The Art of Skiing Alone

The Art of Skiing Alone

It’s the middle of winter and I live in the middle of nowhere. I’ve moved around too many times to build relationships with other skiers and snowboarders as an adult. Sure, I had a crew at 12 and another at 22, but relationships ebb and flow. People get scared once they realize they can break bones, people get married, buy a house, have babies… all contributing factors that stop Sunday Fundays and end frivolous spending. Even my husband doesn’t ski, so it’s just me.

the night before

Late Friday night, I obsessively check the weather in the dark to make sure the roads will be OK. I’m not a great driver but the Subaru saves me enough. Rain Thursday mixing to snow, which ends by 10 pm. We won’t even get an inch of white stuff, and the roads will be bad regardless. There’s enough time for a plow to go through, though, and it’s all snow at the mountain when you take away 10 degrees. The sun icon on my weather app is steady from Saturday morning into Sunday evening and my timing is perfect. I’ll be able to snake down the road in the early morning and head to the mountains before dawn on the first day of the weekend. I set my alarm and roll over to sleep.

I dream of skiing midweek.

5 am blares into my ears, and my dreams are short lived. I lay there, wondering why I do this to myself. In dim light I rake a comb through my hair. I attempt two braids a few times–ok maybe just one braid, then–so I won’t have knots by Sunday. My favorite socks and base layers go on like an extension of my pajamas. Hat on now. Season pass around my neck. Snow pants and mid-layer on later. I make sure I have extra socks and layers in the Rubbermaid storage bin with my helmet and gloves.

My luggage is packed.

There’s no way I’m cooking breakfast right now, because my eyes are still half-closed. I’ll stop at Sheetz, maybe get a coffee. It’ll be an hour or so before I see one. I fill up the largest water bottle I can find. I make a sandwich with what lunchmeat is left in the fridge and search for snacks and a piece of fruit. I stick 3 cheap beer cans in the bottom of my oversized cooler lunchbox, telling myself they’ll work like ice packs, and stick the sandwich on top. An apple. An almost empty bag of Doritos. This’ll do. In the garage I put down a back seat so my skis can be a passenger. It’s 6 in the morning and if I leave now, I’ll park just in time to get my boots and helmet on for first chair at 9 am.

the drive

Everything’s in the car–wait, no. I forgot my phone. I have to pee.

I don’t have to get first chair. Well, first run because Snowshoe “starts at the top.” The place shows off one of the best sunrises I’ve ever seen, and I’ll bask in its glory Sunday morning. The car starts. I drive for miles with the radio cackling. The sun peaks over ridges as the winding roads present perfectly old barns set in valleys and foothills. Sheep. Cows. Brilliant pinks and oranges against a grey barn with a broken door. I always consider pulling over to take a photo, but what if they’re looking?

I’m driving too fast. I hit rumble strips as I stare out the window.

the mountain: saturday

A little more than 2 hours pass. Finally the sign with the white rabbit hops into view. Turn left and drive up, back and forth on switchbacks and coast through the resort. I’m finally parked at the “Top of the World” and hop out with gusto but regret it. I wince as the bitter, frozen wind hits me and scramble for my winter coat. I didn’t account for this. I balance on one foot as I take off a shoe and trade it for Ski Boot #1. Repeat the same for #2. I’m almost there. My hands are frozen as I maneuver layers on and thunk a helmet onto my head, goggles attached. Mask up, mittens on, I’m ready.

The snow, groomed into lines of corduroy, sparkle in the sun. I’m warm again.

A powder day is rare in the Mid-Atlantic. It’s too south for feet of snow, but north enough for the rain to freeze. Here, it’s a celebration when there’s no ice to skid over. And today, there’s no ice to skid over. I laugh. I whoop out loud to myself as pieces of hair whip around my helmet. That braid didn’t do much. First run and I’m flying with every transition of a turn. People should express themselves like this, I think.

But I’m the annoying neighbor. Yeeeeeeew!!!

In another year, I ride the lift and talk to people. If I read them right, I make fast friends and lose them even faster. We laugh and joke, and talk about how nice of a day it is. Go through the Where Are You Froms and How Far Is Thats. Oh, you bought a place here and fixed it up? Oh, the kids are skiing with your wife today? Oh, you’ve been coming here since the 70’s? Nice beard! Enjoy your day! You too.

Lunch is a tailgate in the parking lot. I sit in the car to de-thaw and eat my sandwich. The kids next to me have a cooler out and a leftover pizza box. Music from bluetooth speakers, here, there, a few rows down. Someone offers me a beer. Thanks.

We high-five, and then I’m back out.

après-ski

The slopes close at 4 as the sun begins to dip below the mountains, and I drive down a back road through an antique company logging town, whitewashed until you get to the train tracks. It’s only 15 minutes away. I’m not renting an Air BnB with friends. I’m not splitting a lodge on the mountain four ways. I’m being efficient, even if I have to check for bedbugs. There’s none. This place is the cheapest, cleanest room around. And they’ve got good pizza in the gift shop.

