Yes, you can ski in Maryland: Here's what I learned during my trip
I live in Texas, so for my family, skiing always requires travel.
Typically, we use points and miles to visit ski destinations such as Colorado, Utah and even British Columbia, Canada. So, when I casually mentioned to a few folks that we went skiing for the weekend in Maryland, of all places, I received more than a few confused looks. People wondered whether there's actually any skiing in Maryland (there is), and why we chose to go skiing in Maryland, which really isn't any closer to Texas than Colorado.
OK, so skiing in Maryland isn't even close to skiing in the Rockies. But it was still fun and, as an added bonus, there was no risk of getting stranded in snow on the side of Colorado's I-70, so it was already off to a good start.
Just in case you've ever wondered, here's what it's really like to ski in Maryland.
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We went on the busiest ski weekend of the winter -- President's Day weekend — so the rates we paid weren't dirt cheap at Wisp Resort. But there are many winter dates when you can book a lift ticket with equipment for just $50 for adults. Lift tickets with rental equipment for kids ages 6 to 12 years of age start at $38 total. Kids ages 5 and under and seniors 70 and over can ski for free.
Compare that to the price of single-day lift tickets in Colorado that can surpass $200 for the lift ticket alone, and that's a crazy cheap price for a sport known to be pretty pricey.
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It's not fancy
If your idea of a ski trip is leisurely mountaintop glasses of rosé in a faux fur-lined chair while wearing a Moncler ski jacket, you're probably not going to love Maryland's version of skiing. (Though you'll fit in very well at Telluride's Alpino Vino, located at 12,000 feet.)
By way of comparison, in Maryland, I saw folks skiing in jeans, hoodies and ski jackets that have definitely seen a turn or two around the mountain. Frankly, I loved it. It no longer felt like a sport reserved just for the elite — instead, it felt like something a family next door could reasonably enjoy on a spontaneous Saturday morning.
Kids have more freedom
Ski resorts such as Vail, Breckenridge, Park City and Whistler Blackcomb are absolutely massive. That can be great if you're after varied terrain, but it comes with challenges if you have kids who are ready to start exploring on their own, but not with so much freedom they could accidentally find themselves on a trail way beyond their skill level. Or, heck, they could simply end up at a base area very different than intended.
The gift of a smaller mountain is that there's probably only one true base area, and you're much less likely to accidentally end up somewhere you shouldn't be.
At Maryland's Wisp, there aren't all that many ways to get up or down the mountain, so my 10-year-old knew where to go pretty quickly.
Related: Best ski resorts for families
Skiing in the Northeast can be challenging
Snow conditions can and do vary everywhere, so this part won't always be true. But, while the mountain wasn't imposing, skiing in Maryland (at least during our visit) wasn't as easy as you might assume.
My I'm-too-cool-for-green-runs daughter quickly changed her tune when her skis had trouble catching edges on the icy terrain.
I've heard East Coast skiing referred to as "Iced Coast" skiing, and that's not inaccurate. Much of the snow here was manmade, so it gets slushy in the afternoon sun but refreezes at night. It's slick and icy, and you can't half-do your turns here. If you do, you're probably in for a serious fall. You'll need to work on technical skills while skiing somewhere like Maryland.
This all came as a bit of a shock to my kiddo, who quickly decided that icy green runs were plenty to keep her occupied without the gift of fluffy powder to catch the fall.
Related: How to enjoy a ski vacation as a non-skier
Ski school is less overwhelming
Dropping a child off for ski school somewhere like Snowmass could easily be described as overwhelming. Don't get me wrong: I think some of the best ski schools for kids are worth the drop-off and pick-up pandemonium. But a smaller ski school was a nice change of pace.
We slept in a bit that morning and were consequently late to ski school, and that was OK. It was easy to spot my kiddo on the practice hill when I wanted to see how she was doing, and it was just as easy for staff to find her when we needed to leave early. Everything seemed simpler by virtue of the smaller size. When your kid is first starting out on skis, bigger isn't always better — or, at least, necessary.
Arcades are still a thing
When it comes time for après ski, or even enjoying a day off the slopes, the differences between East and West continue.
Apparently, visiting an arcade is a popular activity near the slopes in Maryland -- and not just for the kids. Whether you pay by the game or by the hour, you can add some pinball, Skee-Ball and racing games to your list of après activities. And there wasn't just one area arcade -- there are several to choose from.
We said yes to a last-minute ski trip to the East Coast because some friends of ours were there for the weekend in a big house with empty rooms we were happy to fill. And when we realized we could cash in some Avianca LifeMiles to book flights on United from Houston (IAH) to Dulles International (IAD) in Washington, D.C. for just 10,000 miles each way with no last-minute booking fees, the deal was sealed.
I skied into our Maryland ski trip not knowing what to expect. And though I definitely prefer skiing out West, I'd test my skills on East Coast slopes again. No doubt I'd leave with sore calves, perhaps a bruised ego and hopefully improved skills that will play out well on western powder.
All images by Summer Hull / The Points Guy.