With about 50 Years Behind Them – Wisp Resort Knows How to Have Fun!

I was lucky enough to visit Wisp Resort back in January and everyone was talking about the fact that they were celebrating 50 years of Wisp. I could easily dive into a history lesson however while their past IS interesting, it is their present and future that is shining bright.

When the ski slope was first opened, it consisted of a rope tow, a small hut warmed by a single pot-bellied stove, and the rental equipment was provided from the bed of a pickup truck owned by Ace Heise, who along with his wife Evelyn started Wisp. That was more than 50 years ago and while there’s a lot of wonderful history that brought Wisp to where it is today…the reason for this feature story is THE PRESENT.  Wisp Resort at Deep Creek is one sweet ski resort, located in one sweet community!

Back during the summer of 2005, Wisp held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the nine million dollar expansion. The ceremony was attended by Wisp founder, Helmuth “Ace” Heise, and dozens of resort and state officials. The event announced the addition of “North Camp” which heralded the coming of some of the most exciting terrain available at Wisp.  North Camp features a vert of 700 feet and ten trails that total more than three miles and added 33 acres of skiable terrain to the resort.  70% of the new acreage is beginner terrain, 20% is intermediate and 10% is billed as expert. The two new Quad lifts added more than 60% to Wisp’s capability of moving people up the mountain.

None of this huge expansion would mean a thing without improvements in snowmaking and Wisp’s snowmaking system is second to none! They boast of their system being enhanced by some 50% in pumping capacity and they nearly doubled their snowmaking machines.  I was allowed a tour of their mountaintop snowmaking facility and even though Wisp receives an average of 100 inches of snowfall annually, all they really need is cold temperatures to blanket their trails with snow. Wisp has one of the world’s largest and most energy-efficient snowmaking systems. Wisp has further increased its snowmaking capabilities with the addition of a new state-of-the-art control center and snowmaking pump house.

The new facility increased Wisps snowmaking pumping capacity by 48%. In addition to housing the extensive snowmaking pumping system, a new control room was added to monitor and control snowmaking machines, chairlifts, lighting, music and video, HVAC and weather stations.

I can tell you that the control center looks like something from the Starship Enterprise of Star Trek fame.  On one wall are several flat panel monitors that rotate views from more 20 some odd web cams on the mountain.  They can pan, tilt and zoom into shots all over the mountain and even zoom in to see if jets are outputting properly on snowguns.  It was really quite impressive to see in person. The snowmaking operations at Wisp, with computerized weather and pumping stations, certainly place it among the very best in the entire country and perhaps among the top five. The 100% airless snowmaking system is capable of producing 145 acre feet of snow per day. Spread this out evenly over Wisps 32 trails and in just 24 hours the snow depth would be over 1 foot!

They began making snow for the 2005-2006 season on November 17th, and opened on Friday, November 25th! That opening day was even more exciting than usual by the fact that Wisp at Deep Creek was going to be skiing on ten new trails and with two new Quad lifts for the season.  I had a few moments with new General Manager Tim Prather, Marketing Director Kelli Johnson and the new Events and Public Relations Manager Lori Epp and they were all beaming over more than NINE MILLION DOLLARS worth of expansion that was gaining rave reviews when I visited in January. Actually Wisp Resort, located in McHenry, Maryland has invested $27.3 Million since 2001 adding chair lifts, expanding the lodge and hotel…as well as creating a new Snow Tubing operation!

Wisp has some wise ownership because their investments are drawing from winter sports enthusiasts who live in the Washington, Baltimore and Pittsburgh areas and the numbers show that their traffic has steadily increased in the last four years. By the way their growth is still skyrocketing as they have a number of development plans that will take them to yet another level in terms of being a true four season resort. Planned future developments at Wisp include a mountaintop village, a scenic community composed of skier services, residences, retail shops and restaurants that are designed to complement nature.

Whitewater enthusiasts will be excited to know that Wisp has already broken ground and begun developed of an Adventure Sports Internationals recirculating white water course, the first of its kind in the country. Wisp Resort is in close enough proximity to some of the most well known whitewater rivers in the country and with the addition of this new whitewater park, they will no doubt attract outdoor enthusiasts from all over the Eastern United States .

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the resort community had numerous lodging options as well as very nice restaurants close to and within the resort grounds. DC’s Bar & Grill serves a great lunch and dinner menu.  We dined there on two separate occasions while were there and both meals were phenomenal. Just across from the entrance to the resort is also a very nice restaurant called Santa Fe Grill which offers a great view of Wisp’s slopes and a variety of entrees that are definitely “south of the border!” We dined there upon our arrival and in addition to a comfortable interior; they have some very tasty fajitas! Some of our group tried the sandwiches and we started things off with a great portabella crab appetizer that was scrumptious!

Lodging at the resort is very nice as well. The Wisp Resort Hotel & Conference Center completed a $2.5 million interior and exterior renovation in 2004. Along with a new lobby design and layout, the entire hotel was outfitted with new furnishings, wall vinyl & carpet. Electronic locks have been installed on hotel guest room doors and the meeting rooms are now equipped with hi-speed Internet capabilities & new audio / visual equipment. They also provide internet access in the lobby area and even though they don’t promote it, my wireless laptop picked up the signal in our 3rd floor room.

