Head to Deep Creek Lake for skiing at Wisp Mountain, dogsledding, winter sports and more in a little known, top value resort.
Within driving distance of many East Coast and upper Midwest communities lies the under-discovered resort area of Deep Creek Lake. This massive yet cozy vacation community is nestled in the natural mountain heritage of the Appalachians. Back in the 1960s, there was an enterprising plan to build a dam across a mountain stream while no one was looking, and it resulted in what is now a premier family retreat with a ski resort, convention hotel, and rental lodging in its midst.
While Deep Creek Lake’s Wisp Mountain does not have the biggest ski slopes around, it is right in the middle of the continental divide, providing enough altitude for the powdery and deep snow familiar to New England skiers. I highly recommend skiing at Wisp, even for beginners.
It’s a common misperception is that skiing is difficult to learn, only best done in one’s younger years and expensive lessons are required. I am living proof that this is incorrect because I never touched a ski until I was 40 and am now a competent intermediate skier of 54 (gahh!).
What if skiing is not your thing? Try the Wisp resort’s premium tubing area 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 a guided snowmobile excursion. It’s no more difficult than riding a bike, and it is fun, fun, fun, so rev it up and be adventurous.
But the grand prize for a non-traditional winter activity goes to dog sledding. Relatively new to those in this part of the country, it’s a winter activity that should not be missed.
Husky Power Dogsledding (301/746-7200), located at 2008 Bumble Bee Road, Accident, MD 21520, provides an interesting and new educational experience about sled dogs the husky dog breed, their care, and the tradition of canine winter transportation. The operation is run by an enterprising couple at their country residence. A sleigh ride through the woods is followed by the opphortunity to meet the very friendly tykes in their kennels while learning about their delightfully quirky and intricate personality traits. Make sure to allot adequate time and wear insulated boots because, for some reason, the lecture part of the experience required an hour-and-a-half of standing outdoors before the sleigh ride.
Snowy winter getaways can be spent right at the Wisp Mountain base at the Wisp Resort Hotel & Conference Center (290 Marsh Hill Rd, McHenry, MD 21541, 800/462-9477). The hotel is not only close to premium cold weather activities, but boasts convenient ski in/ski out lodging and more value-conscious rooms. The 67-room slopeside hotel also offers families a fitness center, heated indoor pool, Jacuzzi and, for the teens, WiFi access. Larger families may book one of the 102 newly remodeled suites that overlook the slopes and, in warmer weather, the golf course. An extensive renovation of the property and soon-to-be mountaintop, self-contained village round this out as a premium value for the family.
Many 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. The expanded and unprecedented choices of children’s programs complement the recently expanded 10-trail area, and the pipes, rails and terrain parks designed for freestyle skiers and snowboarders. Wisp also has premium rental equipment for novices, so no prior investment is necessary.
For a fantastic lakefront view and all the comforts, my favorite place to stay is the Suites at Silver Tree (565 Glendale Road, Oakland, MD 21550, 800/711-1719). This is waterfront seclusion at its best, including lodges, cottages and condos. Built in mountain lodge style with timber cathedral lobby ceilings, this elegant retreat is centrally located to all regional points of interest and boasts a restaurant, sauna and fitness facilities, marina and waterfront swimming. Don’t forget to inquire about its ski packages and discounts.
The Deep Creek Lake Resort Vacation Rentals company handles sales and rentals throughout this part of Maryland. There is a variety of reasonably priced rentals, from lakefront properties with docks (nice in summer), to slopeside condos and accommodations at Wisp, to quiet cabins in the woods. If you book far enough in advance, you may find a group lodging facility right on Deep Creek Lake or in a mountain retreat, or an affordable family ski vacation house. The resort area is 2 hours’ drive from Pittsburgh, 3 hours from Baltimore or Washington DC and about 3½ hours from Cleveland.
For more information about Deep Creek, shopping, year-round activities, lodging and more, visit Garrett County Chamber of Commerce(15 Visitors Center Drive; McHenry, MD 21541).
As an environmental consultant, Andrew Der writes for land development companies and government agencies requiring technical and scientific guidance. Over the last few years, his yearnings have led him to travel journalism and photography focused on creative and cultural family destinations, his children, Eastern Europe – his birthplace – and the occasional offbeat experience or unique niche uncovered in his travels.
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