was surprised to learn how fast the resort can make snow in an environmentally friendly fashion.

Jack Rost, Cory Hathaway, Hannah Jamison and Marshall Hairston, all from the Gaithersburg, Md., area, hit the slopes every winter, but enjoyed the Great Outdoors Festival for different reasons.

"The (chair)lift was really fun because when you get to the top, it's really pretty," said Hannah, 10.

"We went in the Haunted Hall. It was OK," said Marshall, 13.

"The rock climbing wall was hard," said Cory, 11.

"I was one rock away (from the top), and my hand slipped," Marshall said.

The children attempted flips on Euro Bungy, a combination of trampolines and ropes.

"The ropes pull you up," Marshall said.

"They make such a difference," Jack said.

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