I left the Washington area on the 21st of December with some trepidation. The temperature outside my house had just hit 65 and here I was loading skis into my car for a multi-day trip to the West Virginia’s Canaan Valley. My mood did not improve much once rain began pelting my car and continued for most of the three-hour trip to the valley.
Overnight, rain turned to snow, and transformed the valley into a winter wonderland. 1.5 inches of snow may not seem like a lot but it provides enough depth to make skiing groomers a delightful experience. For the next three days, I experienced fantastic early season conditions at Canaan Valley Resort.
The resort offered a nice variety of top-to-bottom skiing on several trails, including the Timber Trail, Valley Vista, Ski Daddler, Buck Run, and Lower Canaan Curve. I never saw a line my entire time there, and spent run after run getting my ski legs back and working on form. My wife, who skied with me all three days, mentioned that ski-specific gym workouts most likely helped us to ski long days with minimal soreness. Both of us have been doing exercises designed to strengthen lower body ski muscles along with a variety of balance, agility, flexibility, and range-of-motion drills.
The steepest terrain could be found on the skier’s left side of the mountain (Ski Daddler, the Face, and a short section of Upper Spruce), so that’s where we spent the most time, but the Timber Trail occasionally provided us with a nice diversion. It’s a bit steeper than Salamander at Timberline with fewer flats and less wind. Skiing past snow-covered evergreens gave the trail a winter wonderland feel and put me in a holiday mood.
The 23rd started out as a bluebird day and became cloudy as the day progressed. Because of milder temperatures in the high twenties and low thirties, we got more runs in that day than on any other this trip. The 24th, however, brought us a special gift — 4 inches of new snow! This natural snow along with some windblown snow from snowmaking guns allowed the resort to drop the ropes on Snowfields. Yes Santa, we skied some untracked, albeit shallow, powder on Christmas Eve. It certainly wasn’t the blower powder one might find in Utah but I was happy for at least a taste of things to come.
We brown-bagged our lunches all three days, so I can’t comment on food but I will make some observations on other aspects of the resort. The pro shop was exceptionally well-stocked (I purchased some hand warmers for myself and a pair of Oakley goggles for my wife); the ski rental fleet seemed quite new; and the ski school was out in force with some excellent instructors. One mother I met in the brown bag area raved about the instruction her teenage son received the morning of my first day.
While booting up that day, a staff member approached me, asked me where I came from, and how I was enjoying the resort. He then told me that the resort would soon be opening more terrain! That’s a good thing because I plan to return soon. Canaan Valley has definitely upped its game since my last visit in 2017 — everything from customer service to grooming seemed better. Anyone who has not skied it lately should give it a shot.
John Sherwood is a columnist for DCSki. When he's not hiking, biking, or skiing, he works as an author of books on military history.
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