Skiing is kind of a perfect activity for this Covid winter. In any year, it’s a super fun and active way to take advantage of the season. During this time, it’s especially great since, in many ways, it’s already socially distanced. Additionally, ski resorts are taking extra precautions to help ensure safety.
So, we hit the slopes a couple of weeks ago at Whitetail Resort in Mercersburg, PA. About an hour and a half drive from DC, it’s one of the closest ski resorts to us, and easily a doable day trip. We went on the Tuesday between MLK Day and the Inauguration, when the kids had off from school. We figured it was a good time to go, since it wasn’t a weekend or a holiday when more people would opt for ski day, too.
Advanced reservations are required, a policy implemented at many resorts to cut down on lines and because tickets sell out faster since capacity is limited. We booked four days ahead with no problem, but I’ve seen some resorts sell out further in advance for weekends — something to keep in mind. (And they will refund if for some reason you can’t go.)
Other safety precautions include masks required in certain areas, extra signage about physical distance, and reduced capacity of lifts and gondolas. Generally, common sense prevails, too: Don’t line up for lifts too close to others (though skis automatically prevent this), and only ride up with people in your party. (Read more about Whitetail’s commitment to safety.)
A heads-up: Despite the limited capacity and sparse crowd, there was a long, cold wait for ski rentals — about an hour and half, since they limit the number of parties that can be in the rental shop at a one time. Unfortunately, this ate into our ski time. KFDC Tip: Rent equipment ahead at Sun & Ski, so you’re geared up and ready to hit the mountain after a quick check-in. (We had looked into this, but everything was rented out because of the holidays around our day trip.)
Also good to know: You cannot store shoes and belongings in lockers, but we just piled ours outside the ski rental shop as a lot of others did. It’s doubtful that anyone would steal your shoes, but make sure you take the right ones home! (I brought Levi the wrong pair at first, which was both funny and kind of gross.)
Once we were all equipped, we got right on the lifts. I’m not the best skier (a result of growing up in South Florida… ask me about my tennis game, though), so I stuck to the greens and blues. But everyone else enjoyed all the runs and found enough variety to have a really fun day. (Though keep in mind, this is a small east coast resort, so no high expectations for fresh powder and long runs.)
The cafes are open, with both indoor and outdoor seating. At lunchtime, we grabbed some food inside and took it out to eat, while friends brought lunch in a cooler that they kept it in their car. We also got hot chocolate and coffee later in the day to warm up.
Whitetail Resort is open daily 9am – 5pm Monday – Wednesday, and 9am – 9pm Thursday – Saturday, and 9am – 8pm on Sundays. Lift tickets start at $72 a day/adult, $59 a day/child. Night skiing begins at 3pm (Thurs-Sunday) and starts at $64/adult, $53/child. Rentals are extra ($55 ski or snowboard). Whitetail is located at 13805 Blairs Valley Road in Mercersburg PA. With limited capacity, there was plenty of parking, but still a short walk to the lodge.
More to note:
* Liberty and Roundtop, also among the closer ski resorts to DC, are within the same system as Whitetail, so much of what’s here applies to them as well.
* Whitetail (and the other resorts) also offer snow tubing, though only in two-hour sessions — maybe a bit short for the long drive to do just that, but good to tack onto skiing.
* Other resorts within driving distance of DC to check out: Bryce, Massanutten, Wintergreen, Seven Springs, Hidden Valley, Snowshoe, Timberline, and Wisp.