Within driving distance of many East Coast and upper Midwest communities lies this under-discovered and relatively secluded resort area – a massive yet cozy vacation community nestled in the natural mountain heritage of the Appalachians. While seemingly out of place atop the gentle ridges and far below any regions with natural lakes, an enterprising plan to build a dam across a mountain stream in the ’60s while no one was looking resulted in what is now a premier natural resource destination and a prime family retreat for many non-Maryland metropolitan areas as well.
After all, at the close of my last summer oriented feature, I challenged the reader – and myself – to visit during a future ski season to fully appreciate what this winter oasis had to offer and the mountain ski resort of Wisp truly is a destination for all seasons. While the familiar lake of summer is frozen and overpowered by the lakeside mountain, Wisp admittedly does not have the biggest ski slopes around. But being right in the middle of the continental divide Wisp provides an altitude where the powdery and deep snow, familiar to New England, is found close to many southern cities. Other accessible resorts in the area frequently predominate in slush and ice.
Winter here revolves around the Wisp ski resort known not only for its premium winter activities but also for the convenient ski-side and value- conscious rooms. Many visitors also enjoy the numerous and cozy lodges, condos and townhouse rentals around the area – some units are even for sale, for the truly committed. In addition to regionally surreal skiing conditions consisting of over 100 inches of fluffy snowfall annually, Wisp has a surprising variety of trails for its size, a full service lodge, rental facilities and instructional staff. Rounding this out as a premium value for the family are such features as: the expanded and unprecedented choices of children’s programs, recently expanded 10 trail area, Pipes, Rail Parks, Terrain Trails, upgraded premium rental fleets, an extensive renovation of the Resort Hotel and Conference Center and soon-to-be mountaintop self contained village
Don’t forget to ask about special events such as March’s Annual Beachin’ Weekend and Total Tubular Tubing Party, as well as packages and specials such as group activities and the Wisp discount card. Real-time webcam views of the ski areas are very cool at http://www.wispresort.com/wisp/info/w.webcam.aspx. For something different try Nordic skiing or my favorite – the mountain coaster. Picture a cross between a gravity powered go kart and roller coaster with no skills required.
For a fantastic lakefront view, seclusion and all the comforts, my favorite place to stay is the Suites at Silver Tree, known for both summer and winter quality accommodations. In a mountain lodge style with timber cathedral lobby ceilings, this elegant retreat is centrally located to all regional points of interest with a plethora of quality room choices varying in decor, size and amenity from studio to separate bedrooms and lofts. Enjoy the restaurant, sauna and fitness facilities and if you are staying during the summer, a marina and waterfront swimming is included. Do not forget to inquire about its ski packages and discounts.
But what if skiing is not your thing? No, you are not a scrooge, and it is not a problem because this is the perfect place to either learn or enjoy other winter opportunities. To start, a premium tubing area is available at Wisp with unexpectedly vast and fast undulating slides that will please the grownups as well as the kids. Another favorite – and a rush for newbies – is to have the skilled Wisp staff provide guided snowmobile excursions and demonstrate that this is no more difficult than riding a bike – and it is fun, fun, fun! Rev it up and be adventurous.
The grand prize for something different in the category of non-traditional winter activity goes to dog sledding. That’s right – relatively new to those in this part of the country, this should not be missed. Husky Power Dog Sledding provided an interesting and new educational experience hosted by an enterprising couple running the operation at their country residence who will teach everything about the husky dog breed – or sled dogs, their care, and the tradition of canine winter transportation.
A sleigh ride through the woods cannot be beat followed by an opportunity to mingle with and pet the very friendly tykes in their kennel area while being told about their varied, delightfully quirky and intricate personality traits. Some wry humor abounds as demonstrated by the lone doghouse, among the numerous others. labeled Husband. .I wondered if the female partner of the business keeps the male host on his toes, describing the ins and outs of dog sledding and preparing for the ride. Make sure to allot adequate time and winter clothes, including insulated boots, because the lecture part of the experience required an hour and half of standing motionless outdoors before any sleigh ride, causing a bit of foot numbness.
Eventually, warming up indoors at the end of the day is vital and welcome, but take a break from the fireplaces at Suites at Silver Tree or the Wisp lodge and try the lakeside Uno’s restaurant with a couple of after-dinner drinks at the adjacent Honi Honi bar. A more hi-tech, stimulating and down right fun experience can be found at Smiley’s FunZone, the ultimate arcade and game park of the western mid-Atlantic. My favorite game was the laser tag. This is a great opportunity for a tech fix for kids, but all the family should take a break at their excellent restaurant to rest.