Wednesday, February 15, 2006

That breezy howl you heard during last weekend's snowstorm wasn't the wind in the trees -- it was a massive sigh of relief from area ski resorts. Sweating through the warmest January on record wasn't a boffo way to start the year for places that depend on chills for their thrills. Who wants to sip hot chocolate in the lodge if the weather outside isn't so much frightful as just right for Bermuda shorts and grilled portobellos? Well, just in time for Presidents' Day weekend, mid-Atlantic ski resorts are delighted to announce the return of winter.

"Oh man, we're happy," said Dick Barron, director of ski operations at Seven Springs in Champion, Pa.

Most resorts in the region have been blowing as much machine-made snow as possible to keep the trails open. Chairlifts have been running and folks have been coming to scrape out a few runs on the factory-produced slopes. None of that compares to the long-awaited joy of a huge, transforming blanket of the real white stuff. Overnight, the base grew by a half-foot or more, closed trails reopened and cross-country routes came alive.

"Everyone's enthused," said Lori Epp, events and public relations manager at Maryland's Wisp Resort. "The locals are out there getting in some midweek skiing before the city folks show up for the weekend."

If skiing suddenly seems more appealing, here's a brief update from some nearby downhill and cross-country areas in the region. For a comprehensive list of regional ski resorts, including an interactive map, visit .

-- Steve Hendrix

· Seven Springs Mountain Resort

Reports getting eight inches of new snow over the weekend, with "lake-effect" snow continuing. All 41 trails are open, as opposed to the 14 slopes under the snowmaking system, and all 13 chairlifts and tows running. Last slopes close at 10:30 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and holidays (10 p.m. other days). Adult daylight passes begin at $35 weekdays, $46 weekends and holidays. Late-season discounts begin after the second week in March. 777 Waterwheel Dr., Champion, Pa.; 192 miles from Washington; 800-452-2223 (ski report: 800-523-7777), .

· Whitetail Mountain Resort

Reports getting eight to 10 inches of new snow, including some powder left on ungroomed trails. With 17 of 19 trails open as of Tuesday, Whitetail expected to have all trails open by the weekend. "Things were starting to melt down a little bit," said Whitetail marketing coordinator Chris Black. "But I've worked here for six years and these are the best conditions I've seen." Whitetail is open daily for skiing, snowboarding and tubing until 10 p.m. Adult day passes begin at $43 weekdays, $51 weekends and holidays. 13805 Blairs Valley Rd., Mercersburg, Pa.; 91 miles from Washington; 717-328-9400 (ski report: 717-328-9400),

· Liberty Mountain Resort

Reports 10 inches of new snow, freeing up three previously unskiable trials. Thirteen of 16 trails are open, as are five lifts and the 15-lane tube park. The snowboarders' half-pipe remains closed. Liberty, the resort closest to Washington, is open until 10 p.m. nightly. Adult day passes start at $41 weekdays, $50 weekends and holidays. 78 Country Club Trail, Fairfield, Pa. (Carroll Valley); 78 miles from Washington; 717-642-8282 (ski report: 717-642-9000),

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