- The Washington Times - Monday, January 26, 2004

Hundreds of Washington residents headed west yesterday in search of mountains of snow.

The area’s ski resorts were packed with visitors taking advantage of a day off work to ski on 8 inches of fresh, white powder.

The heaviest snowfall of the season dumped 6 inches on Washington on Sunday night, followed by expected freezing rain and icy conditions on the roads.

Rather than return to the traffic snarl, many skiers opted for a three-to-four-day weekend. Others used a day off to head out of town.

“This has been one of our best days, and that’s because we have 8 inches of fresh snow and a ton of schools were already closed for Monday,” said Anne Weimer, marketing coordinator for Liberty Mountain Resort in Carroll Valley, Pa.

Schools in Montgomery, Fairfax and Arlington counties had planned professional days for yesterday, but closed their administrative offices or gave employees liberal leave because of the weather. Other school systems closed for the day.

Some 2,000 to 4,000 skiers played on more than 35 inches of snow yesterday at Liberty Mountain, an hour’s drive north of the District, about the same traffic as a normal Saturday in January, Ms. Weimer said.

Ski Roundtop resort in Lewisberry, Pa., had its best weekday of the year, said marketing director Chris Dudding.

“When you have schools and the federal government closed for snow, it generally turns out to be a great day,” Mr. Dudding said, estimating 1,500 people were on the slopes yesterday.

The federal government remained open yesterday but operated on a liberal leave policy, which allows employees who cannot report for work to request unscheduled leave.

The National Weather Service predicted up to 8 inches of snow by the time the storm system leaves the Washington area tonight.

Wintergreen Resort in Wintergreen, Va., 2 hours west of Washington, expected about 2,300 skiers on its slopes yesterday, but spokeswoman Frankee Love said the number was closer to 3,500.

Nearby lodging was booked from Thursday through yesterday, Ms. Love added.

Wisp, at DeepCreek Mountain Resort in McHenry, Md., also benefited from the winterweather. Slope-side lodging was sold out for the weekend at the resort, which is 180 miles west of Washington.

Marketing coordinator Sarah Duck said many visitors bought an extra $36 all-day lift ticket to use today rather than face freezing rain during this morning’s commute.

“I think many of [Monday’s] visitors are waiting it out to see if the weather breaks” and get a few extra ski runs in before heading back to work, she said.

Steve Showalter, ski-area general manager, said he was surprised to see the large number of skiers at Massanutten Resort in Harrisonburg, Va., on a Monday that didn’t follow a holiday weekend.

“Most of the people had already made plans in advance and happened to catch the right weekend to stay an extra day,” he said. Mr. Showalter expected between 2,750 and 2,800 daily visitors.

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