I drove down to snowshoe this weekend, since everything my direction was hurting. (This morning, Seven springs lists 8 runs open, Hidden Valley is closed, and Laurel Mountain is holding a meeting as we speak to decide if they'll be open again this year or not; I predict "not.")
I had never been to Snowshoe, so I'm going to give y'all (they talk funny there) an account of my first trip there, followed by a summary thingy:
I spent Saturday night in Elkins, (cheap Econo lodge), about an hour from the slopes. Woke up Sunday to find snow beginning to stick to my car. This was a good sign. Drove to Snowshoe. The last fifteen or twenty miles, the snow was sticking to the roads and I passed one accident.
Weather conditions at the top of Snowshoe were frigid, cold, chilly, windy, blustery, snowing, and grey. Plus they were blowing snowmaking guns at the top of the lifts, so the top wasn't a place you would have wanted to hang around, unless you were inside. That's okay by me, the name of the game is to go down the mountain anyway. I think it's safe to say though, that the combination of man-made and natural weather occuring at the top of the mountain was horrendous.
Down was a significant improvement, but they were still blowing snow in our faces at every opportunity. The slopes were what I would consider to be absurdly crowded with people. However, the only real lift lines were for the high speed Ball Hooter quad, and those lines are mitigated by the speed of the thing. I must assume it gets more crowded, which I find hard to imagine, since they clearly are set up to handle longer lift lines, etc.
I skied around for a while and finally decided I liked the Widomaker slope, mostly because there were a lot less people on it than Ball Hooter (but I just love to write "Ball Hooter"). It was about lunchtime, so I decided to eat lunch then drive over to Silver Creek. After trudging to my car, loading up the skis, switching boots, and driving through a snowdrift to get out of the parking lot and on my way to Silver Creek, I saw the free shuttle bus for the first time and had an "I could've had a V8" moment. Oh, well.
I liked Siver Creek better than Snowshoe, apart from the architecture. The blues and blacks were longer and better (excepting, of course, the Western Territory, which I had not yet visited). There were a lot less people (not a lift line anywhere). Even the snowguns didn't seem to hurt as much. The architecture, however, leaves a bit to be desired. Whose idea was it to build featureless modern highrise hotel in the middle of an otherwise beautiful area? On the inside it just seems junky, too. If you build a rustic lodge, and the features become worn over hard use, like at Timberline, you just say, "oh, that's rustic." If you build a shiny, modern building and then it gets worn out, it doesn't look rustic. It looks like !@#$. I stayed on the more difficult terrain away from the hotel, so I didn't have to look at it.
Okay. I've been skiing for hours. Time to go try Cupp's Run, before I get too tired to handle it. I (intelligently, I believe at the time) leave my car at Silver Creek and take the shuttle to Cupp's. I like Cupp's run. Very nice run. Much, much better than anything else I've skied in the mid-atlantic. The new high-speed quad is actually too fast; it doesn't give you enough time to recover.
Now I've skied just about every trail at the place. I've skied Cupp's (lower Shay's was closed), and now I'm starting to feel tired and cold. I cross the street, and ski the mostly easy Snowshoe trails for a bit, before they close for the day.
I knew I had to get back to my car at Silver Creek in order to get home, so I wait for the shuttle bus. I'm exhasted, and now that I'm standing still, I start to get cold. Finally a bus stoped.
"Do you go to Silver Creek?"
"Nope. Next bus."
Wait. Cold. Brrr.
Anotehr bus arrived.
"Do you go to Silver Creek?"
I climbed onto bus. Bluegrass, serious bluegrass, was playing over the bus' PA. I sat down, and waited to be delivered to my car.
An indeterminate amount of time later, the bus stopped somewhere, still in the Snowshoe area, and the driver announced, "This is the end of the line. Wait here for another bus to Silver Creek." Even though he told me he was going there. Nice. So, we wait, outside, in the getting-really-cold-now late afternoon, for another half-hour, at least. Finally another bus arrived and we were transported. Total time from beginning to wait for bus to finally getting to Siver Creek: 1 hour, 15 minutes. Moral: Never leave your car at Silver Creek.
This is the Summary Part of This Post (don't the capitals make it sound important?)
I like Snowshoe. It has some excellent terrain in the Western territory, and some fairly good runs at Silver Creek. The Snowshoe side really only has a vertical of about 600', and is only really interesting near the top. That's not enough to excite me or make me want to drive the distance (4 hours from where I live). Silver Creek also has a vertical in the neighborhood of 600', but the steepness is more consistant the whole way down. I hate taking a black run and finding myself coasting along a green after the first hundred or so feet. Still, the great variety in terrain and great number of trails makes up for some of that.
