A Washington editor who has never skied -- and, he says quite positively, has no plans to learn -- decided one weekend to tag along after his wife on a trip to the mountains west of Washington.
While his wife tackled the slopes, his intention was to spend several hours lounging safe from frostbite and broken bones in the resort's rathskeller. But that weekend, the bar was closed.
"So I froze my tail off standing at the foot of the mountain with my Nikon, taking photos of my wife every time she fell at the end of a run."
In the past, as this couple found, many ski areas within a half-day's drive of Washington had very little to offer except skiing. But a number of resorts are adding facilities both to entertain the non-skiing spouse (or friend) and to brighten the nightlife scene.
Don't expect to find the glittery nightspots and gourmet dining of apres-ski in Aspen, Stowe or St. Anton. Forget sophistication and glamor -- think more in terms of pancake houses and Howard Johnsons'.
Still, if you look for it, you can find in our local hills the scenic charm of a New England valley and the romantic coziness of evenings by the fire in a slopeside chalet. To ease your muscles, search out the saunas and the heated pools.
It may cost you more. Resort accommodations usually run a lot higher than a motel room just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike. But if this isn't your year for the Rockies or the Alps, it could be worth it.
Is your idea of apres-ski an old-fashioned sleigh ride?
Feel the brisk mountain air on your cheeks in a horse-drawn, 13-person sleigh skimming the wooded trails outside Canaan Valley Resort in West Virginia. Cabin Mountain Stables offers daily trips at 10 a.m., 1 and 2:30 for $10, adults; $5, six to 14; free, under six. (More information at 304/866-4144/4496).
Or laid-back California?
Dip into the hot tubs at Snowshoe in West Virginia. "They're right at the top of Ball Hooter Slope behind glass windows," says Snowshoe public relations director Marleen Chittum. "You can sit in a tub all nice and warm and cozy and watch all the skiers go by outside."
Quiet evenings for two by the fire in a scenic mountain retreat you can get by renting a condo or chalet at such all-season resorts as Bryce, Massanutten and Wintergreen in Virginia. Pour a drink, pop some corn over the flames and watch the flakes fall through the trees outside your picture window.
If the group cottage at Rehoboth Beach is your social scene, how about a cottage in the snow? One Washington skier annually rents a four-bedroom trailside chalet at Blue Knob in Pennsylvania for $200 a weekend. He invites three other couples to share the cost and the cooking.
For the non-skier in your life, the local Disneyland is Seven Springs Mountain in Pennsylvania. Feel assured, while you're practicing your turns, that he or she can find something to do among the resort's facilities.
In a morning-to-night athletic binge, there's the heated indoor swimming pool, four racquetball courts, health spa with sauna, universal and Jacuzzi, a roller-skating rink, six bowling lanes, an 18-hole miniature golf course and two game rooms with a variety of electronic gadgets.
When both of you are properly exhausted, meet again at the Foggy Goggle at the base of the chairlift for drinks and entertainment. Then go on to sample a variety of restaurants and several other cocktail lounges.
If mountain moguls are out, put the non- skier on flatland skis. They don't go as fast, but there's a thrill to cross-country skiing just the same. And you can learn the basics in no time at all. Trails are available at Snowshoe, Canaan and three state parks within five-miles of Wisp in Maryland.
Serious skiers here tend to plan at least a week away at the big-time resorts. So when we asked representatives of several area ski clubs for their advice on local apres-ski spots, their first response was not unexpected.
"Where to go for apre-skiing around here?" mused a representative club voice. "Nowhere."
But, on reflection, they came up with these favorites:
* XANDRA HEMMES, Sail and Ski Club of Washington: "A place I feel so comfortable in," she says, is Timberline Lodge at Snowshoe, but at a price. A room for two runs $85 per person a night on weekends, including lift ticket. Hidden Valley in Pennsylvania "is nice for families." And "Wisp has lots of things to do -- a big heated pool."
* FRED WILDS, Black Ski, Inc.: "For nightlife, it would have to be Seven Springs or Great Gorge (in New Jersey). We were at Seven Springs, and everybody had a ball -- especially the beginners. Their idea of skiing is sitting around the bar. Once you go inside the lodge, you get the pampering."
* DUTCH MUELLER, Fagowees: "Personally, I go to Blue Knob," where he is on the ski patrol. But for apres-ski, he suggests Seven Springs, Wintergreen and, as an afterthought: "Braddock Heights (in Maryland). They've got a delightful little place with a nice atmosphere and hot apple strudel."
* MARILYN CLARK, Potomac Valley Skiers: "I belong to a ski patrol at Massanutten. Most of my weekends are spent there." Her apres-ski evenings, she says, are with other patrollers at a house they have for the season. Like many longtime skiers, she adds, she doesn't go skiing "with the idea of apres-ski in mind."
* MIKE FLATLEY, Sun, Snow & Surf Ski Club: Hs group tends to charter buses to the Pennsylvania slopes, "and quite honestly apres-ski in Pennsylvania hasn't been a big deal." Though on a January trip to Elk Mountain, members, he says, raved about the entertainment and accommodations at the Treadway Inn in Scranton.
* CAROLYN MARRA, Ski Club of Washington, D.C.: She recalls trips to Wisp "with friends who had access to an A-frame on Deep Creek Lake. It's very scenic because of the mountains." For a time last season, all of Marra's skiing was apres. She slipped -- not on a slope, but on her own stairs -- and broke her ankle, putting her temporarily on crutches and in a cast. She spent the summer exercising it for the new season.