Weekend skiing is usually a nightmare -; long lift lines, packed slopes, overcrowded lodges and parking spots that seem like they’re in a different county than the ski area. But there is one weekend day during prime season when you can avoid the headaches -; Superbowl Sunday. On Superbowl Sunday you have a choice: sitting around in front of a TV watching a couple of teams that no true DC resident really cares about play a boring game where one team usually slaughters the other. Or you can get off your butt and take advantage of the winter wonderland. One of the best local resorts for doing this is Whitetail.
Liberty, being a half hour closer to DC, doesn’t thin out as fast as Whitetail. And Liberty has a pub where people can watch the game. Nearby Emmitsburg also has a few pub-like spots where people can glue themselves to a bar stool near a television. Hence, skiers will stay longer at Liberty before leaving to catch the so-called big game. The crowds usually head home from Whitetail at about 2:30 p.m. to arrive on time for a Superbowl Party. And there are no pubs or restaurants near Whitetail. Okay, there are a couple of small places in Mercersburg, PA. But that’s backtracking for DC/Baltimore residents. You have to drive all the way to Hagerstown to find a restaurant. And the nearest pub on the drive home isn’t until Frederick. This lack of any nice places to stop and have a drink and a bite to eat is a pain on most days when coming home from Whitetail. But it means great weekend skiing one day a year.
My wife and I arrived at 2:30 and met up with our friend Carlos. Skiers were already pouring off the slopes and we easily found parking spots close to the lodge. There were no lines to purchase lift tickets and the line for the express quad was only half deep. It took less than two minutes to board the lift. Light snow trickled down as we rode to the top. We tracked left off the top of the lift. For some strange reason, 90 percent of skiers seem to turn right off the top of the lift and head down Angel Drop or Limelight. The two runs to the left, Snowdancer and Fanciful, are generally empty. We zoomed down Snowdancer. I mean we ZOOMED!!! The snow was extremely fast. Not icy. Just FAST!!! I felt like I was going twice the usual speed and had to start carving wider turns to keep from going out of control.
In the short time that it took to reach the base of the lift, the line had gotten even shorter as more skiers departed. Karen, Carlos and I tried out each of the other blue slopes and then headed over to the Expert’s Choice Lift. There was only a handful of people in the lift line -; gotta love the Superbowl. We took a few runs on Far Side and Exhibition, both single black diamond slopes only slightly steeper than Whitetail’s intermediate runs. I considered going down the moguled monster Bold Decision, the only true expert slope on the mountain. I had survived a run on it earlier in the week without falling or making too much of a spectacle of myself. The center section of the slope is so steep and has such giant icy moguls that it looks like a shear cliff with Volkswagens glued to it. With the snow being much faster than on my previous outing, I determined that Bold Decision would be a bad decision.
We returned to the blue runs and arrived back at the base of the mountain at 5 p.m. to meet our snowboarding friend Ellis who came up for the night session. She has one of those unlimited night skiing passes for Liberty and Whitetail that costs 120 bucks for the season. (You can only buy the pass before the season begins). It was her first time out for the year so she wanted to make a few runs on a beginner trail. We joined her to become a foursome and jumped onto the Easy Rider Quad. This lift, which serves the Snow Park trail, is always packed. And because it’s not a high-speed lift, the line takes forever to move along. But not tonight. The base of the mountain resembled a ghost town. Only diehard skiers and foreigners remained for the evening session. I was surprised to hear so many people speaking various European languages. Who in the world comes from Europe to go skiing in the mid-Atlantic? But then I remembered all of the embassies in DC. Ah, they like that other football and could not care less about one of our nation’s newer traditions.
Ellis got right back in the groove after just 3 runs and we returned to the intermediate area and then the expert trails. But by 7:30, Ellis began to complain about her legs being sore from negotiating the more difficult trails on her first time out. Karen had reached her chill factor as the temperature plummeted after sunset. And Carlos could barely see the slopes because he was wearing excessively dark goggles that looked like Italian sunglasses. I wanted to stay a bit longer and enjoy the empty terrain. On a few runs I felt as though I had the place to myself. But I was outvoted. We made one more run down Snowdancer and headed home. RATS!!! Skiing on Superbowl Sunday can’t be beat. More skiers should come on out and enjoy that feeling of having all of Whitetail to themselves.
Well, maybe they shouldn’t. No, they definitely shouldn’t. Everyone should stay home next year and watch the Superbowl. I’ll check on the skiing conditions then and get back to you.
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.