By Mike Unger and Ron Cassie

Illustrations by Alicia Corman

Photography By Karlo Gesner

Winter Wonderland

The Best Places to Ski Around Baltimore

Hit the slopes at these destinations within a day's drive.

By Mike Unger and Ron Cassie

Photography by Karlo Gesner

Illustrations by Alicia Corman

Cold Weather Friends

For 77 years, the Baltimore Ski Club has brought winter sports enthusiasts together on the slopes and beyond.

For a city situated barely above sea level, Baltimore is filled with skiing fanatics. Like Dave Karczmarek. “There’s nothing like being on a mountain, being outside in the fresh air,” says Karczmarek, who’s been flying down slopes for more than 40 years. “When you get off that lift and you turn around and look down the hill, it’s just a great feeling. I like the feeling of independence. From day one, I’ve never gotten tired of it.”

Karczmarek is the trips director for the Baltimore Ski Club. Founded in 1947, the organization has about 250 members. This year, he’s helping to plan eight trips to places ranging from Colorado, Montana, and Maine to Austria. But the group also has outings to local slopes like Liberty, Roundtop Mountain, and Whitetail resorts.

“Skiing is skiing,” says Karczmarek, who’s taken on World Cup runs and the site in Switzerland where a famous ski scene in the James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was filmed. “If you want a weekend getaway or just want to go up to Liberty for a half a day, it’s still just great to be on the hill. Any place there’s a hill, a lift, and snow, you’re likely to see somebody from the Baltimore Ski Club there.”

The club’s members range in age from their 20s to their 80s. There’s even a member in his 90s who doesn’t ski anymore. That’s fine—there are plenty activities, like happy hours, lectures, and dinners, that don’t involve skiing. There are even two non-skiing trips, to Ireland and Switzerland, this year.

Karczmarek has some sage words of advice for those considering taking up the sport.

“I would recommend anybody to give it a shot no matter how old you are,” the 66-year-old says. “The one thing I would say is if you go that very first time, one of two things is going to happen. You’re either going to say, ‘Oh my gosh, I love this. Why didn’t I do it sooner?’ and you’re hooked. Or you’re going to say, ‘This isn’t for me. I’m heading to the bar.’” —Mike Unger



Downhill From Here

Baltimore isn’t Aspen when it comes to skiing, but there are mountains of fun within a day’s drive. Here’s a dozen of the best.

Blue Knob All Seasons Resort

1424 Overland Pass, Claysburg, PA, 814-239-5111

The highest skiable mountain in Pennsylvania’s scenic Allegheny range, Blue Knob offers 34 trails and plenty of long rides for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities, with a vertical drop of 1,072 feet. The resort also gets high marks for its advanced glade trails—aka off-trail and defined woods trails. In addition, the resort boasts a ski school for beginners and advanced skiers and snowboarders alike, as well as a snow tubing park. Drive time: 2 hours, 50 minutes.

Canaan Valley Resort

230 Main Lodge Road, Davis, WV, 800-622-4121

A skiing destination for some 70 years and the site of West Virginia’s first commercial ski development, Canaan Valley Resort receives roughly 180 inches of annual snowfall. Skiers and snowboarders have nearly 50 trails to choose from, but there’s a lot more to do too, including outdoor ice-skating, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. There’s also a 1,200-foot snow tubing park worth tackling, especially with the kids. Drive time: 3 hours, 45 minutes.

Liberty Mountain Resort

78 Country Club Trail, Fairfield, PA, 717-642-8282

Given its proximity to Baltimore, just over the Frederick County line, Liberty Mountain is a place where generations of local new skiers have made their first downhill run. With an elevation of nearly 1,200 feet and a vertical drop of 600 feet, the nearby resort offers 16 trails and two terrain parks serviced by eight lifts—all lit for night skiing and snowboarding, with full snow-making coverage. Check the Ski and Ride School, too. Drive time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Massanutten Resort

1822 Resort Drive, Massanutten, VA, 540-289-9441

Built in the Shenandoah Valley more than 50 years ago, Massanutten offers 23 runs and seven lifts spread over 90 skiable acres, with a peak elevation of nearly 3,000 feet. Freestyle snowboarders and skiers will appreciate one of the best parks around—boasting a dozen rails and jumps—while beginner freestylers can get started in the resort’s “Easy Street” terrain park. The snowmaking infrastructure recently got a boost, too. Drive time: 3 hours, 15 minutes.

The Omni Homestead

7696 Sam Snead Hwy., Hot Springs, VA, 800-838-1766

This historic luxury hotel is more renowned for its famous guest list, which includes several presidents, and its legendary golf courses—note the address here—than its skiing. That said, the iconic Homestead is an ideal destination for families and novice skiers and snowboarders, with its laid-back, well-sculpted, and gentle terrain. Along with its nine trails over 45 acres, there’s also a snow-tubing park next to the slopes and mini snowmobile track for kids. Drive time: 4 hours, 30 minutes.


