Snowmaking has been a thing for almost 50 years now, and avid skiers who find themselves living below the Mason-Dixon Line are pretty happy about it.
People who grew up in areas where winter was synonymous with snow are sometimes surprised when they move to D.C. In fact, most of us who live here are frequently surprised, since some winters we get more than 4 feet of snow, others almost none. It lends a little mystery to living here. You never have to ask yourself, “Will I sweat through these clothes today?” during June, July or August, but you always have to wonder if you’ll need the shovel this year.
So if it wasn’t for snowmaking, those of us who love to hit the slopes every winter would be forced to choose between making an expensive trip up north and suffering the disappointment of living in a temperate climate during prime winter sport season.
The Road Trip
On a recent Random Montgomery County Public Schools Day Off, my teens and I headed across the border to Pennsylvania, which is, of course, north of the Mason-Dixon Line, but still an easy drive from the DMV, and an hour closer than the closest resort in the south, Massanutten.
Liberty Mountain and White Tail Resort are both just over the border in Pennsylvania, and Roundtop is another hour north. The three joined forces some time ago to offer an “Advantage Card” to frequent skiers that saves you a bundle on lift tickets and rentals, but the price isn’t worth it if you don’t go often enough.
The three mountains are very similar, so we always choose Liberty because it’s a little closer than White Tail.
We only go once a year, so we pay about $100 a person for a four-hour flex ticket and rentals. I once owned skis, but they become obsolete quickly, and buying them for kids who aren’t done growing yet is like buying them a nice pair of shoes — they use them once or twice, then you have to try to sell them on eBay for a quarter of what you paid the year before.
The Best Way to do It
We found the key to our happiness was to go on a day everyone else has school. The lines are shorter not just at the lifts, but at the front counter, rental desk and cafeteria as well.
On the day we went in January, it hadn’t been cold enough to make snow for a while, so some trails had caution signs over muddy areas. Most trails were open, however, and the ice was not too hard to avoid. Some actual snow fell from the sky, and the resort planned to make its own that evening.
Liberty has 22 trails, including four double black diamonds (very difficult), three black diamonds (difficult), nine blue squares (challenging) and six green circles (easy/beginner). Contrast this with a popular Vermont mountain I visited in my youth — Killington — which has 153 trails, and you’ll see how southern skiing is different.
Really though, we’re lucky we can ski down here at all, and my days of skiing two days in a row are over anyway, so I’m happy to put in my four hours and come home.
Liberty Mountain offers group lessons, private lessons and package deals for those interested in furthering their ski skills. We’ve taken a couple of group lessons when we’re the only ones in the group, so if you go at an off-peak time, you might get lucky like this too.
For the skilled, brave and foolish among us, Liberty has a three-level terrain park to practice your jumps, tricks, grabbing and grinding (but just in the skiing sense, of course — puh-lease).
If you’re bringing little kids or others who have never skied before and they get tired after a while, Liberty also offers tubing, and this year, ice skating too.
The cafeteria food is tasty, but it’s not cheap, and Liberty doesn’t forbid you from bringing your own food in, so if you have dietary restrictions or just want to save money, that’s an option.
There’s at least a month left to the ski season here, so plan to take a day off and head up north for a fun day of great exercise, fresh air and fantastic views on the slopes!