Firsthand Report: Ski the Valley - Canaan and Timberline, West Virginia 7
Author thumbnail By Jim Kenney, DCSki Columnist

I made a rare trip to Canaan Valley, WV over the weekend of January 24 and 25, 2009. It had been three years since my last visit. My wife and two teenage children accompanied me and we enjoyed two great days of skiing on a snowy Saturday and a bluebird Sunday. We used the Ski the Valley two-day pass to rack up quality slope time while sampling both nearby alpine resorts, bustling Timberline and venerable Canaan Valley.

There has been much progress in The Valley since my last visit, but the “almost heaven” lifestyle remains fully intact. Our base of operations for the weekend was a very nicely appointed two bedroom with loft condo arranged through Mountain Top Realty. We stayed at the Northwoods development located about 100 yards from the loading station of the Silver Queen triple chair at Timberline. Our unit was handsomely updated, spacious, and featured a location about as prime as it gets for snowriding visitors to the area.

Gladed terrain at Timberline. Photo provided by Jim Kenney.

My 18 year old son Vince was my constant ski partner on this trip. He and I missed first chair on Saturday at Timberline, but not by much. We made our initial ascent at 8:05 a.m. and were joined on the triple chair by a gung-ho Second Class Boy Scout from Urbana, MD. The little guy showed some promising bravado as he directed us to “follow me” for a warm-up run down Salamander, Timberline’s famed two mile beginner trail. I’d heard the longtime owner of Timberline, Dr. Frederick Reichle, really likes to cater to youth groups. Hmmm, in this sinking economy the Doc’s philosophy of bringing value skiing to the young through Scouting, church, and other budget minded groups is looking mighty clever and is the kind of approach that built this sport in the first place.

We soon left the scout with a buddy and hooked-up with a Valley institution, Bill “Smitty” Smith, executive director of the Tucker County Convention and Visitors Bureau. This guy carves his way down a black diamond run with the power and certainty of not just a great skier, but a teacher of great skiers (another of his many hats). Jessica Scowcroft, the Marketing and Public Relations Manager at Timberline, also joined us. She was a beautiful skier too. I’m always impressed when local ski management/officials are skilled snowriders because I know they’ll be advocating for the on-slope aspects many of us avid types care about most: snow conditions and terrain quality.

Recent cold and continued snow showers during Saturday elevated ski conditions at Timberline to peak midwinter form. T-Line, as it is known, seems to have amped-up it’s snowmaking capacity since my last visit. Bill and Jessica led us down a variety of well covered runs including easy Twister, intermediate Dew Drop, and black diamond Off The Wall. All the while, this enthusiastic pair peppered me with a wealth of local knowledge.

Around noon Vince and I took the short walk back to our condo for a hot family lunch. Then we were off on our own to continue the exploration of Timberline. Jessica had spoken of the strong interest in glade skiing at T-Line and we spent much of the afternoon testing every open run while peering into adjacent woods for ski lines. The tree skiing goods are there, but require patience, discretion, and help from Mother Nature. Marked tree runs like Glade Runner and Pearly Glades seem to be only the beginning of the possibilities ;-)

Saturday night we took advantage of more local knowledge and enjoyed a great seafood dinner at the Golden Anchor Restaurant on Route 32 about a mile south of the Canaan Valley Lodge. The owners of this classy restaurant and pub took a large, old barn and totally refurbished it. The interior features some beautifully refinished hickory timber bringing warmth and charm to the dining space. We started with a delicious appetizer of smoked trout dip and our entrees included scallops, red snapper, and blackened salmon. The seafood is flown-in fresh several times a week and wonderfully prepared in a dramatic setting with “almost heaven” mountain vistas.

Canaan Valley corduroy untouched at 10:30 a.m. on a mid-season Sunday. Photo provided by Jim Kenney.

Sunday was a sensational ski day; sunny, air temperatures in the teens, and serenely calm. Vince and I made the four mile drive over to Canaan Valley ski area to carve up fresh rolled morning corduroy. Canaan Valley ski area predates Timberline by about 15 years. It now represents the low key alternative with not quite so many black diamond trails, but with a classic layout that contains attractive natural undulation and openness. Since we already had our two-day Ski The Valley tickets we bypassed the main lodge and parked next to the beginner area for easy access to the trail network via an empty chair lift.

The crowds were very manageable at either resort all weekend, but traffic at Canaan Valley ski area was especially light. Because this is generally the case, it’s a great place for new skiers/snowboarders to test their wings. Let me tell you, however, that for intermediate-advanced skiers it can be a great mountain for high speed cruising on the likes of Gravity, Valley Vista, and Weiss Meadows slopes. There is also a narrow, old fashioned wooded trail called Spruce Run where old schoolers can “get their wedeln on.” The beginner area is fairly large, safely segregated from the main mountain, and served by a dedicated chair lift.