I found a review before I booked.

The cook stands at the table with me while my pizza order goes through the oven. He tells me about his oil and gas job. He mentions that his dog’s in the car. He asks where I’m from and if I want to eat my pizza here or to-go. To-go, please. I’ve got… people back in the room. I head to my room with my pizza box and he’s put a ridiculous amount of cheese on the pie and quite frankly I’m very happy about it. I can’t turn the TV on. There’s almost no wifi left to share. I hear the occupants in the neighboring room complain when they can’t watch videos on their phone.

Candy Crush offline it is. I fall asleep at 8.

the mountain: sunday

6 am wakes me up without an alarm. “Sun rises at 7, Christina, let’s go.” I rush, which is nothing new in the mornings. I don’t really have to do much as it was cold in the room and I slept in my base layers. With no one around, what’s the point of changing? I do put on new socks, though–that is a necessity. I go to the bottom of the mountain for breakfast on Route 66. A family sits at one table and 3 grey-haired men in snow pants sit at the other. I order egg, bacon, cheese on a bagel and sausage gravy slathered over a biscuit, all under $10. I paid $109 for the same thing and 3 screwdrivers in Aspen. I’ll take these prices any day.

I ski laps again.

This morning my legs groan because I was having too much fun the day before. My music lasted almost the whole day and I took my time riding each slope and memorizing chairlift locations for when I come back next time. Today, I’ll head home early before the snowstorm hits. The weather app changed the start time to 1. I’ll be stuck here, although I wouldn’t mind it. It’s 10 am, I’ll leave around 11. I refuse to call, “last run,” especially alone.

The sun beats down on me in the lift line, cutting out the cold wind from yesterday.

A woman asks if she could ride up with me. We talk about how she’s been coming here with friends for years, and her trips out west with family. We laugh about how it can be hard to find lodging, and she once booked a studio cabin with an outhouse just to be here. We part ways at the top only to find each other again at the bottom. We ski the same speed. My blue jacket must stick out. We ride together once more and talk about West Virginia, how beautiful and under appreciated it is. I think about skiing with her again, but it’s time to go.

We part ways for good this time. I’m tired.

the drive home

I drive home through the same ridges and past the same old barns and even stop again at a Sheetz to gas up. My dog and my husband are waiting at home. I’ll make dinner. It’s a good weekend, I think to myself. I found new places to stay, good food, and great conversation. I can’t wait to go back.

And I was never really alone.

20-21 Covid Guidelines & Operations for Local Resorts

20-21 Covid Guidelines & Operations for Local Resorts

Latest Update: Tuesday, December 22, 2020
After the first couple weekends open we are hearing some changes happening at resorts: limiting the amount of people skiing. Let’s face it, lift lines are long and it’s just impossible to mitigate a holiday crowd trying to ski. The good news is you can still have a beer… with food. And make sure to wear a mask!

Skip to: Blue Knob PA, Boyce Park PA, Canaan Valley WV, Hidden Valley PA, Holiday Valley NY, Laurel Mountain PA, Liberty Mountain PA, Peek’n Peak NY, Roundtop PA, Seven Springs PA, Snowshoe WV, Timberline WV, Tussey Mountain PA, Whitegrass (XC) WV, Whitetail PA, Wisp MD

I always do a Lift Rate Roundup around this time, but you know… 2020. As this dumpster fire of a year wraps up, I am sure it has a few more crisis to dole out. In an effort to avoid that, I am going to try and help my fellow snow people to get out there safely this year. I don’t do this for the resorts, I do this for you (and me). We needed an easy place to see all the ski area guidelines in one place.

The question remains: Can we ski and ride this season? Do we need a special pass? Yes, and kind of yes. Read on! I got you covered…

The good news is every single one of these resorts have stated they are following enhanced sanitization protocol and social distancing will be enforced. Face coverings are required in most areas of the resorts, including lift lines and on the lift.

*Note that ALL of the below information is subject to change and definitely did after the first few weeks of the season played out. I’ll try to update this post through the season if I get wind. If you decide to go, please make sure to check each resort’s policies in full – I have a real job, y’all.


Southwestern & Central Pennsylvania Ski Resorts

Baby Pennsylvania mountains ❤

Currently, indoor space capacity for PA is 50% for all spaces including dining, lobbies, bathrooms, etc. Expect to see staff regulating this. You also cannot drink at a bar, must be consumed if dining only.

