Skiing at Wisp: It’s all downhill from here

Someone left these snow hearts at the top of the slopes at Wisp.

Someone left these snow hearts at the top of the slopes at Wisp. It’s how I feel about the place.

Skis and snowboards await their owners for another trip down the mountain.

Skis and snowboards await their owners for another trip down the mountain.

I stepped into my first skis on the slopes overlooking Deep Creek Lake in Western Maryland a few (ahem!) years ago. There were fewer trails at Wisp back then. The lodge was much smaller and the lodge at the top of Marsh Mountain wasn’t even a dream yet. Snowboards weren’t an option.

See that girl in the middle? Classic snow plow. Not pretty but she's keeping in control.

See that girl in the middle? Classic snow plow. Not pretty but she’s keeping in control.

I was hooked as soon as I began my first descent down the long curving trails of snow and ice. I was no Lindsey Vonn, I admit. Since I’m more of a snow-plower — with my skis splayed out in a wide vee with toes held together — I took it slowly.  Giving myself  plenty of time to get down the mountain, I took in the views, listened to the hushed sounds of my own skis slipping down the icy path, felt the tingle of the cold on my nose and cheeks, appreciated the strength in my own muscles — strength I really didn’t know I had.

There’s something peaceful about snow plowing down a frosty slope. Okay, it isn’t pretty. No one was signing me up for the Olympics. But so what? It was fun. And it still is.

The mountain is all mine as I slip, slide past the snowboarders face down in the snow or the speed skiers trying to get back up on their skis after a crash. I still take it slow, leaving the black diamond slopes for the other skiers. Consequently, I find myself on the slopes with all the newbies. And so, for them, I offer a few rules to make the trip fun.

1. Take a lesson. I wish I had that first time. I might have eaten less snow.

2. Take your time. What’s the rush? You spend all that time in the line for the ski lift, take your time heading down the mountain. Yeah, speed’s fun, too. Well, take your time on some of your runs and enjoy the scenery.

Those skiers in the red jackets are with the ski patrol.

Those skiers in the red jackets are with the ski patrol.

3. Ride the ski lift with someone you don’t know. If you can, hop on a chair with a teenage boy or a kid and let them tell you about their exploits.

4. Help someone up when he or she fallsFace it, you might need a hand later.

5. Rest. That lift ticket is expensive but don’t crash and break your arm or blow out your knee just to get your money’s worth. The ski lodge has hot chocolate and sandwiches, plenty of places to sit and bathrooms. Lock up your skis, take a break to warm up and rest up.

6. Ski early; ski late. The slopes are packed mid-day. Get up early and join the first skiers of the day. You might not get the slope to yourself but it’s only going to get busier later in the day. Not an early riser? Then add an extra layer and head to the slopes as dusk turns the sky pink and the snow blue.

New skier? Look for the green squares on the signs and maps indicating beginner slopes. Stay away from signs with black diamonds.

New skier? Look for the green squares on the signs and maps indicating beginner slopes. Stay away from signs with black diamonds.

7. Believe the signs on the slopes. If you are a beginner stay on the slopes marked with green dots. When you’ve had some experience then head for the blue square slopes (intermediate) and when you’re an expert, then you can head down the black diamond slopes. Newbie? Look for the maps on the slopes or carry a little map with you. Your bones will thank you.

These are rules I ski by. I’m still no Lindsay Vonn. But I still love the feeling of strapping on those skis, catching a ride up on the chair lift and enjoying the view up and the ride back down.

© Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman

The Possum trail at Wisp at dusk. Pretty, isn't it?

The Possum trail at Wisp at dusk. Pretty, isn’t it?

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