Beautiful Canaan Valley vistas. Photo provided by Jim Kenney.

Canaan Valley offers a well run snow tubing operation that was active on Sunday. We also saw folks trying airboarding on the adjacent beginner ski hill. I hadn’t seen it in action before and it looks more skill-driven than tubing. The airboard resembles an inflatable snow sled and can be steered to some extent by experienced operators.

My son and I made the ten minute drive back to our Northwoods condo for lunch. On the way we eyed Whitegrass Ski Touring Center sandwiched between the two alpine ski areas. The lure was strong in me to probe more deeply into this gorgeous, snow kissed high country. Many a back country skier spends a winter’s worth of weekends exploring the various 4,000-foot peaks in this part of West Virginia’s Cabin Mountain Range.

Pyramid-sized whales on The Drop at Timberline. Photo provided by Jim Kenney.

After lunch we spent our final few ski hours again schussing the lift-served terrain of Timberline. Vince conquered the pyramid size whales on The Drop. I had a measure of success on the small moguls below the lift shack at the top of Silver Streak trail. We used the singles line to keep our lift waits to a minute or two each afternoon at popular Timberline.

Timberline Terrain Park Action. Photo provided by Timberline Four Seasons Resort.

In the end we stumbled onto a cool little gladed area between Almost Heaven and Upper Dew Drop trails. Maybe it was a summer mountain bike path? Vince and I made three runs in there, each faster and more fun than the last. It was filled with chalky powder blown in from the live snowguns on nearby Dew Drop. After each of those tree runs we’d make a pass through the Lower Dew Drop Terrain Park where Vince would go for big air while I fumbled with my camera. Who’s got time to mess with pictures when there’s so much fun to be had Skiing the Valley!

Tale of Two Ski Areas - Timberline and Canaan Valley:

Airboarding at Canaan Valley Resort - Video by Jim Kenney

About Jim Kenney

Husband, father and retired civilian employee of the Department of Navy, Jim Kenney is a D.C. area native and has been skiing recreationally since 1967. Jim's ski reporting garnered the 2009 West Virginia Division of Tourism's Stars of the Industry Award for Best Web/Internet/E-Magazine Article.

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Reader Comments

DCSki Reader
January 31, 2009
Great article! It always amazes me how "undiscovered" the canaan valley area remains even when the skiing terrain and conditions are so good!
Clay Baker
January 31, 2009
Jim,
Great article as usual. Just a minor clarification: at Timberline, Twister is an intermediate (blue) trail from the top of the mountain to mid-station where it merges with Winterset which is an easy (green) trail.

Thanks for sharing your valley experience with us!
Woody
February 1, 2009
Jim, it was your 2006 article here that first convinced me to venture out to the Canaan Valley for a day at Timberline. I've been back a few times and never regretted the long, sometimes gnarly, drive west from the Shenandoah Valley.

The evergreen forests, mountain scenery, snow conditions and ski terrain are hard to beat. Aside from TL's sluggish lifts and CV's slow early-season starts, my only complaint is the lack of reasonable food at the base lodge cafeterias. (Warning: don't watch them make burgers at TL on a weekend.) When it comes to skiing, I'm not even a sit-down restaurant type; I just like a tasty bite of lunch in the cafeteria. (Whitetail's chiken panini-whatever rules this year!) In the Canaan Valley, Whitegrass Cafe and Hellbender Burritos more than make up for what I haven't been able to find at the base lodges. Wish I could get out there more often.

Thanks for your descriptions, photos and insights this time around. I was intrigued by your description of the B&B 'back in 2006, and I'll hope for a bluebird day in the glades at CV and TL this year.
Louie
February 2, 2009
I liked your note about the boy scout... My first trip to Timberline was with my troop, we stayed in their steamy bunkhouse and ate cafeteria food, but it was a great time for what I am sure was very little money.

More local resorts should follow in T-line's footsteps.
Andyski
February 4, 2009
Skied 2 half day Sessions at Canaan ski area Yesterday & Sun...$20 (midweek) for 4.5 hrs of skiing..Whole Mtn open & Snow galore! This Ski Mtn is about as scenic as it gets & has a good variety of terrain to go along with 0 lift lines...SWEET...!!
There is much potential for Improvement at CV so if the funds can come about then it shall only get sweeter down the road.
Robert
March 30, 2009
We've been visiting the valley for about 8 years now, and I recently bought Lot 10 at Canaan Vistas, right off route 32. Hope to build a log home on it someday soon.
fishnski
March 31, 2009
I bought an acre lot up there & only had enough mulla to plant some spruce & fir for many years before I came up with the funds to build my dream Mtn home...I was at 1st going to build a log home but decided against because of the cost & maintenance...wish you the best with your project!!....Neighbor!

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