Firsthand Report
Firsthand Report: Back to Liberty 3
Author thumbnail By Matthew Graham, DCSki Columnist

Liberty Mountain (AKA Ski Liberty) was the first place my late wife and I skied together in 1986. And it was the last place we skied together before she passed in a tragic (non-skiing) accident in 2015.

Before we met, we had both only skied a couple of times during high school and college. Therefore, we were basically beginners when we went to Liberty with a group of friends all those years ago. We really didn’t know what we were doing — just making it down the easy trails and trying a few of the intermediate runs. However, we had so much fun that we decided to make skiing a part of our lives. It was our first shared activity.

We married that spring, bought a house together, and when winter came around again we started our skiing adventures. For three decades, a lifetime really, we skied all over the country and across Europe. We skied all of the local resorts, not just Liberty, but Whitetail, Roundtop, Seven Springs, Snowshoe, Wisp, Massanutten, and Wintergreen. We took lessons, got better and better, and travelled out west to Breckenridge, Keystone, Steamboat, Copper, Loveland, Taos, Vail and Park City. We went to Chamonix, France — twice. And we regularly made our way up to Vermont’s Stratton, Killington, Okemo and Mount Snow. We also loved the abundance of resorts up in the Poconos — especially Elk Mountain.

After I lost her, I continued skiing. Many of my friends skied and they dragged me along on various ski trips. Yet, it wasn’t until February of 2024 that I decided to come back to Liberty.

Snow guns blazing at Liberty Mountain Resort on February 20, 2024. Photo by Matthew Graham.

It was a beautiful, sunny and crisp Tuesday morning. The snow guns were still blowing in the base area. Over the last thirty years the resort had changed ownership a couple of times and the lodge had been improved. But the mountain still looked the same as back in the 1980s.

I geared up in the parking lot and was at the Alpine Quad lift a few minutes before nine a.m. Riding the lift, I remembered all of the fun we used to have coming to Liberty for night skiing. It was always a sheet of ice! My late wife, Karen, and I bought snow blades and started to use them for night skiing. We’d sharpen the edges of these super-short skis and use them like ice skates gliding down the slopes. It was so much fun.

Once I reached the top of the lift, I headed down the easy trail Dipsy Doodle. I couldn’t believe how good the snow was given how warm this winter has been. The resort had run the snow guns overnight and groomed most of the trails. I floated on corduroy all the way to the bottom. I returned to Alpine lift, which has a mid-station drop off point for a short beginner slope and two terrain parks. I rode all the way to the top and swooshed down Dipsy Doodle again. It felt like I had the entire resort to myself.

Fresh corduroy at the top of Liberty. Photo by Matthew Graham.

With my legs warmed up, I moved over to the back side of the mountain. There are two side-by-side quad lifts there. Only one of them was running since it was a weekday. The back side has two intermediate runs, three double black diamond expert runs on the top half of the hill, and four intermediate slopes on the bottom half. There’s also a single black expert trail, named Lower Strata, which was closed that day.

Riding up the lift I remembered seeing those double diamond trails with Karen for the first time — we looked at each other and said “nope.” They were steep as cliffs and covered with icy moguls. The funny thing is that in 2015, we again looked at those double black runs, looked at each other, paused and said “nope,” even though we were able to easily ski on single black diamond trails.

I spent the rest of the morning riding up the quad and mixing it up on the blue trails. With one of the double blacks (Upper Ultra) being groomed, I jumped on it a few times. I don’t recall if ever being groomed before. It was a piece of cake!

Shadow of the lone skier. Photo by Matthew Graham.

Still, riding up the lift alone, the mind wanders all over the place. I kept remembering ski trips with Karen and the friends we made while skiing. One such friend was Connie Lawn. She was also a ski journalist and a contributor to DCSki.com. She passed a couple of years after Karen and I miss her dearly.

I also thought about all that has happened to me over the last eight years and how my friends have been there to support me. I met a woman a few years ago and we became a couple. We got married last year — underwater — SCUBA diving in the Florida Keys! And even though I’m with someone now, riding the lift by oneself can often be a lonely experience. However, once off the lift (no matter what I had been thinking about) I instantly became happy again as I cruised across and down the snowy surface. Skiing is such a joyful experience — the exhilaration of speed, the feeling of being in the groove as you connect one turn to another.

Empty slopes on the backside. Photo by Matthew Graham.

As the temperature climbed and the snow softened, I returned to the front side of the mountain, which faces more northerly and stays cooler. The front side also includes a superb bunny hill and beginner area served by another lift, as well as two expert trails.

My favorite expert trail, White Lightning, was open and groomed. It cuts through the forest with a sharp turn halfway down. The other single black trail, Blue Streak, is also a total gas. It’s the perfect trail for any intermediate skier who wants to try their first black slope. I alternated between these two trails until I got 25 runs under my belt for the day. I don’t know why I count runs — maybe because I’m an engineer. But I always have to get in at least 20 runs to make it a ski day. (Side note — I got an app that was supposed to count my runs for me. It didn’t work, of course!)

It was an excellent day of skiing and I left with a giant smile on my face. I had hoped to take my new wife, Fresia, skiing this season. She’s been looking forward to taking up the sport. However, she broke her ankle in the fall. It’s healed — but not quite ready for prime time yet. We plan to buy her some beginner skis when the prices go down at the end of the season. She’s good to go with boots. She wears the same size shoes as my late wife. Actually she wears the same size clothes. Therefore she’s all set with outerwear.

Yes. It’s kind of weird that I married a woman who is the same size as my late wife. And how did I end up marrying two women who are always sending me to the UPS store to return Amazon packages. (Or maybe that’s common to many women???) So we will be ready for next winter. And I know the best place for her to start her skiing adventure, “our” skiing adventure — Liberty Mountain.

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About Matthew Graham

Matthew Graham is a skier as well as a hang glider and paraglider pilot, SCUBA diver, cavern diver, equestrian, polo player, sailor, hiker, biker, rock climber, paddler, and skater. He's also yoga teacher and certified personal trainer and has dabbled in just about every other sport, even stunt car driving and bull riding! He has written for the Washington Post, Washingtonian Magazine, USA Weekend Magazine, Hooked on the Outdoors, Richmond Magazine, Chesapeake Life Magazine, Metro Sports, American Fitness, Blue Ridge Outdoors, Recreation News and numerous other outdoor and travel publications.

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Reader Comments

Crush
4 months ago (edited 4 months ago)
Member since 03/21/2004 🔗
1,271 posts

Great report I think we are all going in back in time to Liberty it still represents so much. Love the closing line.

"... weird that I married a woman who is the same size as my late wife ..." not really John Derek married Bo Derek (Mary Collins) and Linda Evans they could be sisters. Fire.

Denis - DCSki Supporter 
4 months ago
Member since 07/12/2004 🔗
2,341 posts
Thanks Matthew, that’s an awesome story.
JimK - DCSki Columnist
3 months ago
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,986 posts

Matthew, I just read this.  Somehow I missed it earlier this winter.  Very emotional, but also very uplifting.

This line really resonates:  "However, once off the lift (no matter what I had been thinking about) I instantly became happy again as I cruised across and down the snowy surface. Skiing is such a joyful experience — the exhilaration of speed, the feeling of being in the groove as you connect one turn to another."

Ski and Tell

Speak truth to powder.

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