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Ski Cherokee
Linden, Virginia

Interstate 66 cuts across the top of this photo.  The Cherokee Ski Area can be seen towards the bottom.
An overhead shot of Linden, Virginia Interstate 66 cuts across the top of this photo. The Cherokee Ski Area can be seen towards the bottom. Image courtesy of USGS.
Ski Cherokee was a ski resort in Linden, Virginia that had a very limited lifespan: it opened at the start of the 90’s and closed two seasons later.

“You might have been one of the few to try Cherokee ski area west of Warrenton, Virginia during the few brief seasons it operated around a decade ago,” wrote DCSki Columnist Jim Kenney in 2000. “It became a victim of inadequate cash flow and a succession of warm greenhouse-effect winters. You can still see Cherokee’s trail cuts off to the left as you head west on I-66 near Linden, VA,” Jim writes.

Cherokee offered about 1,000 vertical feet, broken into a gentle upper hill and a lower hill with more advanced terrain. The area was served by a single chairlift, which did not reach the mountain’s summit. A lodge was located midway up the mountain.

The developers of Cherokee felt that the area’s high elevation and proximity to Washington, D.C. would be a recipe for success, but two warm winters in the early 90’s squashed that plan. Snowmaking may also have been limited due to an insufficient water supply.

Although Cherokee met an untimely demise, its chairlift helped the rebirth of a New England ski resort. Crotched Mountain Ski and Ride Area, located in Bennington, New Hampshire, acquired Ski Cherokee’s fixed grip Riblet quad chair and installed it on Lower Zeke’s Peke, servicing a beginner trail and terrain park.

DCSki Columnist Matthew Graham stopped by the old site of Ski Cherokee during the summer of 2004, and reports that there’s a great view from the top near the old lodge. He noted “no trespassing” signs all over the lodge. According to Matthew, the land is now being sold off for mountain homes in a development called Mosby Estates.

A scan of Cherokee’s brochure from 1991, provided by DCSki reader Rob. Click image for a larger version.

DCSki reader Matt Kavlick was going through old files and discovered a brochure from Ski Cherokee in February, 2006. “Since I have not skied at Cherokee I must have picked the leaflet up from the local ski shop at least 15 years ago!” Matt writes. Matt provides the following scans of the front and back of the brochure. (The front is the same as the image above, but slightly higher quality. Click the images for larger versions.) Matt notes that the back of the pamphlet indicates snowboarding was not permitted. “I wonder, even if the weather conditions were excellent and attendance was up for Ski Cherokee, how long that policy would have lasted?”

Wes Worek provided the following scan of an old lift ticket from Cherokee:

A lift ticket from Cherokee, courtesy of Wes Worek.

Ad: Three Mountains, One Vacation

Steve Sadlov
12 years ago
“Greehouse Effect Winters?” Please …. what a lame excuse.
Ed
12 years ago
Why is no one rebuilding this area? With 1000 vertical feet less than an hour from D.C. this resort would be a huge moneymaker. No one would go to Liberty anymore. With the right kind of investment and development (good snowmaking, continuous runs, a fast lift, e.t.c.) I can’t see how this area wouldn’t succeed.
Jonathan
12 years ago
I remember going there as a small child, and enjoying the uncrowded slopes, all day snowmaking, and great views. I had a lesson, and ate lunch in the ski lodge where they were serving pizza on white sandwich bread.
Bob Chatman
12 years ago
Why risk riding a lift under power lines to ski a cornfield? Pizza on white sandwich bread? Sounds like a treat to me.
Bob Chatman
12 years ago
Why risk riding a lift under power lines to ski a cornfield? Pizza on white sandwich bread? Sounds like a treat to me.
Josh P.
12 years ago
Lifts under a transmission line is not much of an issue if the towers and bull wheel are properly grounded. Blue Mountain in PA has several lifts running under a trans. line. some of the lifts even have protection poles over the lift in case a line would drop. 1000’ vert and its location could work if under the right managment.
plortax
11 years ago
in christmas my orange juice jumped
Jeff H
11 years ago
The Washington Post published a long feature article on Ski Cherokee during the first year of operation. As I recall, it was owned by a real estate developer who had recently developed a passion for skiing. As a new skier, he was intimidated when advanced skiers zooming by him. He decided that DC skiers would welcome a “family ski area” like Ski Cherokee—probably the flattest 1000’ vertical ever built for skiing.

