A flex day on Friday, January 4th, allowed me to get out of town for a couple of days of skiing in West Virginia.
I continued to the land of milk and honey on 93 via Scherr. Having received a warning by the West Virginia State police for exceeding the speed limit two weeks before, I kept my speed in check on the virtually empty 93. As I climbed up the Allegheny front, I was happy to see some snow on the ground. Canaan Valley received approximately 8 inches of natural snow the week before and cold temperatures kept some of it on the ground.
After stopping by my condo at Timberline to throw dinner ingredients into the crock pot, I was off to the Canaan Valley ski resort. In contrast to the roar of Timberline’s numerous fan guns, the snow guns at Canaan Valley were silent. Lack of water compelled the resort to halt snowmaking operations several days earlier. This meant that the resort could offer just two ways down from the top of Weiss Knob: the Canaan Curve and Valley Vista for intermediates, and the Timber Trail for beginners.
I chose to start out on the intermediate terrain. I skied Canaan Curve from the top of the summit quad to the beginning of Valley Vista. This trail allows intermediates to bypass the steeper Weiss Drop trail, and access the broad expanses of the Valley Vista bowl beneath it. Valley Vista reminded me of the North Face of 7 Springs except it was longer and had more gentle drops. The two drops proved enjoyable even though they were icy in spots. Ample recovery zones, however, meant that confident skiers could blow over the ice and still have plenty of machine groomed snow on which to make turns.
I made several runs on Vista before checking out the Timber Road. Timber Road had virtually no steep areas so it was holding snow better than the blue terrain. The top section of trail weaves through snow covered spruce trees, giving it a Vermont-like ambiance. The trail then curves and takes a very gradual descent down Weiss Knob. Like Salamander at Timberline or Paradise at Blue Mountain, the Timber Trail serves a very important role at Canaan: it allows beginners to ski the highest sections of the mountain and soak in all the great views of nearby Bald Knob and the Canaan Valley without any steeps.
Note: I spoke to Bob at 3:15 pm on Sunday, January 6th. He said that 6 inches of snow had already fallen today and 6+ are expected to blitz the valley overnight. This snow should help fill Canaan’s water storage ponds, and also put some fresh pow on the mountain.
I had hoped to focus exclusively on the Canaan Valley resort for this report, but my skiing at Timberline proved so epic on this day, that I cannot resist commenting on it. Mountain Manager Tom Blanzy and the snowmaking team at Timberline deserve accolades for their efforts between 31 December 2001 and 5 January 2002. When I left Timberline earlier in the week, it offered just one top-to-bottom trail. Now there are 3 top-to-bottom trails with over a 60 inch base on each trail. Not only did this expansion allow for a separation of ability levels but it also spread traffic out, and led to a dynamic day of skiing.
I awoke early as always for first tracks at 8 a.m. Pete, the Thunderdraft weekend lift czar, greeted me with a smile, but told me that the lift would not be opening today for another 20 minutes. He explained that the National Ski Patrol (NSP) spotted a wheel that needed to be replaced. Every day, NSP members, many of whom are volunteers, inspect every lift and every trail of every ski resort in the country for possible hazards. My hat goes off to the attentive NSP member who spotted the damaged wheel. While Pete assured me that no one would have been hurt by the problem, the faulty wheel could have caused extensive damage to the lift if not detected early.
I took two runs on White Lightning and then skied back to my condo to get my friends Rachel and Steve up and onto the mountain. Rachel had only skied once before and Steve had never skied. They enrolled in a group lesson with another couple, and by the end of the day, Rachel was enjoying the Salamander trail, and Steve was content in the Woods Hole beginners area.
With Rachel and Steve in the hands of an instructor, I made my way back to the Thunderdraft chair for more adventures on the mountain. Once on top of Herz mountain, I looked over to Dew Drop trail, where intense snowmaking had occurred during the last few days. To my utter delight, there was no closed sign anymore. I skied up to the patroller and asked, “Is Dew Drop open?” He said, “Yes, have fun, you’ll be one of the first skiers on it for the season.” I bashed the slope out and continued to the bottom on Lower Almost Heaven. Dew Drop is a perfect intermediate run. It has a nice steep turn in one spot and good intermediate pitches for almost the entire run. I skied White Lightning twice more during the day, but when it got icy in spots and my muscles got sore, it was nice to return to the comfort of Dew Drop for my last 3 runs.
For next week, expect snowmaking to continue on Thunderstruck and Upper Almost Heaven. With about 12 inches of natural snow on the way, Timberline should open additional trails soon.
I hope to see you on West Virginia’s slopes!
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.