Hot Laps on A Cool Day

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Hello Skiers and Riders of the Southeast!

Welcome to the shortest month of the year, but also welcome to the snowiest month, the most opened-up terrain to date month, and the 24th Winter Olympics month.  We have a lot going on in these four weeks, and needless to say, February is a condensed spot on the calendar where winter sports are all systems go with entertainment throughout.

I hope you were able to get out there this past weekend, because the conditions everywhere were splendid, and the accompanying weather was superb.  One could argue that it was a perfect time to be outdoors, and perhaps the most gratifying too.

Afterall, we did have a rough start at the end of 2021, but the ski and board days have been excellent ever since then.

Skiing is like family in a lot of ways.  It welcomes you, it will feed you, and at times it can annoy you.  However, you are fortunate whenever you get to share those aspects with others, and this past weekend was a time in which I did so with someone that keeps up with me on the slopes, my brother Adrian.  He, much like a lot of our readers in the sunshine state, drove a long distance to finally ride up the chair lift just to cruise back down again.

Wintergreen Resort near Nellysford, VA is like a family too because they treat everyone as such.  From the Guest Services, Ski patrol, and other ambassadors of sorts, you get that welcomed feeling while you are there.  Even though they have RFID machines that scan you lift “ticket” cards, they too have some nice folks working the chair lifts making sure people sit down safely so as to get another run in.

The conditions were decent for this day, as they had all but one of the slopes open with a majority of the runs covered completely from side-to-side.  The only icy spots we observed, other than in the parking lot (more on that in a minute), were up top near Upper Dobie and Potato Patch near the beginner’s area, and then later we came across a bare spot in the middle of Outer Limits trial serviced by the Highlands Express Lift.  All of which was visible and avoidable on this crisp blue-bird day.

The temperatures were at or below freezing throughout which meant that the snow guns could be fired up for a little refresh to glide upon.  It also meant that the snow remained firmer for longer which made for sharper and faster turns, especially on those great black diamond runs of Upper and Lower Wild Turkey.  If you are into moguls, the left side of Upper Cliffhanger had a patch waiting for you that bumped and run with grace.

This whole portion of the resort where a majority of the more difficult and expert only runs are found is a great section to venture to if you are an avid skier or rider.  You can lap this lift so often that by the end of the day your legs will be stronger and throbbing.  We executed that plan multiple times, and with the high speed lift in place, the laps add up quickly. Plus, throughout this whole time we got to admire stunning views, which are some of the best that you can find through the entire southeast.  Afterall, these runs parallel the Blue Ridge Parkway and are nature’s way of showing off all year round.

Photo courtesy of Adrian Dix

Also, this is a great spot to meet new people and have some social life. By coincidence we shared multiple chair lift rides with a couple that were up for the day, and if memory serves me best, they were named Blake and Haley.  If you’re reading this, thank you for the fun chats and we hope that you found your phone that got lost on the lift.  A small incident that could have some extra legwork to fix.

Unfortunately, there were other incidents of sorts that shaped this day differently than planned.  We almost did not get any turns in because my brother slipped on a patch of ice in the parking lot and almost tore up his knee horribly.  For those of you who have never been to Wintergreen before, it is an inverted ski area where the parking lots are above the chair lift bases, but it also has the parking lots located on the backside of the natural terrain pitch, and that requires a small hike up to get to the top.  Water flows downhill and will freeze over with ripe temperatures.  It can happen anywhere.

Due to this we chose to not push the envelope further than necessary, and thus kept the count of overall runs skied to a smaller number.  We decided to forgo the runs serviced by the Big Acorn Lift, which are some of the most fun you can find at this place, and simply go for the longest runs with the most vertical until it felt like the right time to call it quits.  Let this be a lesson for all of you that there is no shame in scaling things back somewhat when the possibility of further injury is lingering, and as of this time I can report that while aggravated his knee will be just fine.

Fortunately, the drive back was a gorgeous one in the Virginia countryside, and as a bonus there is the Devils Backbone Brewery along the way.  If you are of legal age to consume and like a fun aprè ski atmosphere, I would definitely recommend going to this place to finish off a fun day on the slopes.  From there our particular route was a two-hour drive to our Aunt’s house at another stunning local, which is Smith Mountain Lake.  There is something indescribable about how laid back and tranquil the jaunt home can be.  Perhaps it is the music you play, or maybe it is the afternoon sun brightly coloring up the landscapes, and if not that then possibly it is the big meal that awaits your arrival as you get ready to feast, laugh, and play some board games.  Either way, you know it was a good ski day that adds excitement for the next time.

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