Other considerations: Snowshoe is almost absurdly developed on the top of the mountain, and more construction is occurring. I don't really mind this, but at Snowshoe it seems to have been done with no consideration for what it would do to the natural beauty of the area. Development CAN blend with the environment. Or it can be a crowded, bleary mess like it is at Snowshoe. An insanely massive featureless high-rise box on top of a mountain? Yech. Giant muti-unit condominuim complexes forming a Chinese wall between the slopes and the road? Ick. Banks of townhoses that look like section-8 housing in my town? !@#$. It amazes me that people buy this stuff. I'd love to own one of the cute little slopeside houses at the top of Cupp's. I'd not pay a penny to vacation in a building that looks like it was flown in from Newark. Of course, a whole lot of people must think a winter vacation in a Newark high-rise beats real rustic mountain living, because it's sales of this !@#$ that are paying for the high-speed detachables, I'm sure.
Other items of note:
At the welcome center, I noted a releif model of the entire property, including the boundary lines. They own a LOT of land, including the entire slope facing the current Snowshoe area (across the lake), and all the land on the Western Territory side of the slope, all the way down to the welcome center. There is room for some serious expansion here.
Also, I noted at ther far end of the road, near the "Top of the World" and widowmaker lifts, remains of an old chairlift and ski trails on the western side of the mountain. Anyone know what the story is on this stuff? I'd think that could be re-opened again very easilly, if anyone would want to. On my maps, it seems to lead into a ravine, much the same way as Cupp's run does, and with as much vertical. That'd be nice.
Final thought: Nice place to visit. Wouldn't want to live there.
I'm one of these people who really really likes the "Shoe". So much so that I recently plunked some cash into a condo there. Not the new stuff on top of the mountain, as they don't accept pets. Bought in Sumitt Condos a stairwell down the hill from the Shavers Center on top.
I do agree that it gets crowded on holiday weekends. Really crowded. My answer? Put my condo out for rent on those days so nice people like you help me pay for the condo. Thanks.
I will disagree on your bus predicament, even though I sympathize with you. I'm one of those who would rather have free mass transportation everywhere along with many other tax and spend schemes. My experience with the Snowshoe bus service is that it goes where you want it IF you know what bus to take. One of the reasons why I bought at the place is that I get there and don't touch my car for three days.
Cold?!?!?? Having been raised in Connecticut and gone to College in northern Vermont, I know how cold it can get cold. I remember Stowe at -30F. Snowshoe seldom gets there. But on the other hand, I saw minus 25 Celsius on top of the Klein Matterhorn gondola two weeks ago and, after tanking up with nuclear hot Swiss chocolate, we skied down with no problem. Fleece works wonders. Two layers of fleece works even better.
Agree with you that Intrawest needs to expand the trails into the bowl accross the lake. Hope they do. Soon.
But it is a fact that with Intrawest's ownership of the resort, they have made it probably the largest resort in the East south of Killington. Construction? Yes. The new village will be a welcome addition, as it will allow for a pedestrian avenue that one can take to walk to the new restaurants, boutiques, cafes, ad nauseam. Sort of (hopefully) like a little Davos or a mini-Aspen. It is not supposed to be a spartan place. It is designed with increasing amounts of pampering and luxury and frankly, when it came time to dish out some greenbacks, that's the criteria I used to make my purchase. I guess its attractiveness can be gauged in the sale price of its real estate -- condos that used to sell for 60K three years ago are now worth 250K. So there is obviously a market. But in any case, I would hope you see the village once it gets built and it goes from a bleary mess to something captivating.
I really wasn't complaining about the weather; I knew it wasn't going to be sunny long before I left home. I wasn't a big fan of the snow guns, but they were merely a nuisance, a necessary evil.
I'm from Ligonier, PA. This year, I got really used to Laurel Mountain, which I'd call the anti-Snowshoe. Development of overnight accomodations on the Laurel Mountain property is forbidden under the terms of the gift of the property to the state. Yes, you can buy an A-frame a mile away on a dirt road, but you can't put a high-rise multi-unit architectural nightmare slopeside. I like that. It keeps everything focused on the skiing.
Of course, since you mentioned Killington and other Vermont resorts, I'd rather ski Mad River Glen (over Killington, Stowe, etc.) any day. In fact, I'd buy a share of the MRG Cooperative before I'd spend the money on a dense-packed condo.