A friend of mine skied there the first year it opened. He reported that the driveway into the parking lot was steeper than any run. I believe that the full vertical was snow covered only during the first year. The management only covered about 600’ for the subsequent season.

As mentioned in an earlier post, Ski Cherokee operated during the shortest, rainiest ski seasons of the last 30 years. Such seasons were totally frustrating because on Wednesday snow would arrive and by the weekend ski areas would be socked in by constant rain or were coated with boilerplate from refrozen rain-saturated snow. By early March the season was dead. Ski Cherokee was just one of the marginal areas that died during this sad period.
Cary C
11 years ago
I happened to be the second in command there under the Owner, Gene Adkins.

There is so much erroneous information here.

The last comment had the most facts.

Gene didn’t develop the area because he was a new skier! The fact was he was a real estate developer, and he had an idea of a family ski area that would be the closest to DC! Hence, the development.

We had two storm water retention ponds with a mass drain field covering 34 acres. The ski are had two fixed quads and one triple lift on the bunny hill—all Riblet Tramway lifts.

We had more than enough snow making equipment; however, Gene didn’t sink enough wells in time and the local community was constantly complaining that we were lowering the water table; hence comes hearings, debates, etc. All of which hindered the sinking of the wells in time to fill the storm water retention ponds to capacity.

Actually, with an chemical additive from Kodak (yes, the camera company) we could make snow at around 34 degrees! However, the chemical was quite expensive.

The last two seasons we had a terrible problem with lack of water, fog, rain—all of which are killers to a ski resort.

I hope Gene is doing well.

Cary C.
S. P. Gass
11 years ago
I’d be very interested in obtaining any old posters, signs, or trail maps from Ski Cherokee. Please post if you know anyone with extras they may be willing to part with.

FYI, I think a rebirth of the resort is highly unlikely. New neighborhoods off of Rte 55 are being built over much of the terrain. Interestingly, one of the new roads is appropriately named Cherokee Run. Additionally, the lodge was recently sold to a church.

Thanks,
S.P. Gass
Rick
11 years ago
This area had a terrible layout, with the base area halfway up the hill. This place could have been a cash cow, but the slopes did not have the correct exposure for Virginia. They needed a more North-Westerly exposure in order to hold the snow better.
Brad
11 years ago
FYI, the lifts were installed in 1989 and were Riblet chairs. There were three in total, two quads and one triple. They were removed and relocated to Crotched, NH a couple years ago.
Steve R.
10 years ago
I would be interested in speaking to Cary C. if possible. forsite1357@hotmail.com.
Crush
10 years ago
ha! i actually skied there several times! the top to mid run was sort of boring and would get icy .. very low angle I skied it backwards sometimes for fun.

it was a dry mountain which was not very fun, so people would go to their cars to booze up and then come back to ski.

the lower part was more fun i remember you could sort of go right and there was this dogleg part where could could get something resembling speed going.

the chair lift busted one day with me on it … it took like 1/2 hour to get it going and then when i get off a patroler there said “hey here’s a free hot chocolate” i said “great, how about a double jack daniels instead” har har.

the parking access road literally was the steepest part of the mountain.

it took like almost an hour to get there from my place in dc so it was almost the same time to liberty.

