The District may not be known as a winter wonderland, forcing student skiers and snowboarders to hang up their equipment early in the snow season. But with mountains surrounding the Beltway in Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, a one-hour ride is all that is needed for a lift ticket to the mountains. Several nearby resorts even cater to college students, offering cheap deals for late night or weekend lift tickets with a college I.D., but the biggest obstacle is probably finding the means to get there.
M. Scott Smith, editor of the online publication DCSki, has been providing avid skiers and snowboarders with updated online information on the slopes since 1997 at dcski.com. DCSki provides year-round information for outdoor sports and recreation, but the message boards, columns, articles and bargain trackers are filled with information about the ski season for the winter.
Smith said that for students looking for day trips, Liberty, Roundtop and Whitetail resorts make ideal getaways for their Southern Pennsylvania location, a mere 90 minutes from the Beltway.
“My favorite nearby resort is Whitetail, because it’s close by, has a good vertical (935-feet), and a high-speed lift,” Smith wrote in an e-mail last week. “Whitetail is one of the newest ski resorts in the nation. All of the local resorts are open for night skiing, so it’s possible to swing by a resort in the evening and ski under the stars.”
The relatively short drive might be insurmountable to students living on campus without cars. But student organizations like GW Trails have already began organizing trips open for all students to Liberty and Whitetail.
Jeremiah Davis, a graduate student and director of TRAiLS, said the group is planning three trips – two downhill and one cross-country – this semester. The first will be Jan. 23 as part of winter welcome week at GW, and TRAiLS will provide a charter bus or vans to Liberty Mountain. Any students looking to ski or snowboard can sign up for the trip by contacting GW TRAiLS. The trip costs $67 to $95, depending on one’s level and whether they need equipment.
Davis said a similar trip is planned to Whitetail Mountain on Feb. 12. For each trip, TRAiLS will take the first 40 to 50 students to sign up. Davis said TRAiLS plans to better market the trips, which the group has organized for the past two and three years, to graduate students and the Greek-letter community.
Beginners are welcome on the trips, and the local resorts provide good terrain for those learning to ski or snowboard. Smith also pointed to less frequented spots like the Homestead in Virginia or Hidden Valley Resort in Pennsylvania, where beginners might feel more comfortable. Some resorts also have good deals for beginners, like Whitetail, where new skiers can find all-inclusive packages under $50 that include lift ticket, rentals and lessons.
Davis did not specify a date for the cross-country ski trip, which will lead a smaller group of students to New Germany in western Maryland. For cross-country skiers interested in planning their own trip, Smith also said the White Grass Touring Center in the scenic Canaan Valley, W.V., offers some of the best conditions in the area. The Mall even makes for an excellent spot in the neighborhood, provided one has the equipment and Washington sees a significant snowfall.
Senior Antonio Cutlatsakes founded a different kind of snowboard and ski club last year, the GW Snowboard and Ski Clan. He said the idea stemmed from a conversation with friends sophomore year dying to escape the city and hit the slopes. He registered the group his junior year with the Student Activities Center and used his Web site, www.concretewall.net, and the Facebook to promote it and expand its membership this year.
“(The club) isn’t a way to just get to the slopes. It’s more,” Cutlatsakes said. “It’s getting together with people of similar interests and becoming part of the ski and snowboard scene on campus.”
Rather than taking one-day excursions to the mountain, the group plans weekend long trips. He said the first event is on Friday to Camelback Mountain in Pennsylvania. The group is renting out two cabins for about 20 people at a nearby resort. Cutlasakes said the trip costs $150 per person, covering lift tickets, lodging and transportation from D.C. They’ll return Sunday.
Anyone interested in becoming involved can visit Cutlatsakes’s Web site, concretewall.net, or sign up on his thefacebook.com group to receive e-mails about future trips. Cutlatsakes hopes to take another group on a similar trip in February or March to a location further north, maybe Vermont, he said.
“The whole theory behind this club is an opportunity to get off campus and escape the normal scene,” he said.
If the University doesn’t provide one’s fill of skiing or snowboarding, there are several ski clubs in the Washington area that organize ad-hoc trips, and sometimes DCSki readers utilize the site’s message boards to plan group outings.
“There are a lot of Ski Clubs in the D.C. Region, but many seem to cater to older folks,” Smith said.
One club, the Ski Club of Washington, has a subdivision called TNT (Twenties and Thirties). ?A list of the group’s events can be found at www.scwdc.org/tnt.asp. With outings that include daytime ski trips, happy hour get-togethers and ice-skating on the Mall, members often need just to get to a Metro stop to attend. Volunteer leaders get a general head count, then divide the group into a car pool before heading off to the mountain.
Tracy Bartlett helps organize and lead outings, and she said on a good skiing day, up to 50 people meet up for a day trip. She said TNT’s mailing lists consist of about 2,000 people from the area, and the organization relies on its volunteers to plan events. TNT also plans week-long ski-trips well in advance, which are open to anyone who wants to sign-up. One such trip to Quebec conveniently lands over GW’s spring break, March 13 to 18, and costs $780 to $820. More information and contact information can be found on the group’s Web site.
Smith also made recommendations for any students looking to make overnight visits to the mountains. These places also happen to be excellent spots for snowboarders.
“For multi-day trips, my vote goes for West Virginia’s Snowshoe Mountain Resort (about 6 to 6.5 hours away), Maryland’s Wisp Resort (about 3 hours away) and Pennsylvania’s Seven Springs Resort (about 3 hours away),” Smith said. “Snowshoe has a lot to offer, and is best for snowboarders.?But snowboarders will find good terrain parks and pipes at the closer resorts, too.”