Entertainment Options, Acreage
Vertical, Small Terrain Park, Location
As Maryland's only ski mountain, Wisp does a decent job of representing it's state's interests. It is located in the extreme western part of the state in the Deep Creek Lake region of Garrett County, south of Seven Springs (PA). The location is remote. Far from any sizable cities, Wisp is a destination unto itself and the resort provides pretty much all there is to do when there. There isn't much in the way of a hopping club scene, but ice skating, snow tubing and the mountain coaster provide a range of nightime activites for the family apart from skiing.
The vertical rise of the mountain is about what you'd expect for this region, that is to say limited. You won't find any particularly long runs, but the terrain spans three sides of the peak, which serves to distribute the crowds considerably. The lifts didn't get very crowded when we were there, despite it being a holiday weekend, but that very well could have been due to the less than ideal weather conditons. Still the distributed nature of the slopes and having three lifts rising from the base lodge should help to mitigate the majority of logjams in all but the busiest weekends.
Despite the limited rise, the mountain does have a nice selection of terrain with a good amount of advanced slopes to provide a bit of a challenge for more accomplished skiers and riders. You won't find any truly advanced stuff here, but there is enough to keep you engaged for a while. The mountain arragement is a bit of a jumble, but good signage provides enough direction that most people will not get lost or find themselves trapped on difficult terrain. There are several long beginners trails to the right off the peak, which makes for something a bit different than the usual open slope format close to the base. It should be noted that while Wisp Trail and Possum are very easy trails, well within the ability range of novice skiers and riders, they derive their limited slope by wrapping around the side of the mountain, leaving a fairly steep drop off the left side which can be intimidating to some of the more nervous beginners. There is also a mid-lift off the right serving a selection of other beginner slopes. Down beyond this lift is a nice intermediate area with three trails. It is accessed by the very flat Big Dipper trail that will require a bit of a traverse to reach the lift. This lift services the long Ace's Run and Whip Saw and the short, but steep, Over The Edge. These are among the more difficult of the intermediate areas. A traverse off the top, leads back to the beginners mid-lift which will return you to the peak. The remaining intermediate terrain wraps around the face from right to left feeding down into Boulder and passing through a tunnel under the mountain coaster, which seems to be a hit with kids. There were no intermediate mogul runs when we were there. The expert terrain is in two main areas coming straight down the face into the base area and off to the far left with a dedicated lift servicing it. The expert terrain has a moderately steep pitch to it with several areas often being allowed to go to bumps. The slopes coming down the face are adequately steep, but not very long. The more extensive area is the one to the left. Again, no one is going to mistake this for Vail, but for the region, it presents a fair challenge for the advanced intermediate. The terrain parks are located near the base and are extremely limited. If you are a park rat, you'd be much better off at Seven Springs to the north.
The lodge is standard fare. There is an open, cafeteria style seating area for the food court, with a small bar area (Whispers) to one side. Tucked in behind the food court is DC's retaurant, providing surprisingly upscale dining if you are so inclined. The Pump House Cafe is also an option located at the peak lodge. Prices were predictably high, as mountain services often are. The rental shop is a pretty slick operation, which seemed to keep people moving reasonably well. The hotel was unremarkable, but the service and location are definitely the reasons to opt for staying at Wisp Lodge.
Of particular note, was the ease of use of the resort's website and the extremely helpful and simple customer service line. Planning a long weekend trip, I found it very easy to determine all of the lodging and activity options from the website. Once I had made my decisions, I was able to make all my plans by calling the resort's main number. They were able to book our hotel reservations, set up a snowboarding lesson, make restaurant reservations (on site) and set up all of the activities we wanted to participate in (ice skating, mountain coaster, snowmobiling and snow tubing), all in one easy phone call. It was definitely one of the better operations I have seen.
The quality of skiing and riding at Wisp should be no surprise, it is standard fare for the mid-Atlantic region - fair at best. But as a getaway destination for your family, Wisp does a very nice job of packing a lot of entertainment into a relatively small footprint. We had a great time and filled up a very busy long weekend without once having to get in our car.