the last time i was gonna go it was closed because the snow guns were blowing mud, and then that was that.
observer
10 years ago
I finally looked this place up on Google Earth - I must have driven right by there last year. The peak there is only 2200’, the whole thing is built right on top of the ridge, and its on the very eastern edge of the foothills, so it’s not exactly an ideal place to nurture snow. I don’t know why the report says the developers were enticed by the “high elevation”! It looks like the whole venture might have been a little, shall we say, optimistic. Nonetheless, you really have to really give credit to the guys that tried to run these places, must have been a labor of love for many of them. Google Earth now shows roads running right up the slopes.
Jim Clarke
10 years ago
I collect ski patches from “closed” or “lost” areas and am interested in tracking down a patch from Cherokee if they ever made one. I’d also be interested in brochures etc. Willing to pay or trade other ski memoriabilia. You can contact me via e-mail at mountainlord@bigfoot.com. Thanks for any leads, help or info. Happy trails!
Richard
10 years ago
I live 10 minutes away form the former ski resort and I clearly remember watching my older brother ski while I was in the ski lodge. In the late ninties I remeber riding four wheelers up there and it was kind of spooky, like a ghost town. Everything was still up there, even a few snow mobiles.. The lodge looked to be a place for devil worship. Then all of a sudden they dismantled all of the ski lifts and sent them off. Now someone turned the lodge into a house and there are numerous other houses being built on the old slopes.
Richard
10 years ago
I live 10 minutes away form the former ski resort and I clearly remember watching my older brother ski while I was in the ski lodge. In the late ninties I remeber riding four wheelers up there and it was kind of spooky, like a ghost town. Everything was still up there, even a few snow mobiles.. The lodge looked to be a place for devil worship. Then all of a sudden they dismantled all of the ski lifts and sent them off. Now someone turned the lodge into a house and there are numerous other houses being built on the old slopes.
Denis
10 years ago
Perhaps the most lasting impact of Cherokee is that many people began their instructing careers there and the moved to Whitetail when it started up. This must have been a big help to WT in getting staffed up quickly.
Mtn Manager
9 years ago
Check out published article by David Barudin Re-inventing the small ski area in Ski Area Management magazine May 1990 for info on the Ski Cherokee project.
Skier8
9 years ago
I was one of the dozen ski instrucotrs there (for half of the first season). My personal belief as to why it failed so miserably, was that it was way too flat. From the top to the lodge, which made up 3/4 of the length of the mountain, was a beginner run. They simply picked a bad mountain. The people who skied there passed the (bad) word around, and no one showed up. It also took until half way through their second season to finish the lodge.

In regard to Denis’ comments, no, they did nothing for Whitetail in the area of ski instruction. As mentioned, they only had a dozen instructors. Most went to Whitetail eventually (I was the first to go, but already had 8 years of teaching experience at Liberty and out west), but not all of them went. Whitetail has over 200 instructors. Most came from Liberty, were people who hadn’t taught in a while, or were rookies. Whitetail opened the second season Cherokee was open. That was the other nail in Cherokee’s coffin. Cherokee had put $1M into initial investments to open (one person’s personal money). Whitetail laid out $40M to open.
Homely
9 years ago
I taught at Whitetail for the first three years it was open, and remember speaking to several instructors who had been at Cherokee, initially. I recall terrain and lack of snow as an issue, but also their complaints that management did not treat the ski school well and they were unable to service the customers. Seems to me there was even a story about the instructors being locked out at some point. Then again, I taught for 12 years before my “career” ended, and instructors never think the management treats them well enough ;

My family is in the Shenandoah Valley, and I drive past Cherokee all the time and think about how fabulous it would have been to have a successful area so close to the city.
Dr George Waxter
9 years ago
I was there twice. I thought to volunteer for the Ski Patrol there when they first opened because I understood I’d get a cool red jacket, complimentary passes at other resorts, and I figured the experience might help me land a spot with the Ski Patrol later at a “real” ski resort. So I went the day they were having their organizational meeting and try out day. I was stunned that to do my demo run, one run to show my skiing ability was up to scratch, they insisted I buy a full price all-day lift ticket which as I recall was around $40! When I expressed my utter disbelief the explanation was that the owner was struggling financially and needed to make every dollar he could. Comically I easily walked up the ski slope in street shoes instead. As people have said, it was the flattest 1000 ft. of vertical there ever was and indeed the parking lot and base area were partway up the slope. I went back one other time because I had agreed to teach my girlfriend Holly Anderson how to ski. I even invited my a..hole of a boss along, another great story. We had as nice an experience as teaching a Day One beginner can be and I was again stunned that for a few hours of night skiing midweek they were charging “real” ski resort prices. It was so convenient to my home in Fairfax, I wish it had been better ski terrain and that the resort had made it.
Snow King
9 years ago
I live right near there in Warrenton when i get a bit more green i want to start a ski area near ther and maby i coud use the old slops
NSP Cert 623
9 years ago
Hey anyone remember those huge snow whales coming off the top! Was this the snowmakers first shot building a terrrain park?

