I woke up at 5 a.m. to clear the car and put on chains for the drive from Davis, WV, to Snowshoe Mountain. As soon as I pulled out of the parking lot, the chains proved unnecessary. The roads were clear and the 1.5 hour drive to Snowshoe was uneventful.
My wife and I hit the Western Territory first, hoping to ski all the new snow before the crowds got there. This was my first experience with Shay’s Revenge and Cupp Run. I was impressed. These trails snake down the 1,500 foot vertical, occasionally following the fall line in steep stepped sections and in other spots winding through the forest.
Most of the steep pitches on the top were groomed and had ample recovery space, making them ideal cruisers. Lower sections of each trail earn them their black ratings and reputations. On this day, double-black Lower Shay’s was a sheer, mogul cliff that challenged even discriminating experts. Lower Cupp offered a less challenging mogul field with a narrow groomed bypass on the left side.
The Western Express, a high speed, detachable quad gets you up the mountain before you can even catch your breath, making it imperative to take at least one break at Arbuckle’s Cabin at the base of Cupp. Today, Arbuckle’s was spinning cool tunes and preparing for an outdoor barbecue.
Note: The next day, Snowshoe groomed the entire length of Cupp, thereby eliminating the bottlenecks that developed as less advanced skiers struggled to negotiate the narrow groomed bypass on the lower portion of the trail.
I skied Cupp first and had no problem getting through the bumps. Therefore, I decided to give Shay’s a try. Cruising down upper Shay’s, I marveled at all the undulations, double fall lines, and other terrain features of this trail. For a moment, I almost felt like I was skiing Perry Merrill or Sterling at Stowe except for one significant issue: temperature.
With the sun shining, it was so much warmer and more pleasant to ski in West Virginia than in Vermont in January. I slowed as I reached the final drop at Shay’s and looked down: before me stood a long bump run with a 60 percent grade in spots. That’s steep with a capital S. I got about half way down the chute, picked up some speed, and then lost an edge, proudly taking my first significant fall of the season.
No worse for wear, I finished off the slope and met my wife at the bottom for another run. We did two more runs on upper Shay’s and lower Cupp before calling it a day for the Western Territory.
We soothed our burning calves on the graceful greens of the Northern Tract, and then ducked into the Shaver’s Center for lunch. Rather than hitting the burger line, I sauntered over to Pizzazz Pizza and ordered a 12 inch pie. Almost as soon as I got back to my table and loosened my boot buckles, Pizzaz called my number. The $12.55 pizza turned out to be more than enough food for two. After a morning of hard skiing, the pepperoni and mushroom pie tasted as good as any pizza from Pizzeria Paradisio in Dupont Circle.
Seeking to get away from holiday weekend crowds in the main area, we headed over to Silver Creek for the afternoon. As predicted, Silver Creek was less jammed. The further we got into this mountain, the more the crowds diminished.
We ended up skiing Flying Eagle and Bear Claw on the far side. These runs are rated black, but except for a steep pitch on the top they were fairly benign groomers - perfect after our morning adventures on the western slopes. We skied here for two hours, never waiting in line for more than a few minutes, making nice broad turns down the wide, fall line slopes as the sun slowly began to fade. “Ah, If every day in the Mid-Atlantic could only be this perfect, I would never go anywhere else” I thought to myself as I made my last, picture-perfect run.
Snowshoe Mountain offers midweek, ski and stay packages starting at $69 per person for one night of lodging and one lift ticket. If you have some time off, head for the slopes. West Virginia received another 4 inches on Sunday morning and conditions remain excellent as I write this column.
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.