Those who think winter is the cruelest season have yet to discover Garrett County, Md., where winter is actually celebrated as the “coolest” season.
Once the temperatures dip and the snow starts to fly, outdoor lovers scorn the idea of hibernating and set out to enjoy all the county has to offer, from icicle-glittering frozen waterfall hikes, to heart-pounding turns down the mountain slopes, to snow-sparkling travels through fields and forests.
The once boat-filled landscape of Deep Creek Lake becomes a frozen surface dotted with snowmobilers, cross-country skiers, ice fishers, and even the hardy sailors who race their ice boats.
Insider tip: Be sure to check with local outfitters to access ice safety before you venture onto the lake.
In the face of winter’s chill, portions of Maryland’s tallest waterfall turn to glass in Swallow Falls State Park, requiring sure-footed shoes and a sense of wonder. Depending on snow coverage, Garrett County’s Sarah Duck suggests strapping on a pair of cross-country skis or snowshoes. Duck notes that in addition to what’s available at the Wisp Resort, groomed cross-country skiing trails are available at New Germany State Park and Herrington Manor State Park, as well as the Savage River State Forest. Also, snowshoe tours are available at the Deep Creek Lake State Park, Swallow Falls State Park, Herrington Manor, and the Potomac State Forest.
See the sights from a sleigh or mountain coaster
If you’d rather take in the sights from the comfort of a horse-drawn sleigh, Pleasant Valley Dream Rides or the new Circle R. Ranch Sleigh Rides create a nostalgic winter adventure.
The chief winter draw of the region remains the state’s only ski resort and its plethora of snowy thrills. Skiing, snowboarding, tubing, mountain coaster riding, and ice skating activities are just some of the reasons that Wisp Resort is the epicenter of winter activities.
The resort’s Lori Epp notes that Wisp is primed for the upcoming season with extensive facility improvements from snowmaking to chairlift seats. The hotel also underwent a facelift, welcoming snow lovers to more modern amenities. Another great draw is the resort’s collection of yurts from Alaska, which comprise the Sundown Yurt Village. In addition to featuring a cafe, the village is a center for both adult and young beginners with rentals and learning programs.
Some of the best ways to sample all of the resort’s activities are to take advantage of the numerous package deals. The late December Holiday-in-the-Mountains Lodging Package starts at $94 per person and includes a winter adventure combination of two days on the slopes, snow tubing, mountain coaster riding, and ice skating. Some restrictions apply, so check the website for details.
For even more savings, Wisp is offering $49 Monday Deal Days beginning in January, which include a day pass, equipment rental, and group lesson. The resort is also offering a Midweek Madness lodging package for $84, which includes a night’s lodging and day pass (per person, double occupancy, subject to availability). Both deals have blackout dates.
New this year is a Rookie Year Pass for $299. Epp says that this deal is designed for first-time skiers and riders. After completing two all-inclusive learn-to-ski or snowboard lessons, the first 100 “rookies” will receive a 2015-2016 Off-Peak Season Pass and a set of skis or a snowboard.
After a day on the slopes or in the woods, the glow of a warm fire is most welcome. Many of the region’s restaurants, inns, and hotels boast the crackle of fireplaces to keep even the most sedate snow bunnies cozy.
Whether El Nino or the Polar Vortex rules this winter, there are plenty of ways to “weather the weather” this season in Garrett County.
Garrett Co. Tourism: visitdeepcreek.com
Wisp Resort: wispresort.com