I skied there many times while lived over in Orlean, it was nice to have a hill so close. The hill was semi-North (NE) facing, which would help extend the season,to bad for the lean seasons…. Also managed to go up there many times during the construction (have images), I think the developer must have spent a small fortune just on run clearing and the entrance road. Memories of skiing non-stop downhills from the top to the bottom, especially the lower mountain, great fun. There are quite a few Cherokee partollers still around who could probably provide some good stories on training and early operations.
NSP Cert 623
9 years ago
One additional comment:

For those planned runs (P) on the second trail map. Having hiked/mountain biked over that side of the hill off the top, the terrain was very steep, this would have offered a good challange, alone based on vertical drop. See the topo maps!
Westward Ho
9 years ago
Cherokee failed for many reasons. Elevation was a serious problem, Cherokee was both too high and too low in elevation. The site had previously been an orchard, which was so located to be above the cold dense air of the temperature conversion below, while not being high enough to be cooled much by altitude. It was quite literally the warmest night time location in Warren County. I worked snowmaking there and it was not unusual to leave my place in Front Royal where the night time temperature would be 20ish and get up to Cherokee and find that it was above 30F, way to warm to make much snow. Water for snow making was also a problem, there were four ponds for snowmaking and the water was transferred from one pond to the next. Not only did the last couple of ponds in the system leak, but the tranfer pumps were only 10% of the required size. Even when it was cold enough to make snow your couldn’t run the system full bore for more than part of one night because you would run out of water.

The second years was a disaster as the Virginia had a very dry summer and fall. The ponds were literally dry going into the winter as what water had been there had all leaked out and there was none to replace it. Even the creek at the foot of the hill was dry. A well was drilled which could put out 100 gallons a minute, but that is a mere trickle when you needed 2000 gallons a minute for twelve hours out of every 24. Snow Machines Inc foots the blame for the shoddy design of this system, it would have killed the area if every thing else had been perfect.

There was potential for a much better ski hill on High Nob, but the steeper areas up high to the west had long before been divided into house lots while the owner, Mr. Atkins, did not own the land where his steep access road switchbacked up the mountain, I believe he just had an easement over the land for the road. A lift across where the switchbacks lay would have been plenty steep for most skiers and would have had good northern exposure.
winterplce rep
9 years ago
Iwork at Winterplace. We bought 40 0f their SMI 320 tower guns in the early 90’s after they closed. Those pea shooters could not have depleted their water supply
Clay
8 years ago
Any idea who does own the land surrounding the road? I have a group of people who are looking to build a mountain bike park in the area, and I fondly remember learning to ski out at Cherokee when I was a kid.

No water or snow required.
Kevin
8 years ago
I was there the first day Cherokee opened and kept the receipt for years but have subsequently lost it during countless “clean outs.” I skiied there at least 2-3 more times and enjoyed it for what it was. I had decent to good conditions the times I was there. Sad to see it go.
Mark P
7 years ago
The mountain was simply facing the wrong way. Could never hold snow like Bryce. I cant even believe they built this place knowing that the slopes faced the setting sun. Doomed from the start.
bret
7 years ago
dose anybody know who owend the the cherokee ski resort and/or how much money was put in to it
Nate
7 years ago
If you know where to look you can still make this area out from I66 driving west. If you start looking left about 1 mile before the Linden VA exit, there is a big clearing on the mountain with 2-3 (visible) houses built.

I lived in Front Royal in about 1990-91 and me an my dad went up to see what it was about. I was young but I definitly remember having a short sleve t shirt and maybe shorts on while I was there and my dad not willing to pay for the lift ticket/skis for the quality we would get. I wish someone had more “real” pictures of the place… I also remember being really worried about the drive up to the lodge and pretty sure our car would never make it without rolling over.
BryceSkier
6 years ago
I have a vacation home on blue mt in Linden. Is anyone interested in redeveloping a ski resort near linden? It would be a big moneymaker because its so close to D.C.
Douge
6 years ago
I skied Cherokee 5 times the first winter and a couple times the second. I talked to the manager about how it was going both those winters. I recall his comment that he had truble getting school groups to try it. I think all its problems came from the poorly laid out terrain and chair lifts. There really was only 1 trail top to bottom, the top was so flat that you had to push much of the way. The bottom half was a very easy green. I don’t remember them ever opening the second trail. As for it being over 1000 feet of vertical you had to ride two chairs to ski it all, and you’d be pushing for about 15% of the way.
Douge
6 years ago
I skied Cherokee 5 times the first winter and a couple times the second. I talked to the manager about how it was going both those winters. I recall his comment that he had truble getting school groups to try it. I think all its problems came from the poorly laid out terrain and chair lifts. There really was only 1 trail top to bottom, the top was so flat that you had to push much of the way. The bottom half was a very easy green. I don’t remember them ever opening the second trail. As for it being over 1000 feet of vertical you had to ride two chairs to ski it all, and you’d be pushing for about 15% of the way.
Ben
6 years ago
I heard about it- there are a few homes on the trails but there may still be a lift in operation. I will check it out tomorrow and take photos who should I send them too?
Jay
5 years ago
I lived in the area for one year, and was from New England so I couldnt wait to go ski. It was only a few mins from my apartment, but I never arrived. The enterance road was so steep my rear driven (yea, do you remember those days) boat couldnt make it up. I accually only drove around one corner before I got stuck. I had to back down all the way to the hwy. Sorry never went back, wish I did.
NW
5 years ago
I learned to ski there as a young child. I do not remember much (I was only 9-10 yrs old) but there are a few memories. My mom took me and my younger brother there (we lived just a few miles down the road: practically walking distance if we cut-across the mountain and did not follow the roads, which would not be possible due to trespassing and ATV-passable-only trails).

