Ski season is just about upon us. Whether you’re a beginner or consider yourself a master of the slopes, there are lots of things you can do to prepare and save time and money. Regardless of your ability to stay upright while barreling down a mountain, here are some tips for all skiing skill levels.
Learning to Love the Slopes
Nancy and Brian Deely, co-owners of Pro-Fit Ski & Mountain Sports in Leesburg, have been helping skiers prepare for the winter season since 1995. That includes boot fitting and servicing, matching people for skis, leasing and selling equipment and skiing accessories and outfitting you with the correct ski wear.
An avid skier, Brian has worked in ski shops for 35 years, so the sport is in his blood. Nancy tried skiing for the first time at 16 and came off the mountain vowing to never do it again, but a friend convinced her otherwise and she soon learned to love it. She eventually got a job as a ski instructor while in college so she could ski for free.
Locally, ski season officially kicks into gear in mid-December, with most of the well-known resorts in the area planning to open on December 17 — though that all depends on Mother Nature. And with the warm weather in November, that’s certainly a fear.
“But if she decides to cooperate, the season can start even sooner than that,” Nancy Deely says. “If they have snowmaking temperatures earlier than normal, they will start blowing snow and open it sooner than later. I’ve skied as early as Thanksgiving in three feet of fresh snow, so it can happen.”
Four to five hours from the District there are approximately 20 ski resorts, so there’s no shortage of places people can go.
Getting the Proper Gear
The outdoor industry has seen business explode since the pandemic because everyone wants to be outside. That’s created a great deal of business at Pro-Fit Ski & Mountain Sports, so it’s important for skiers to get their equipment early.
“We’ve experienced unprecedented demand and there’s been supply chain issues,” Deely says, noting one popular brand has two factories in the Ukraine, which is slowing things down. “That has made things challenging. There is high demand and low supply, so if you need to buy new equipment now is the time. We are going to start running out of stuff by mid-January and won’t be able to reorder it.”
For rentals, the store offers weekend rentals for adults and kids. Families can pick up equipment on Friday and bring it back Monday, which is highly recommended to save time from waiting in long lines at the mountain. The store also has season rentals for kids only.
“Some people may only go once or twice during the season and if you go to the resorts to rent, especially on the weekend, you’ll stand in the rental line for one or two hours,” Deely says. “My best advice is to rent from a local ski shop or go to a resort during the week. Or if you go on the weekend, go an hour or two before they even open.”
Buying equipment is recommended for skiers who plan on going every year, as skis and boots will last at least six to seven years and will save a lot of money in the long run.
“It’s worth it if you go at least five or six days a season,” Deely says. “I think the average skier skis 10 days a season.”
Toward the end of every November, Pro-Fit Ski & Mountain Sports holds a big yard sale featuring used equipment, which is a great opportunity to pick up less expensive items for the slopes. While this year’s sale has already come and gone, Deely recommends checking back next year to find great savings.
In addition to having your equipment when you get to the mountain, skiers can get more from the experience if they start early — especially when the resorts first open.
“The early bird definitely catches the worm,” Deely says. “If you can spend the night, even at a nearby hotel, you will have a more relaxed morning and will beat the crowds, which will make it more fun.”
‘Tis the Season
Since ski season falls into holiday time, often people think about gifting ski items as presents. Deely notes that instead of buying skis and boots, which are personalized, they should consider giving gift cards.
But if they do want to wrap something up, a boot bag, ski luggage and ski socks are great gifts to consider.
Best Resorts Near D.C.
While avid skiers may look to plan a trip to Vail, Colorado, Stowe, Vermont or Park City, Utah to ski this winter, for the most part, people in the D.C. region will look to ski somewhere they can drive to for the day. Thankfully, there are plenty of somewhat local mountains around 1.5 hours away. Timberline Mountain in Davis, West Virginia, which is about three hours from D.C., is one of Deely’s favorite for a one-day trip.
“It was family owned for decades, and they just drove it into the ground,” she says. “Another family-owned company from Indiana bought it and dumped around $3 million into it. They put in new chair lifts and a snowmaking system. They’ve cleaned up the lodge and it’s phenomenal. It’s a great physical ski mountain, has a great ski school and is family-oriented.”
Here are some other top spots to consider this year.
Liberty Mountain Resort
Liberty Mountain Resort in Fairfield, Pennsylvania is also around 90 minutes away and features a magic carpet lift for the bunny hill and a challenging backside course for more adventurous skiers. It also features night skiing, so people can get in a lot of runs in one day. 78 Country Club Trail Fairfield, PA; libertymountainresort.com // @libertymtn
This resort in Massanutten, Virginia is nearly 2 hours and 30 minutes from D.C. and at an elevation of 2,922 feet. There are 70 acres for skiers to take advantage of. The resort is a great spot for those learning to ski due to its instruction. 1822 Resort Dr. Massanutten, VA; massresort.com // @massresort
Snowshoe Mountain in Snowshoe, West Virginia is a bit further than others at 4 hours and 30 minutes, but it offers a very scenic drive and plenty of challenging slopes that advanced skiers love. It offers 11,000 acres in the Appalachian Mountain Range and boasts the second highest point in the state at 4,848 feet in elevation. 10 Snowshoe Dr. Showshoe, WV; snowshoemtn.com // @snowshoemtn
Located in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania approximately 90 minutes from D.C., Whitetail is a popular place for beginners and expert skiers because of how close it is. 13805 Blairs Valley Rd. Mercersburg, PA; skiwhitetail.com // @whitetailresort
Nestled in Wintergreen, Virginia, Wintergreen Resort is about three hours from the District and is the only mountain in the area which is covered by 100% automated snowmaking. 39 Mountain Inn Loop Nellysford, VA; wintergreenresort.com // @wintergreenresortva
Wisp Ski Resort
Wisp Ski Resort in McHenry, Maryland is also about three hours from D.C. The mountain has 172 total acres of skiable areas, making it one of the largest within driving distance, with a little more than a quarter designed for beginners. 296 Marsh Hill Rd. McHenry, MD; wispresort.com // @wispresort
Passes to Purchase
Season passes can save skiers both time and money. Here are a few of our top recommendations.
Vail Resorts in Colorado offers a special season pass called the Epic Pass, which allows skiing at more than 40 of its properties, including many close to D.C. like Liberty and Whitetail. The pass is close to $1,000 but it’s unlimited, allowing skiers to go to any of the resorts, any time. Learn more and purchase at epicpass.com.
Another pass available is the Ikon Pass, which is owned by the same company that owns Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort in Colorado. This is similar in that pass holders can ski at any of its properties, which includes Snowshoe in West Virginia. The Ikon Pass is $919 for the year and allows access up to five days at 13 resorts and unlimited access at 34 others. Learn more and purchase at ikonpass.com.
Indy Pass allows for two skiing days at 119 different resorts for $329. Two Virginia mountains that accept this are Bryce Resort in Basye and Massanutten Resort in Massanutten; West Virginia mountains include Canaan Valley Resort in Davis and Winterplace Ski Resort in Flat Top. Learn more and purchase at indyskipass.com.