A ski resort with terrain for all levels and closeby lodging, lots of apres ski activities and a good ski school make for great vacations on snow.
We all know those Maryland crabcakes and the Inner Harbor are attractions, but don’t rule out skiing and snowboarding as it waits for you via a relatively easy under-three hour driving distance from Baltimore at Wisp Resort. It is the state’s only place to slip and slide on a mountain which sits at the Northern end of Deep Creek in the Allegheny Mountains. Pittsburgh skiers can reach it in two hours.
Sure, you can head to the Pennsylvania Resorts that are under two hours away or make the longer drive into New York State and New England, but a day trip during the week or a weekend outing at Wisp just may be the cure for those Maryland wintertime blues. Wisp is located in the western snow belt, so its conditions often can be better than those in neighboring states.
Should you be in Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C. or other relatively nearby locations on business or for pleasure, take along a set of ski clothes and give Wisp a ride.
There’s only one – Wisp Resort in Deep Creek. Wisp offers a good amount of natural snowfall as well as 90 percent snowmaking so you will generally find good conditions. The resort offers an even mix of beginner, intermediate and advanced trails among its 34 runs over 162 skiable acres, and the mountain has a vibe that makes it a good place for beginners (nearly half the terrain) on the way up the skill ladder. There are also plenty of off-slope activities in nearby Deep Creek Lake for both skiers and non-skiers including dog-sledding, snowmobiling, sleigh rides, ice skating, cross-country skiing, tubing and more.
Wisp actually began life in a cow pasture in the winter of 1955-1956, one of the first so-called “southern” ski areas to open for business. Snowmaking was added a decade later as it became an excellent snow guarantee across the country. Many more slopes and night skiing were added in the following decades.
Wisp has long since grown into a four-season resort and in winter it offers 32 trails off a respectable 700-foot vertical drop. There are 13 lifts across the 132 skiable acres. You'll play in four terrain parks and also can enjoy snow tubing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, lodging, dining and shopping during the winter months. The Adventure Sports Center International (ASCI) atop the mountain contains a whitewater course that makes a return visit during the summer a fun choice.
Ski and snowboard lessons are important here and Wisp features The Learning Center. Located within Sundown Yurt Village, the adult programs go out of the Appalachian Yurt while Wisp Kids go out of the Bitterroot and Cascade Yurts. The Adult Learning Center offers group and private lessons, ski and snowboard equipment rentals from Rossignol, Elan and Burton along with all-inclusive Learn-to Packages that include a lift ticket, equipment rental and group lesson. Wisp Kids is designed for ages 3 – 14 and offers full and half day all-inclusive programs, full day with lunch. Kids are grouped with their peers to create a comfortable and productive learning environment.
There are plenty of lodging opportunities in the area because of its year-round appeal, but the best choice for skiers and riders may be the Lodge at Wisp, located at the base of the mountain and connected to the McHenry Lodge. The Lodge offers six different room types among 169 guest rooms to accommodate guests and groups of all sizes. The Pine Lodge steakhouse in Deep Creek is a good choice for dining.
Maryland is home to just one ski area: Wisp Resort. Sitting in the Western Maryland Mountains, Wisp is a relatively small four-season resort. It has good natural snowfall and snowmaking and offers a decent selection of trails. Its beginner terrain is excellent.
Wisp’s location high in the mountains means snowboarders can enjoy one of the longest seasons in the Mid-Atlantic region. Snowmaking covers just about 100 percent of the “rideable terrain” and the ski area was one of the early adaptors to firing those guns.
Wisp is owned by Park City, Utah-based Pacific Group Resorts, Inc. (PGR). They acquired the resort after having managed the ski area since 2015.
On paper, the resorts are very similar in terms of vertical drop, number of lifts, weather and snowmaking. Seven Springs has more intermediate terrain, while Wisp has more for beginners and novice skiers. Perhaps the new “major difference” is Seven Springs was acquired last year by Vail Resorts that looks at the Pennsylvania ski area as a major feeder to its Western destinations and will no doubt – as is their pattern – pour a considerable investment into its future.
It can be downright chilly during December, January, and February. Snowfall in these months is generally heavier than in the rest of the year. The state as a whole sees an average temperature of 31.4 degrees in the winter months. The January low is 25. The average seasonal snowfall in Maryland is 20.6 inches of snow, but 132 inches at Wisp is well above the downslope totals. This varies from year to year, with the peak snowfall ever recorded at 262.5 inches of snow in one region.
Basically, you’ll want to pile the kids in the car to drive the several hours from the big cities. However, if you are flying into the region, your best choice is to fly into Pittsburgh International Airport in Pennsylvania. It’s the closest large airport to the resort. Alternatively, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Baltimore International Airport are options.
Maryland may have just one ski resort and significant competition lurks in Pennsylvania, but Wisp Resort is no slouch and competes favorably with the Pennsylvania resorts. It's well worth your time to check it out.