When Cherokee closed, we started going to Bryce Resort until that started to get boring. Then, we moved on to Massanutten Mtn for regular skiing, and had a few weekend trips to Whitetail, Liberty, Wisp, and Canaan Valley as well.

The last time I went skiing was out west at Copper Mountain in Colorado, but that was several years ago. I do not have the time or money to do that now. I believe that once you ski in the Rockies, you can never go back to the Blue Ridge/Allegheny resorts without expecting more.

Nevertheless, Cherokee was my 1st ski experience and it is where I learned to love the sport and not be afraid to try something new. I will not forget that place.
NW
5 years ago
I learned to ski there as a young child. I do not remember much (I was only 9-10 yrs old) but there are a few memories. My mom took me and my younger brother there (we lived just a few miles down the road: practically walking distance if we cut-across the mountain and did not follow the roads, which would not be possible due to trespassing and ATV-passable-only trails).

When Cherokee closed, we started going to Bryce Resort until that started to get boring. Then, we moved on to Massanutten Mtn for regular skiing, and had a few weekend trips to Whitetail, Liberty, Wisp, and Canaan Valley as well.

The last time I went skiing was out west at Copper Mountain in Colorado, but that was several years ago. I do not have the time or money to do that now. I believe that once you ski in the Rockies, you can never go back to the Blue Ridge/Allegheny resorts without expecting more.

Nevertheless, Cherokee was my 1st ski experience and it is where I learned to love the sport and not be afraid to try something new. I will not forget that place.
NW
5 years ago
I learned to ski there as a young child. I do not remember much (I was only 9-10 yrs old) but there are a few memories. My mom took me and my younger brother there (we lived just a few miles down the road: practically walking distance if we cut-across the mountain and did not follow the roads, which would not be possible due to trespassing and ATV-passable-only trails).

When Cherokee closed, we started going to Bryce Resort until that started to get boring. Then, we moved on to Massanutten Mtn for regular skiing, and had a few weekend trips to Whitetail, Liberty, Wisp, and Canaan Valley as well.

The last time I went skiing was out west at Copper Mountain in Colorado, but that was several years ago. I do not have the time or money to do that now. I believe that once you ski in the Rockies, you can never go back to the Blue Ridge/Allegheny resorts without expecting more.

Nevertheless, Cherokee was my 1st ski experience and it is where I learned to love the sport and not be afraid to try something new. I will not forget that place.
Jeff Walters
4 years ago
After years in court, the land was sold off in 20 acre lots and became Mosby Mountain Estates and Mosby’s Overlook. I own the lot at the bottom of lift B on the map. Not much left there that would make you think there were ski runs there, but if you were to look carefully you could see the piers that held the poles for the lifts and water pipes sticking up out of the ground in the weeds.
Dean
4 years ago
Skied at Cherokee numerous times with my 2 sons (at the time there were around 10 and 11) for a couple of years. We had a good time. Sure the slopes were not steep, and there was not a lot of snow, but, it was close to home (Gainesville) and there was never a wait at the lift. Many, many runs in a half-day were possible. I was sad when the winters were not cold enough and for a few years had hopes that it would re-open, sadly, it never did. When I drive out I-66w I always look to left near Linden and can make out where the ski area existed. I had also hoped that it would be used for downhill mountain biking during the off-ski season.
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