Hello, again skiers and riders of the Southeast!
Wishing you the happiest holidays and joy throughout. We have had a great stretch of weather which thankfully arrived the moment the calendar hit December. Hopefully, you have followed the storms, checked out the live cams, and/or read the snow reports so you can capitalize on the opportunity.
If you would like to be walking in a winter wonderland, or perhaps skiing and riding in one this holiday season, I would advise you to take that drive to the nearest high country. You will find that bad weather makes for good scenery. Please note that your latitude is equally as important as your altitude because in both cases the bigger the number the whiter the scenery will be right now.
It is a straight shot north and roughly a three-hour drive from Charlotte to Winterplace entirely along I-77. This recent journey progressed from pitiful to phenomenal at a pretty distinctive moment. I left early under the disguise of the night that was also cloaked in some gnarly fog. This dark a dreary mix was the kind of murk that makes the headlights of oncoming traffic appear to be originating from an abyss.
It was the exact moment the tires began pounding the Virginia pavement that my vehicle popped out of the gloom and into the dawn of a new day. It is hard to describe how unique it was to see a blanket of clouds down below while also witnessing the sun slowly rise above the horizon. The twist was that from this viewing angle our star was tucked behind one of the peaks in the Pilot Mountain area. I snapped a quick pic knowing that the camera’s eye does not quite see what we humans can.
That daylight gift was present for a very quick moment because other clouds hovering at higher elevation took charge. The snow on the ground from the previous day’s storm appeared within the first ten miles or so, and it became more prevalent after each town, truck stop, and tunnel. Fortunately so did reinforcement moisture which started as a light drizzle, but changed into snowy flakes that fell intermittently.
Eventually, we made it to exit 28 in West Virginia without any icy patches to report. Hats off to their department of transportation for a job well done. Once off the interstate, we received a white welcoming on the last two mile stretch to the parking lot. Give credit to La Nina.
A key advantage to Winterplace is that the setup is a simple “park and go” model with an easy path to the slopes. Due to the coronavirus, they asked all visitors to use their vehicles as their locker room, but the main lodge was open with restrooms, gift shop, and dining hall. Their employees worked quickly with solid order accuracy and courtesy.
As great as the people were the snow conditions had a similar showing. It is always a treat when a decent base is in place while mother nature provides bonus goods on top. All of their open trails had a dusting of refresh that made gliding easier, and the side edges had an extra thin layer of pow-pow. There was a slight bit of icy chatter, but that was hard to come by. Oh, and did I mention that the rest of the setting was snow covered?
Winterplace was spinning the number 1, 4, and 5 lifts on the bottom half of the ski area for beginners and intermediates while also using the number 3 lift for those who wanted to go to the top. Most of our time was spent lapping number 3 while deciding which run to take once we cruised down Compromise. The choices were either Dropoff, Look At Me!, or the Buttermilk to Snowfield combo. I think we hit them all up multiple times. I also got some extra leg burn on that zone between the Dropoff and Snow Bowl run which was not quite ready to be open yet. After a few more ski days like this, your ski legs will be all set.
I was fortunate enough to ski this day with a buddy of mine who has been a ski instructor at Mammoth Mountain for almost a decade. He says that the prices at Winterplace were far more reasonable than out west, especially the cost for lessons, lift tickets, and lunch. He roughly estimates that you could pay up to three times the amount for the same things in California and that Winterplace is indeed a bargain.
It is also great to ski or ride with someone of similar abilities. On top of the perks of keeping up with someone of the same pace, you can also be sharing great stories of other ski days on the lift rides. All the while you will be creating some more to tell on another date. That in itself is a huge benefit of skiing and riding.
I’d like to conclude by saying that the folks in attendance did a much better job following covid-19 protocols throughout. I saw more masks being worn, probably due to the chilly temps, and more social distancing as well. The saying “Over the nose or we may close” was mentioned alongside another one that made sense which was “If you arrive together, ride together.” Those two guidelines should be taken with serious consideration, especially with these upcoming holidays.
Until next time stay safe and Think Snow.