Boyce Park | Southwestern PA – Open!
This is a small hill in Monroeville/Plum, PA. I highly recommend learning to ski or ride here. To comply with covid measures, only 50 people are permitted on the mountain and the lodge is closed. Online lift ticket sales are mandatory – Visit Site

Blue Knob (Indy Pass) | Central PA – Open!
Walk-up ticket sales are OK, but online purchases are encouraged. Warming up in your vehicle instead of on public spaces is also encouraged. But, “Blue Knob All Seasons Resort has no plans to require skiers or riders to make a reservation [to ski or snowboard].”

  • All lessons and snow tubing must be reserved at least 24 hours in advance
  • All food is available for take-out only. 12/10/20
  • Unless skiers/riders have traveled together, they must ride the chairlift as a single.
  • Groups will be scheduled at staggered arrival times to increase distancing.

Blue Knob Winter Operations Plan

Seven Springs, Hidden Valley and Laurel Mountain (Highlands Pass) | Southwestern PA – 7 Springs & Hidden Valley Open!
LM not open yet, but offering a season pass price “rollback” offer.
7S was the first resort that I researched, and all this came as pretty shocking to me, but just wait…

  • All purchases have moved online for these 3 resorts, including purchasing lift tickets, rentals and lessons.
  • Lift ticket availability will be limited as of 12/21. Their online system has been down a lot so be sure to purchase like Tuesday or Wednesday if you want to go on a weekend – Lift Ticket page.
  • No strangers will be placed on a lift together, and if you prefer to sit as a single, they will do that. They’re going to work to space out the line including side by side distancing.
  • *No indoor dining as of 12/10 Utilizing their base area for outdoor dining and adding new walk-up/takeaway options around the resort.
  • Masks are required. Including in the lift line and riding the lift. There will be staff at lift reminding you of this.

7 Springs Winter Operations Plan | Hidden Valley Winter Operations Plan

Tussey Mountain | Central PA – Open!
A little hill out by Penn State, which I don’t think has the capacity to go all online. I think that you’ll be ok showing up and purchasing a lift ticket at a Point of Sale. Two singles can sit on opposite sides of their quad lift, too. Lessons will be restricted to 6 students.

Tussey Mountain Winter Operations Plan

Whitetail, PA

Whitetail, Roundtop, Liberty Mountains (Epic Pass, Vail Resorts) | Central PA – Open!
I looked up Whitetail only. I previously worked at Liberty when Peak Resorts acquired these three, and moved right before Peak Resorts was purchased by Vail Resorts. Ah, consolidation. Epic pass resorts all have the same operations plan.

It looks like you will have to reserve a spot to ski or ride at these resorts. Pass holders will get priority access to reservation days. This is probably for the best and will make lift lines amazing, but… wow! Take a look at Whitetail’s Reservation Details.

Also, these resorts are cashless everywhere including hotel and restaurants.


West Virginia Ski Resorts

One of these fun WV resorts!

Canaan Valley (Indy Pass) Open!
I have not found any ski-specific outline of Canaan Valley’s operation. It is a West Virginia State Park and they will be following guidelines such as required face coverings and 6-ft distancing. There is a note that they are “updating our online booking capabilities” and to call to make a reservation at this point.

Canaan Valley Safety Guidelines

Timberline (NEW!)Open!
After some turbulent times, Timberline is OPENING! This WV resort has some of the best terrain our area has to offer… and then it closed. In comes snow angels from midwest to resurrect this amazing spot with $10M in NEW everything! “Opening for winter 2020/21 with 2 NEW lifts, a remodeled lodge, 2 new terrain parks, a new beginner area, and increasing snowmaking!” Read More*Note for Christina to ski this immediately and post about it.

Anyway, here’s some quick bullets, and it looks like ticket sales will operate as usual for now.

  • Masks and distancing required and enforced
  • Group reservations are limited, Lesson capacity limited
  • Latest HVAC UV sanitization is installed
  • Season Passes will rollover to next season if they have to close the resort
  • The lodge will be pass-through only for tickets, passes, and rentals.
  • Foodservice with a limited menu will be available outside on the deck, with outdoor seating only.
  • Lessons will be available, but beginner terrain will be limited and hike-able only.
  • Both chairlifts will be open.

Timberline Opening Winter Operations

Western Territory views at Snowshoe, WV

Snowshoe (Ikon)The Shoe’s BEEN open!

Buy online. Capacity limits will be in place, so walk up lift tickets are not guaranteed. Snowshoe sold out holiday weekends prior and after the Christmas holiday. So they mean it! “We strongly encourage our guests to purchase their tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.” Here is where you buy Snowshoe lift tickets online. I recommend you do this early in the week prior to weekends and holidays.

If you have a Season Pass or advance purchase a package, you will be good to ski and ride.
“At this time, Ikon Pass, Ikon Base Pass, Snowshoe Unlimited Pass, and Early Season Pass holders will not need reservations to ski and ride during the 2020/21 winter season at Snowshoe. Guests who advance purchase a package (including lift tickets/passes and lodging, etc.) are guaranteed mountain access for the dates of their booking.”

