As we rounded the last bend on 219, the Inn at Snowshoe appeared. The skies were cloudy and the road a bit wet, but I was eager to check in at Central Reservations. Unlike my trip to Beech and Appalachian in February, this time 31 other friends from church accompanied me to the largest resort in the Southeast. The weather reports said snow, and from what I heard from locals on the forum, they predicted the same thing.
Mathematically speaking, the air wasn’t too cold. Add in the “underdeveloped snow” and wind, and the weather was quite chilly. (When I boarded the bus back in Florida, it was a warm 86 degrees and sunny.) However, my worst fears were soon realized as I reached the summit of Cheat Mountain. The powder fest enjoyed by many almost a month earlier was now merely a loose granular/slushy base. I soon forgot the somewhat depressing conditions, however, and turned my attention towards the “never-seen-snow, lets-go-crazy” people. The things some people do when they first see snow is rather amusing. When you tell them to stop or they might get sick, they don’t believe you until they are sick the next morning.
After an amusing thirty minutes on the side of Skidder, we headed back into Shavers Center for a warm meal of spaghetti. With all of the fine dining that the Village has to offer, a plate of spaghetti and salad isn’t exactly the greatest resort dining experience. It sure was tasty though, and gives me a reason to return to Snowshoe next season -; to experience the fine foods! Upon return to the base of the mountain and our cozy hotel rooms, a dip in the jacuzzi made the evening complete.
The alarm rang at six a.m. Monday morning; and within fifteen minutes I was dressed and ready to hit the slopes. Being in such a large group, there were just a few problems with my quick preparation to get first tracks.
I. Being a large group, most everyone else was still asleep… II. I still had to travel six miles up the mountain and eat breakfast… III. Receiving my gear at arrival? Forget about it!
By 7:45, I had arrived at 4848’ and eagerly grabbed a bite to eat. I then picked up the “tiny little boards of skiing” and headed towards the slopes. My first few runs were on Ball Hooter and Gandy Dancer, working my way over to Knot Bumper and Spruce Glades. If you are into tree skiing, Spruce Glades is about the closest you will get at Snowshoe. I guess if you really wanted to tree ski however, pull a number like one skier did on Upper Ball Hooter. All you have to do is lose control, hit the wrong side of a mogul, and careen recklessly into the treetops. Honestly, the man was lucky to be alive; please don’t attempt this method of tree skiing while at any resort.
At ten o’ clock, I headed over to the ski patrol office. There I met up with a friend and we headed over to Widowmaker. He took his trusty snowmobile, while I took an easy cruise on Hootenanny to the base of the Widowmaker lift. As my ski patrol buddy was marking bare spots with bamboo, I skied behind getting a feel for the changing conditions on the slope. We made several runs down the trail, and at my friend’s suggestion, I traded in my ski boards and returned to the shaped skis. Within one or two trips down the mountain, I had regained the feel for “real” skis. I headed back to Shaver’s Center and grabbed a quick lunch of hamburgers and french fries.
While a strong intermediate, I have this burning desire to become a very aggressive skier. I opted to take a two hour group lesson right after lunch. The group of one was well welcomed by myself. What I had heard soon proved to be true, Snowshoe has some of, if not the best instructors in the east. Jim the instructor took me over to Cupp, and for the next two hours I “explored black terrain.” I had been on the blacks earlier in the day, but I was surprised by how much better I had become just from working on my turns.
As the end of the day approached, I headed to Silver Creek for Pizza and the terrain park. The food was excellent, but I was surprised to see the half pipe lacking some of its wall. Silver Creek had suffered worse from the thaw and rain then the basin did, with many bare spots and several trails closed. With the night over, I headed back to the Inn at Snowshoe and after spending some time in the jacuzzi, I hit the sack.
Tuesday morning I awoke and heard rumors of rain. As we traveled the six miles to 4848’, I was surprised to see snow. I mentioned what I had seen to some other people, and suddenly the snow ceased to exist. Great, I thought, not only is there slush, but no new snow now either! The snow returned several minutes later, lasting around 45 minutes and giving the bare spots an off-white tint. As the temperature rose, the dreaded “under-developed” snow returned. Unfortunately, the weather remained this way for the rest of the day. Soaking wet and freezing from the gusts that hit me as I rode the Western Express, I decided to cut my day short at 3:00.
With the rain and changing slope conditions, the skiing wasn’t exactly comfortable. Yet with most other mid-atlantic resorts closed, I was happy to be at the ‘Shoe enjoying the skiing and awesome views. Kudos to Joe Stevens, who tells it like it is even when there are giant bare spots on Widowmaker; Mountain-Ops for keeping the snow this great when the conditions are so bad for winter activities; and to the excellent job the rest of the staff does to make the Snowshoe Experience the best in the east. In fact, mountain ops has fired the snowguns back up and this weekend should be great! [Editor’s note: Snowshoe received six inches of natural snow on March 22.] The season ain’t over till management says “we’re closed”, and with all the great deals and the excellent spring conditions, why not make the drive to Snowshoe?
Unfortunately, this past weekend I made my last tracks for this season. Even though the weather wasn’t cooperative, the skiing was still great and the staff very friendly.