On a weekend with the arctic blasting the whole northern hemisphere, it is great for skiers and boarders to be able to go to Intrawest’s destination resort Snowshoe Mountain, West Virginia, which offers so many alternative activities and wonderful places to eat and play indoors. It is also good to find one within driving distance of home while air travel security is getting re-evaluated.
We prefer the scenic route past Smokehole Caverns, Seneca Rocks, Spruce Knob, George Washington National Forest, Green Bank National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and Cass, WV with its National Historic Railway. The highways and roads were in good shape thanks to WVDOT; we fell in behind plow trucks along several stretches to take advantage of the cinders being spread. The new road up Snowshoe was exciting in our little Honda Civic hybrid; with a steady touch on the accelerator to keep 15 mph we actually kept traction better than the SUVs sliding around behind us; but if we would have had to stop on the climb all wheel drive might have been necessary to get going again. When we checked in at the reception center at the aptly named “Top of the World,” we met hardy souls coming off the expert runs off Soaring Eagle lift to warm themselves from outside and inside at the bar and deciding whether the single digit temps were above or below zero. Snowshoe is built on the top of the mountains, so you start and finish from breathtaking heights. The resort is built on two mountains, and the top elevation is 4,848 feet. There are 60 slopes and trails. The snow is plentiful, and some trails are left ungroomed, to maximize the powder.
This time we are taking part in the winter media tour, and our hostess, communications manager Laura Parquette, put us up in Allegheny Springs, one of the newest lodges Snowshoe Village.One of the best features in the condo is the automatic gas fireplace. The unit is large, and can easily sleep two couples. If you stay in the village resorts, you can also get special discounts on lifts, rentals, and dining. But get here in daylight! With over 7 feet of snow already this winter, it is hard to see signs and find entrances to parking, even though the area is constantly plowed and well lighted..
After we checked in, we walked through the snowy village to the Shavers Centre and a reunion with other reporters at the Moonshine Watering Hole. There was an evening show in the Comedy Cellar at the conference center at nearby Mountain Lodge, but (faithful reporter that I am) I returned to the Condo to write. With the fire blazing in the living room, the heaters pumping, and the sight of steam rising from the outdoor swimming pools and hot tubs, it was not a bad choice! Excellent free Ethernet broadband and cable television ensure that you can watch the network reporters with their eyes stinging and steamy breath rising on “pebble beach” in front of the White House!
Update from Saturday, January 10, 2010:
Were we really in West Virginia? The snow was deep, light, and fluffy. All the trees were crusted with snow, as was everyplace else outdoors in Snowshoe. Charles and I agreed, we had some of the best skiing in our lives, and performed better than we had in years. It was cold, but not as windy as yesterday. Only the tips of my fingers were numb. We skied fast, because conditions permitted. It also seemed safer to keep moving, so we were less likely to be hit by skiers and boarders racing down the mountain. It was not very crowded, and lines moved quickly. But there was a lot of speed on the mountains. Charles and I, along with the other reporters, sampled nearly every one of the 55 open trails on the mountains. There were no bad trails.
We had one incident, when I was going too fast and missed the cut off to Lower Cuppp in the Western territories. Charles tried to direct me to the cutoff, but I did not understand. So we both had to go down the double black - Lower Shay’s Revenge. Charles was exasperated with me. But, it was a fun run and not too bad. There was plenty of snow, and little hard pack. It reminded me of Bold Decision at Whitetail, but was a bit longer and wider. I am sorry I made a mistake, but am glad we took it. One reason we performed so well was the excellent rental equipment. I am very big on rentals, and believe people should rent whenever they can, especially when they travel by air. The rental equipment is usually the most modern and is expertly fitted.
Snowshoe is using a fine new system, designed by Head. The boots and skis are color coded, allowing for automatic and quick fittings. The tips are rounder and wider, making for easier carving. There are only 3 sizes of adult boot shell and only 4 lengths of lightweight high flexibility skis: 120, 135, 150, to 165cm. You can bring your own boots, but the skis for them are heavier and stiffer. Longer skis are available at the Demo shop. Children have a different system. Helmets are also available for rent, and are mandatory for those 12 and under taking classes.
In addition to skiing and snowboarding, we had another day of wonderful meals. They began with buffet breakfast at the Junction Restaurant. We met and heard comments from Bill Rock, the President and Chief Operating Officer of Snowshoe. He discussed improvements and said Snowshoe is continuing to do well, especially since conditions are great, and more people want to avoid the hassle of flying. Aaron Lutz discussed the new rental system.
After several runs in the dreamlike conditions, we had lunch at a new restaurant in the Village, the Taste of Asia. Its owners hail from the Maryland suburbs, and they brought their family cooking secrets with them. Great!
Dinner was truly “wild, wonderful West Virginia.” We were driven several miles though narrow, bumpy roads and thick, snow-laden forests, until we reached the rustic and isolated Backcountry Hut. Some of our party rode in an old ambulance and Matt and Karen Graham traveled by snowshoe, after a full day of skiing. At the restaurant, there was gourmet food and terrific ambiance. I am relieved our drivers were skilled; I would not want to spend the night on those roads.
Sunday morning we were treated to “First Tracks” and breakfast at The Boathouse, which sits on the banks of the frozen, snow covered lake. Then, more skiing and snowboarding, and the long drive home. Thank you Snowshoe! Hopefully, “we will return!”
When she wasn't skiing, Connie Lawn covered the White House as a reporter since 1968.