A large slab of snow slid on The Face, Wisp Resort's steepest trail at 1:48 p.m. Nov. 22.
Two skiers who had driven to the resort from College Park, Md., witnessed the event. One of them, Jesse Wu, age 18, took the photo shown above.
Lori Epp of Wisp said that snowmaking began Nov. 7 and, by Nov. 22, the resort had produced 236 acre feet of snow using 36 million gallons of water.
Another 20 inches of natural snow also fell during this period, she said.
Grooming machines had not worked on The Face at the time of the slide, Epp said, and the weight of the manmade snow on top of fresh natural, combined with gravity, led to the slide.
Cary Li, 17, one of the two skiers who had driven to Wisp to ski the fresh snow, described the events of the day:
"So, my friend and I were hiking up Wisp the weekend before opening day because they had been getting tons of lake-effect snow all week and we couldn't resist waiting any longer to ski. The first few runs in the morning were OK. The snow was still a little soft but the crust was starting to get thick in certain places. After stopping for lunch, we went back to the same run we climbed earlier and climbed it again. This time, however, the crust was almost unbreakable. Fortunately, we had our footprints from earlier to follow.
"Neither me nor my friend thought anything of the crack that appeared near the middle of the trail at first. But when my friend finally reached the crack, he decided to take out his camera and take a picture of it. I was about 20-30 feet behind him, and stopped moving when I felt a very faint rumble below my feet. I couldn't figure out what it was at first. About 30 seconds later, though, I looked up and saw the trail coming towards me. I immediately recognized that this was an avalanche and dived into the trees to avoid being swept away. The debris missed me by about a foot. My friend was lucky in that he was standing above the crack. Meanwhile, I stood there at the side of the trail amazed at what I had just witnessed. It wasn't until a few minutes later that I realized that I had to keep going up to avoid any more pieces that might still be breaking off. The rest of the way up, I kept telling myself that the higher up I get from the slide, the less chance I have of being on a piece that breaks off.
"At the top of the trail, we were met by a stern-looking Ski Patroller. Luckily, it turned out to be quite the contrary. The patroller simply asked us what happened and then recommended a different part of the mountain for us to continue skiing that had better snow. I appreciated the little debriefing he gave us, but at that point I had enough of skiing for the day and just went back down to my car to go home. The Ski Patrollers we met at Wisp were all very courteous and helpful as well as interesting to talk to, and this experience has left a positive memory with me. Wisp has earned two loyal customers thanks to their friendliness," Li said.
Li and Wu are students at College Park, both skiers, and both very lucky.