I couldn’t do justice to this story if I didn’t mention one of Wisp’s most exciting venues. Many will be surprised upon reading that I am alluding to a snow tubing hill. Don’t criticize me until you’ve tried this one! I have sampled the tubing hills at numerous resorts and while they are all fun for the entire family, Wisp’s goes a little beyond fun. If you’re in for a VERY REAL adrenalin rush you should give the 750’ Bear Claw Snow Tubing Park a ride!

Snowboarding enthusiasts will love Wisp as they provide not one but TWO terrain parks, including the Ford Built Tough Terrain Park with a variety of snow hits and features.  Wisp is host to numerous competitions during the season. The Savage Super-Pipe is over 400’ long and you’re going to love it!

I was able to get in nearly three days of skiing and while I enjoyed the North Camp trails, I think the new trails serve a dual purpose.  First they are great for beginners who need gentle slopes to work on the skills on…they also help to disperse heavy holiday crowds across a wider area.  The top of the mountain provides a lot of choices as to which way to get down the mountain.  Of the trails I hit I really liked Squirrel Cage and my favorite was Eye Opener.  It provided some great steeps and an awesome view of Deep Creek Lake and the community below. Some of the locals told me that The Face and Devils’s Drop would sweet as well, but they were closed when I visited.

Wisp offers plenty of unique trails and is a bona-fide four-season resort that I highly recommend that you make plans to try.  As I mentioned earlier, they pull most of the visitors from the Mid-Atlantic region, but if you’re wanting a great getaway for a week or so, the drive from most areas of the Southeast is not bad. From points south into Virginia, and North Carolina…most of the trip is Interstate and the drive takes you through some beautiful countryside and attractions such as the Gauley River , etc.  We made a short side trip to a small riverside community called “ Gauley Bridge ” and were treated to a gorgeous waterfall and views of the river.

Wisp Resort lies in the heart of Garrett County, the western most and largest county in Maryland. Adjacent is Deep Creek Lake , the largest inland lake in the state, with more than 65 miles of shoreline. Wisps geographical location is on Marsh Mountain , part of the Allegheny Mountain Range.

WISP Resort at Deep Creek is bigger, better and one heck of a great place to visit regardless of the great skiing!

This year Wisp Resort expanded to make for 33% more ski and snowboarding terrain that last season and that’s only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what makes Wisp such a great place to visit. Every weekend is packed full of fun with regular bonfires, DJs, games and more at Bear Claw Tubing Park . Bigger kids (grownups) can head to The Lodge for live music and great food. Throughout the entire season other than Holiday weekends, Wisp offers their Saturday FREE STAGE WISP CONCERTS and tubing parties.

There’s plenty of Winter left and with Wisp’s incredible snowmaking system and Deep Creek’s cold climate, March often delivers some great Spring skiing. …and there’s plenty of fun planned in March as well! Wisp’s “Beachin Weekend” takes place March 18-19th celebrating their cold weather recreation while looking forward to the warm days to come.  During “Beachin Weekend” they have many fun activities including the Cardboard Box Derby held on the 19th.  Competitors use cardboard, duct tape and a whole lot of imagination to create the faster “vehicle” possible to get them down the slopes of the tubing hill! They will have a DJ on hand to keep things hoppin’. That one event offers some crazy designs, wild outfits and half the fun is watching for the “technical difficulties” that often arise!

While the focal point of this story IS the skiing, Wisp Resort at Deep Creek holds the promise of abundant recreation no matter the season. They have recreation and relaxation to make for a lifetime of vacation memories.  The lake and the surrounding area offer boating, swimming, fishing, mountain biking, horseback riding and more.  As they like to say at Wisp, “With so much to do and see, ONE visit just isn’t enough!”

We discovered a little place called “Western Trails Riding Stables” that offers trail rides, hayrides, pony rides and lessons year round.  If you’re into a little sleigh riding, there’s even a great little place called “Pleasant Valley Dream Riders” which offers carriage and sleigh rides through Amish Country.  Another popular winter activity that is growing is Snowshoeing and there are many places around Wisp that offer snowshoe rentals!

After only one visit I found myself wanting to see more and we will.  I highly recommend that you plan one trip to this unique and fast-growing, yet comfortable resort and I guarantee that you will be back again and again.  That’s a familiar story in McHenry, Maryland .  Visit once and you’re hooked.  If you find that’s the case, Wisp has some great real estate opportunities.

Owning a homesite or home at Deep Creek Mountain Resort gives you very privileged, very special access into a unique world of four-season vacation home living. Your home will be high atop Marsh Mountain . Just outside your door you can ski Wisp’s breathtaking slopes. When it warms, play 18 holes of world-class golf that is ranked among the best courses throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Hike and bike miles of trails that wind through pristine wooded landscapes and extraordinary, natural rock formations. And enjoy all the pleasures of life on the water without owning a home on the lakeshore through membership in the Lakeside Club. Just two hours from Pittsburgh and three hours from Baltimore and D.C., here you’ll discover the perfect year-round getaway for the whole family. Make it yours. We invite you to visit http://www.deepcreekmtnresort.com for more information.

Visit Wisp’s website at www.WispResort.com and make plans to visit there soon! (We are uploading many new images within the Photos of the Day section for Wisp Resort and you can see enlarged views of how nice this resort is by CLICKING HERE!

Until Next Time!

Be sure to check out www.SkiSoutheast.com for more news and stories for all of the Southeast’s ski areas.

Be sure to email photos, snow reports and comments to: [email protected]