The unfulfilled wish of every alpine skier is to beat the weekend crowd. With 45-minute lift lines and lift tickets at $10 to $12, weekend skiing is often a ripoff. Add the expenses of lodging, rental, lessons, meals and travel and you have the ingredients of an upper-class sport that melts dollars faster than snow in springtime. Though beating the weekend crowd is sometimes impossible, here are three ways to get more for your skiing dollar.
First, four resorts in the region limit weekend and holiday crowds by putting a ceiling on ticket sales. That means that if you get to the resort after the day's ceiling is reached you don't ski, but it also means that if you get there before the ceiling's reached your investment and time on the slopes are protected against overcrowding.
The effectiveness of a ceiling must be measured in terms of the resort's uphill lift capacity of skiers per hour. The interplay of crowd size and lift capacity governs the length of lift lines. The resorts in this region that have adopted ceilings on ticket sales are: Blue Knob, with a daily ceiling of 1,400 people and lift capacity of 3,100 per hour, Massanutten, with a ceiling of 2,000 and lift capacity of 5,200; Bryce Mountain, with a ceiling of 1,000 and lift capacity of 800; and Snowshoe, with a ceiling of 2,600 and lift capacity of 1,200. Though Snowshoe appears to allow a much greater crowd in relation to capacity, much of Snowshoe's crowd is composed of skiers on vacation and package plans rather than day trips. Vacationers usually spend more of their time off the slopes. In general, the ceilings limit lift lines to 15 to 20-minute waits.
Night skiing is also a practical way to beat the weekend crowd. Just two hours or so from Washington are half a dozen resorts that offer night skiing. The closest, Braddock Heights, near Frederick, Md., is 45 miles away and open 6 to 10 every night except Sunday and Monday. Ski Liberty, near Fairfield, Pa., 65 miles away, is open every night from 6 to 10 (11 on Fridays).Bryce Mountain, near Basye, Va., 100 miles away, is open from 7 to 10 every night except Sundays and Mondays. Ski Roundtop, near Lewisberry, Pa., is 120 miles away and open every night form 6 to 10. Massanutten, near Harrisonburg, Va., 125 miles away, is open every night except Sunday from 6:30 to 10.
Of course, the best way to beat the weekend crowd and save dollars is to ski during the week. All resorts in the region except Roundtop and Blue Knob offer mid-week package plans for one to five days. Savings are usually about 20 percent.
Top supersavers are at Liberty and Massanutten. Every Tuesday is ladies' day at Liberty, where $9.50 buys a lesson and a lift ticket, a 35 per cent saving. Men's day is every Thursday, and the prices are the same. At Massanutten every weekday, $15 buys a lesson, rental and lift ticket (a $24 value).
The best multi-day packages are at Jack Frost, near White Haven, Pa., and Camelback, near Tannersville, Pa. Savings over the regular lower mid-week rates at Jack Frost run from 40 to 50 percent on three to five-day packages including lifts, lessons and rentals if needed. Similar packages at Camelback save 35 to 45 percent.