Hello skiers and riders of the Southeast!
Metaphorically speaking, a ski season is much like a storyline that a good read or motion picture can showcase. From the onset of the first tracks in November, it takes time to hit this point in the plot. This is due to the need for character introductions, a common goal that unites them in some way, a villain, and then a lot of rising actions that lead to a climax and denouement.
The characters, as always, are you the skiers and riders plus the hard-working personnel at each resort. The common goal is to be outdoors while making new memories to share afterwards. The villain this time around has been unfavorable weather patterns that has abandoned the Appalachians for extended periods of time. The themes consist of so many aspects including, but not limited too, eagerness, elation, and exhaustion.
Fortunately, manpower has overcome the spells of disaster thus far, and instead has provided the goods we seek. It took us a few weeks, but we are now situated in a decent setup where the resorts have ample number of trails opened with multiple chair lifts spinning while Mother Nature has assumed a more heroic stature going forward.
This is where the fun part really sets in, and your best bet is to be somewhere that is well prepared for the pageantry so you can encounter it firsthand. Winterplace Resort is certainly up to the task, and one could argue that they easily exceed average expectations for it. This is especially true given that they had 24 of 29 trails open with 9 of 10 lifts going on this day.
Winterplace is a ski area that everybody within the southeast region can get to with relative ease. Accessibility to them is very simple due to its close proximity off the interstate, and the views along the way are excellent. Country roads might take you home in West Virginia, but Exit 28 of I-77 takes you to winter adventures.
Upon arrival, it is apparent that Winterpalce is built with efficiency in mind. They are a park-and-go ski area where no massive village is present to walk through first. The base lodge is where you can find everything possibly needed for a day on the slopes. This is also where I met up with Executive VP / Patrol Director, Tom Wagner, and their new General Manager, Josh Faber, prior to getting the much-needed workout that a mountainside can provide.
One area that Josh highlighted was with their upgraded equipment rental operation in which they converted to an assisted/self-boot fitting model. In the past they had two boot bridges and could fit roughly 20 people max at any given time.
However, this new setup can fit roughly 70-80 people in the boot section at once, and the end result is a significantly reduced wait time. Josh stated that during last season’s MLK weekend the wait times hit the 2-1/2 to 3 hours mark, but this MLK it might have pushed one-hour tops during the busiest of rushes. On a non-holiday Saturday, you’re looking at 15-30 minutes from the time you walk in to get your ticket to the time you walk out.
I was also told by them that numerous events throughout the resort would be occurring this weekend, including news that this was a family-oriented weekend with a fun ski race plus a Mini Big Air competition for ages twelve and under. More on that in a moment, but let’s just say that these things certainly add to the development of the ski season story.
Another wonderful tidbit they shared is that a rare gem of a trial, Turkey Chute, was opened for the first time in five years. This black diamond serviced by the #3 and #9 lifts is a steeper descent with not much variation in the degree of the pitch throughout. A little fun side note fact, based strictly from my observation, is that the #3 triple seater moves faster than the #9 quad seater as they parallel each other to the 3,600 ft. summit.
Given that this was the first day of action for that run, I can happily say that the snow was groomed throughout with no bare spots or extremely icy patches. I was told that their intentions for this run to be ungroomed, which means it will become a bumpy signature slope for the extreme terrain seekers. Woo-Hoo!
Other sections were faced with similar coverage conquests, as their snow makers did a phenomenal job providing new fluff on top of their well-established bases. Down on the bottom half of the terrain where the #2, #4, #5, and #8 lifts converge, there was ample side to side coverage and a lot of smiling faces while patrons were gleefully making their way down to the base again.
This is also where they hosted the aforementioned Family Fun Race on the Panorama Glades trail on Saturday afternoon. I was able to stop by and watch some of the amateur competitors do this event that was designed in a really neat way.
Each team consisted of one adult and one child racing their way through a set of red and blue gates one at a time. They get two attempts each, and their best low time scores were combined to provide their fastest results. I did not get a head count for this, but there must have been at least a dozen or so teams, and the ultimate winners were everyone involved due to the special bonding time spent on skis and snowboards.
You cannot beat a prize like that, especially given how cheerful everyone was throughout.
Even if you are not in a racing mood, you can still get involved with other activities that enhance the experience. New this season at Winterplace is a scavenger hunt where the goal is to find cutouts of Yeti’s scattered all over the resort. This is a social media kind of thing in which you are encouraged to find these snowmen, follow the clues, post pictures online, and so forth. I will not go into all the details, but you certainly can read more into it before your next arrival at https://www.winterplace.com/scavenger-hunt.
It wasn’t just the slopes that exclusively held the festivities.
For those of legal age, you could have partaken in a beer tap takeover at The Snowdrift Lodge found within the base lodge, thanks to the Weathered Ground Brewery. A tap takeover is when an establishment allows a local brewer, in this case one that is literally five minutes up the road, to be the rotation of drafts on tap for the duration of time given. I enjoyed their appropriately named Yard Sale Hazy IPA, which has an awesome beer can design, while having a great conversation with Tonya and Terry from the brewery.
Do not worry if you missed out this time around, as they said more of these are on schedule this season.
Overall, a single day or even an extended stay at Winterplace is worth the entertainment it provides. This holds true no matter how far you traveled or how deep into the narrative of your ski season you are at. I had conversations with people from as far away as Alabama making an annual pilgrimage to this place, while then sharing a lift ride up with a die-hard visitor from the Raleigh area that jones for ski days like this. He said he was there for the bumps, and that was most prevalent in the afternoon on the Snow Bowl trail
In a nutshell, we were all there for similar purposes, which is to get the most in for the time spent. That is a mark that Winterplace hits with precision and collaboration every time.