I guess we just have very different ideas about what constitutes a vacation. I ski for the same reason I backpack: To build up a sweat while communing with nature. Hard thing to do on the eighth floor. (The comparison to backpacking there makes me realize what a perfect ski resort would be for me: A couple runs, with a campground at the base. You can stay there, but you'd better pitch your tent and stoke the fire. ... Wait. That does exist. It's called Tuckerman's Ravine. I'll have to ski that someday...)
I'm glad you like Snowshoe. Clearly, I am in the minority. And the development does subsidize some very nice things, like snowmaking in quantity and high-speed lifts. I'd still rather see something that looks natural with my nature, however.
I hit SNOWSHOE early this season, and ran into mad construction, problems with crowds and the busses, and a general feeling that SNOWSHOE is for skiiers by skiiers. SILVERCREEK seemed a little better overall, but even considering the lack of snow here, I don't think I'll go back.
There is room for all of us in this wonderful country of ours. To those who enjoy their Swiss Mocha at the Starbucks on top of a mountain, there are places like Snowshoe or Killington. To those who want to brew their own, Laurel Mountain or Mad River Glenn provide a welcome respite. I can't justify the protest burning of a Vail lodge anymore than I can justify trying to pave every inch of a wilderness.
After the winter, I'm planning to use Snowshoe as a base from where I can explore the nature and outdoor opportunities that the Pocahontas County and the Monongahela National Forest have to offer. Up to now, my enjoyment of one of the most beautiful areas in the Mid Atlantic has been sporadic because of the remoteness of the area. That is now solved. And despite the fact that the top of Snowshoe is now a mess, I think we may all agree that once the topside village is built, it will be a welcome addition to the place. At least it will provide for a pedestrian village where one can park the car, forget it for the entire weekend, and having all your needs solved up there instead of having to drive miles for even the smallest chore.
Intrawest just bought Snowshoe a few years ago and yes the construction is crazy, but only because they are really trying to improve the place. Give it a little time and the construction will be done, and there will be many more slopes to ski on from what I read in one of their plans they had posted on the web last year.
We made reservations for our family of five to spend the night there (you pay, but you get dinner and breakfast included). After finishing skiing, putting most of our stuff in our car, we donned snowshoes while carrying small overnight backpacks and headed out, unsupervised. The trail was pretty easy to follow even though we did the last part of it in the dark. We go there, ate dinner, played a board game, slept, ate breakfast, and snowshoed out. I'll go into details if anyone wants, but the bottom line is, IT WAS GREAT! I think you can also go out by snowmobile (more money) and you can eat dinner without staying. The rustic cabin was rustic, but plenty comfy. I think this will operate in the summer, but it was sort of one of the magical surprises for us.
So sorry Drew, the 'Shoe village is going to be offensive to you as it is going to be very 'trendy' - for good and bad. On the other hand, there are tremendous camping sites located in the national (or is it state) park located just on the other side of Rt 219. I think it is called the Gauley Mountain park. Miles and miles of beautiful wilderness. Just don't get snowed in. No telling when you'll get out as the dirt roads are not maintained. You can get information on this at the county visitors center in Marlinton.
And your complaint about the crowded conditions in the 'Shoe basin area is a known complaint. The comments summitted by rentors and skiers on the mountain are closely watched and I wouldn't be surprised to see the rumored items above to be incorrect after management weights in on skier complaints.
The lift remanents Drew mentioned in his chat is where the Hawthorne Valley lift was. This trail system operated for only one season - 83/84 and never again. It was installed to assist in selling real estate on the golf course. It didn't happen. And the Hawthorne system water requirements couldn't be handled without expanding the water reserves. So the lift was removed.
The first thing Intrawest did was greatly expand the water reserves.... so Hawthorne valley could be a functioning trail system again. But this system is mostly black and the 'Shoe is really trying to bring more greens into play. So it is down the road.
1) I did say in my fist message "I like Snowshoe." (I just checked. It's there. Really.)
2) I don't condone burning lodges. I won't shed a tear if the wrcking ball hits some specific targets, but that's not the same thing.
3) More Western Territory runs would be a good thing. So would Hawthorne Valley, but I won't hold my breath.
4) I am not offended by Snowshoe's development -- It just is not my cup of tea (or home brew).
5) Why more greens? Seems to me that the bowl is mostly green and blue. I count 18 greens in the bowl (and 5 more at Silver Creek). At only 600' vertical, maybe this is as it should be, but it seems to me that a lack of greens is not a problem here.
6) Glades -- Why does Snowshoe have trails now that are named "________ Glades" without any sign of a glade? This was mildly confusing, IMHO.
7) Jay - Narrow trails are often referred to as "New England-style" trails. Maybe there's not as much push to put a NE feature into WV as there would be in VT. Having said that, I'll take some NE-style trails any day.
