- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 30, 2003

While the nation’s capital enjoyed relatively balmy temperatures for most of last week, ski resorts throughout the Middle Atlantic region were scrambling to open.

The biggest — and traditionally one of the earliest to open — resort south of Vermont, Snowshoe, has been forced to set three opening dates so far. The latest is Friday, and with the colder temperatures that settled in before Thanksgiving Day, Snowshoe should be up and running next weekend.

“We started [Monday] when the temperature on the mountain dropped 30 degrees in 90 minutes,” said Snowshoe’s Joe Stevens. “We’re aggressively making snow all over the mountain as long as the temperatures stay steady. Tuesday morning, it was 12 degrees at the mountain.”

Stevens allowed that Snowshoe’s massive snowmaking system, running at optimum conditions, could have pumped out enough snow for the resort to open for skiing on or just after Thanksgiving Day.

“But is that the experience we want to give our guests?” he said. “We want them to enjoy the experience. They are putting out higher dollars then they were 10 or 15 years ago, and they deserve the best. It’s not a good experience to ski through snowmaking or on less than perfect snow.”

For practical purposes, keeping skiers off the mountain while snowmaking is going full tilt is a good thing.

“When we say aggressively making snow, that means we have the guns in the middle of the trail, running at full volume,” said Stevens. “We can lay down more snow in a shorter amount of time that way. Then the groomers come in and spread it treeline to treeline.

“Sure, we lose Thanksgiving, and traditionally we want to be open on Thanksgiving,” said Stevens. “But the traffic after Thanksgiving [weekend] is marginal. By opening on [Friday], we’ll stay open because we started the right way.”

Snowshoe still plans to have its Winter Celebration and Demo Days Weekend from Dec.12-14. It features live entertainment, on-slope games, fireworks and free equipment demos.

Snowshoe’s Demo Days are not to be missed by anyone shopping for equipment. Dozens of manufacturers drive their vans onto the snow and set up stations where new skis and snowboards, tuned for that day’s conditions, are available for testing. The gear can be exchanged after every run or kept for a few runs over varying terrain. Contact: 877/441-4386; snowshoemtn.com.

Canaan Valley readies — Friday also is the target opening day for Canaan Valley Resort. The resort made improvements to its lodge hotel rooms and ski area during the summer, including an upgrade to the terrain park and the addition of high speed Internet access in the lodge. Canaan also expanded its rental fleet with new Rossignol skis and snowboards.

Timberline prepares — Timberline Resort, Davis, W.Va., has set a tentative opening day of Thursday, Dec.11.

Timberline will have its first telemark workshop Dec.21. The workshop is available for every level of telemarker, including beginners.

A New Year’s Eve party is scheduled at Timberline’s lodge with dinner at 7p.m. and dancing at 9. The dinner is by reservation only. Contact: 800/766-9464, snow phone 304/866-4828; timberlineresort.com.

Wisp rolls back prices — Wisp at Deep Creek Mountain Resort, McHenry, Md., celebrates its 48th season by rolling back prices of lift tickets, lessons and rentals to 1955 levels.

Opened during the winter of 1955-56, Wisp has evolved from a rope tow and one room building with a pot belly stove into one of the premier four-season resorts in the mid-Atlantic. Contact: 301/387-4911; skiwisp.com.

• Snow Sports appears on Sundays in The Washington Times during the winter. Contact: bclapper@washingtontimes.com.

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