  • Reduced Lesson Capacity
  • Camps are cancelled
  • Expanded outdoor dining, no restaurants are closing but will be monitored by capacity.

Snowshoe Winter Operations Plan

Whitegrass (XC)OPEN for XC!
Canaan Valley is one of the greatest places to cross country ski. Right on Whitegrass’ home page: coming soon – online reservations for passes, rentals and lessons, plus reduced access to lodge and cafe pickup-only. Visit Site


MARYLAND SKI RESORTS

Whales at Wisp Resort, MD

Wisp Resort Open!
I hope you got the Mission: Four’dable ticket pack if you don’t have a season pass. Although I have a Snowshoe season pass, I regret every time I miss out on this because it’s a much faster drive to get out on the mountain. Four’dable is $229 for a four pack of any-time tickets, which comes out to $57.25. A regular ticket is $89, so you save almost $32 each time. That’s a dozen wings and a couple BL smoothies!

This is another fully online set up with all products and activities to be purchased in advance.

  • Indoor capacity in MD for all spaces is also 50% – includes restrooms, lobbies, etc.
  • Nice bonus: Wisp will pro-rate a credit to your pass if they have to close due to COVID.

Wisp Resort Winter Operations Plan



Southwestern NY Ski Resorts

Peek’n Peak Open!
Another strong recommendation to purchase tickets and activities online in advance. And lessons reduced to 10 people.

This is interesting, and unique to this resort: Season Passholders will need to check in for use in contact tracing efforts. Ticket buyer info is collected at purchase. These records will be retained for a minimum of 28 days.

Once more, outside food will not be permitted to be brought into resort dining facilities, including at The Main Lodge. (Believe me, this policy is great for the resorts. I’ve seen crock pots at the dining halls at Liberty… LOL!) Grab n go will be made available as well as takeout for those staying in condos.

Peek’n Peak Winter Operations Update

Holiday Valley Open!
The WAS most relaxed one yet, but it didnt last very long. HV has a very lengthy section on cleaning protocols, and yet again, another “we strongly encourage you to purchase your tickets online in advance… we may not be able to offer walk up tickets.” However, passholders are still free to come and go as they please. To ease the potential strain during peak periods, we are planning to open Yodeler and Mardi Gras lifts for Classic passholders at 8 am every Saturday between December 26th and February 27th.”

Holiday Valley Winter Operations Update

Well, good luck. It’s all pretty straight forward at this point. Do what you need to do. Get some blankets for the car, and increase your data plan if you can. As Tussey Mountain says, “Don’t be the reason there is no season.” Be safe. We got this. Snow love to you!

TL;DR: Buy your lift tickets online before you visit any resort this winter.

Holiday Valley, NY – some other year…

The 5 to 9.

The vast majority of people I know work a 9-to-5, in some way, shape or form; you know what I mean, full time, somehow. I fear that in the work-life balance triangle, career-relationships-self care, I have hypothetically circled work as one of my designated two and the typical millennial attitude that society think is inside me rages (apparently you can have two, but not all three). But at the same time, people ask, “How are you, what’s new?” and I reply, “Oh, nothing, just working.” Where do we exactly lose ourselves in this routine? Why can’t we have all three?

I feel that many of the people my age are caught up in the hustle of trying to advance in their job, not lose their friends and keep the family happy. But let’s take a look at self-care, the one that gets thrown to the wayside most of the time, at least for me. What happens in the 5 to 9? How about the 60 hours between your 6 pm Friday Happy Hour and the 6 am Hell of your Monday alarm clock? That’s a lot of time not to be checking your email – to be free of the grasp of work.

In reality, “oh, nothing, just working,” is a lie. I am creating my own microadventures.  Some days, I hike with my dog, making an attempt to walk every trail on the park map, and working on completing the 52 Hike Challenge this year. Other days, I am working out to get ready for ski season so I don’t repeat what happened this season. I am squeezing in Arizona to visit my best friend and tour the hell out of a bunch of National Parks. I am planning another weekend trip to Ricketts Glen. Why does “just working” come out of my mouth?

Maybe it’s so people can relate. I used to get upset about how I don’t have many friends who enjoy skiing or snowboarding anymore, or the thought that nobody wants to hike with me. My problem was, I never asked. With the belief that people are caught up in their jobs, I also believe that not one of my friends would say, “no” to a 2-hour hike. And I know a few acquaintances would me more than happy to join me on the slopes for the day. If I told people what I was doing, they’d probably come. It may take some coaxing to get out of their work state of mind, and even more so to unplug, but I’d love to inspire others that think they just can’t, to take a microadventure of their own. After all, you can have one out in the backyard, no traveling required. This is my kind of 5-to-9. Get out there and enjoy it.

Backyard camping with a pool and a tent.

This post was inspired by this article from the editor of Outside Magazine.