If Mother Nature had any say in the matter, there would be no skiing in the Mid Atlantic. It’s not that the area doesn’t get cold, or that it doesn’t snow. It’s just that neither stick around long enough to make skiing seem worthwhile. At least not without a lot of man-made help.
I had lived in the DC area for more than ten years before I considered skiing here. It took a winter that recorded 8-10 feet of snow in some areas to start me thinking there might be something to the rumor that skiing in the region was fun. And if winter was actually going to come to this part of the world, I was going to do whatever I could to enjoy it.
There are a handful of resorts within a couple hour’s drive of DC, all nestled in the mountains to the west. None are large, averaging around 500-1000 feet of vertical drop and 100-150 acres of skiable terrain. Snowmaking is king for these resorts, with monster guns lining all slopes. So if the artificial stuff is not for you, then stay away.
But if you’re in the area and need to scratch your skiing itch, these places do yeoman’s work building up their base and keeping themselves relevant during most of the winter.
Arguably the best of the local resorts is Whitetail. About 90 miles west of DC in southern Pennsylvania, the resort boasts 1000 feet of vertical drop, 19 trails, a halfpipe and two terrain parks. The resort seems designed for people in a hurry, making a visit the quintessential DC-area skiing day trip. You can get there in an hour and a half, driving almost entirely on the Interstate. Upon arrival, a high speed quad chairlift whisks you to the summit in a few minutes. If you stick to the zippy quad and the blue runs it serves, it’s possible to get in 10-15 runs an hour, meaning you can pretty much be through skiing by Noon – just in time to get back to the city and catch up on your busy life.
Other places, like Liberty, Bryce, and Roundtop are smaller, more low key, and without the blazing fast chair, slower paced. They’re also a little cheaper. All-in-all, though, the experience at these local resorts is similar. It’s nice they’re so close, you’re thankful they somehow manage to keep their base, and you’re glad you have the opportunity to keep your skiing legs toned for longer, more challenging ski trips further afield.