Roundtop Mountain Resort

925 Roundtop Road, Lewisberry, PA, 717-432-9631

As it’s a direct shot up I-83, newbie and intermediate skiers and snowboarders can quickly reach Roundtop’s slopes for a weekend, weekday, or even weeknight getaway. The whole mountain, which includes 21 trails, nine lifts, and snowtubing, is covered by snowmaking equipment. Roundtop is also a part of the Vail Resorts network, meaning a season pass can be purchased that includes skiing at Whitetail, Liberty, and dozens of other resorts. Drive time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.

Seven Springs Mountain Resort

777 Water Wheel Drive, Seven Springs, PA, 800-452-2223

With a diverse collection of 33 trails descending from a 2,994- foot mountain, plus another seven terrain parks, Seven Springs remains one of the most popular resorts in the area. Also, if you don’t ski but want to chill with friends who do on a weekend trip, this is the place. Seven Springs offers live music on weekends, bowling, roller-skating, indoor mini-golf, snowshoe and snowmobile tours, tubing, an indoor pool, fitness center, hot tubs, and loads of dining options. Drive time: 3 hours, 20 minutes.

Snowshoe Mountain Resort

10 Snowshoe Drive, Snowshoe, WV, 877-441-4386

With 60-plus trails and glades plus four terrain parks divvied up among three distinct ski areas over more than 240 skiable acres, Snowshoe may be a trek, but it’s worth the drive. With an elevation of 4,848 feet and a vertical drop of 1,500 feet, Snowshoe is one of the area’s largest resorts and it presents some of the best skiing south of Vermont. A genuine destination resort with all the amenities, Snowshoe also offers more than a dozen restaurants and a nightclub. Drive time: 5 hours.

Roundtop Mountain Resort

Timberline Mountain

254 Four Seasons Dr., Davis, WV, 304-403-2074

There’s a lot to love about tiny Davis, West Virginia, which is renowned for its mountain biking, and that includes Timberline, which has seen significant capital investment in recent years. The ski area’s claim to fame is its high elevation—and thus its big amount of annual snow. It also has a 3.12- mile run—plus two double black diamond runs, rare in this region. Overall, it offers 37 trails across 100 skiable acres. Drive time: 3 hours, 40 minutes.

Whitetail Resort

13805 Blairs Valley Road, Mercersburg, PA, 717-328-9400

Along with Roundtop and Liberty, Whitetail completes the trio of family-friendly, low-hassle resorts, just over the Pennsylvania line and 90 minutes from the Baltimore Beltway. The top elevation here is 1,800 feet, with a descent which supports 23 trails and two terrain parks—all serviced by 100-percent snowmaking coverage. Recent upgrades include a snow-tubing park, an expanded lodge, and as of 2019, a liquor license. Drive time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

Wisp Resort

296 Marsh Hill Road, McHenry, MD, 301-859-3159

Located in the Deep Creek Lake area of Garrett County, Wisp is Maryland’s only ski resort, but with a 3,115-foot elevation and 172 skiable acres, it more than holds its own in the region. Twelve chairlifts and seven surface lifts take skiers and snowboarders to a mix of 33 beginner, intermediate, and advanced trails and three freestyle parks. Plus, there’s tubing, ice skating, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing—something for everyone, in other words—at this year-round resort. Drive time: 3 hours.—Ron Cassie

For a good cause



It was in 1996 that the first few brave souls took the Polar Bear Plunge in support of Maryland’s Special Olympians. “The story I’ve been told is that Special Olympics was simply looking for a way to raise money other than running around the state selling T-shirts,” says Kira Northrop, senior director of marketing and communications for the nonprofit. “I doubt they had any idea it would get this big.”

In its second year, the now-annual chilly dip in the Chesapeake Bay drew 300 people into the 35-degree water at Sandy Point State Park. By its third year, the number of “polar bears” in the Bay totaled 1,000, raising more than $200,000 for the cause. From the start, support for the event has been led by the Maryland State Police, whose officers provide logistical assistance and were among the first to participate. Also from the start, Maryland’s elected officials have backed the effort—though not always with the courage of former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who dove headlong into the surf back in 1999.

The Baltimore Ravens’ cheerleaders and pep band have been turning out for years to provide encouragement. Players going for a swim include former quarterback Joe Flacco and former nose tackle Haloti Ngata, who displaced a great deal of icy water in 2008 as a “super plunger”—a polar bear who pledges to take 24 dips over a 24-hour period.

Last year, the now multi-day Maryland Plunge raised more than $3 million for the state's 15,588 Special Olympians. This year—with five events between January 26 to February 3—10,000-plus plungers are expected to splash off in Sandy Point, helping fund the organization’s 27 sports, free training programs, and competitions. —Ron Cassie

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