8)... 8 ... I forget what 8 was for...
9) Also to Jay - Thanks for the nice comments about the Laurel site. I would have liked for that to have worked out. BTW, Laurel has announced plans for snowmaking and lights on Innsbruck and Dream Highway for next winter. Laurel's biggest problem is water for snowmaking -- they actually ran out this year. They are planning to deal more effectively with that problem, also. They are also, I believe, looking at expanding the lodge, as well as some other stuff. See ya at Laurel in about 8 months (or so...)
10) I will probably visit Snowshoe once again before they close for the season.
Once the construction mess up there is transformed into a walking village, I think even some of the most ardent critics will have to recognize that the Intrawest plan does work. It will be a beautiful and functional addition to a previously haphazard and motorized transportation-oriented topside.
I also will say to those who criticized Silver Creek Lodge that I agree with it being an architectural eyesore. It looks like one of those stark military hospitals the US Government built in Europe. Maybe the new management can panel it with barnwood or something. Anything will be an improvement.
I DO agree that the resort needs to expand its trail system pronto, both in quantity and quality, before the thousand new units become populated with people who will rightfully expect to ski safely. I purposely avoid Snowshoe on three day weekends now -- I can imagine what it could get to be next year if there isn't at least a corresponding expansion in the runs
I definitely DO agree (as a transplanted New Englander) that more New England type runs are a necessity. My day at the Shoe consists of doing Widowmaker ten times, Knot Bumper ten times, Shays ten times and Cupp ten times. Need some diversity for the advanced crowd.
But I do hold that South of Killington, you really won't get better snow, better conditions and as of two years ago, better ski area management. Intrawest has some impressive credentials.
Besides that, yesterday they had 7 inches of new snow. What other area can claim that?
Drew, I'll buy you a beer if I see you at the Shoe before it closes. I am planning on being there every weekend. Too bad it can't be at Eli's Tavern, because I understand it closed due to management problems last week.
[This message has been edited by lbotta (edited 10-24-2000).]
But there is also a major downer in all this...... the skiing experience has really dropped. The addition of Rimfire (and now Highland House) has greatly increased the number of 'pillows' available on the mountain and, hence, the number skiers on the runs. To the point that some of the trails in the basin area are unsafe with the density of skiers and their varying skills/speeds. A reckless situation might be a good description.
I know, the usual response is to head over to Silver Creek and ski the greens and blues (Flying Eagle can't be a black, can it?). I find that fine for a couple of hours but is just not varied enough for me.
The situation has developed because the 'Shoe has focused on higher skier visits with stronger amenities and not develop new trails. Good for the bottom line but can only be pushed so far before the skiing experience falls.... and, for me, that point has been reached.
For me, I guess the choice is to either ski there during the week or go elsewhere. Definitely don't go on a weekend.
I have to agree with the general upscaling of the place. It's made it a more... (yeah, some will call me a snob, but it's my opinion and I don't apologize for it) livable place. I like to commune with nature and then be able to go to a five-star restaurant at night. After 22 years in the military, I do not stay in tents period. There is much to be glad about the new Snowshoe.
But enhancing the overnight capability of the place must go hand in hand with the space alloted to skiing. And that hasn't taken place. There hasn't been an expansion of the area, save for a couple of green trails. As a result, the few "blacks" available have got overcrowded with "green" skiers, creating a real safety hazard for all.
My answer is the same as JEB. I own a place at the "Shoe" and spend some weekends there, but on three-day weekends I will go to Blue Knob, 7-Springs, Wintergreen, or other places where the crowds are more proportional to the skiable acreage.
Since I'm thinking of spending a weekend with friends @ Snowshoe this winter, I'd appreciate any feedback on crowds. I'm planning to ski Cupp/Shay's roughtly 80% of the time.
The best tip I can give anyone in the Mid-Atlantic is to try to visit resorts midweek. I know this isn't possible for some, but here's what you get:
(1) Discounted pricing.
(2) No crowds.
Also, statistically there's a higher chance that there will be a big snow dump midweek. (Since there's 5 midweek days to 2 weekend days.) Ok, I'm sort of making that up.. But, there's nothing better than having 3 feet of fresh snow all to yourself midweek at a resort.
Sometimes you get the resort to yourself. Sometimes you time it wrong and end up going when local schools have off that day (I made that mistake once at Whitetail; didn't know PA schools had that day off, and I think all of them ended up at Whitetail.)
Another tip for avoiding crowds: you'll probably fare better if 100% of terrain is open as opposed to 30%. Snowshoe has a lot of trails, and when they're all open, they distribute the crowds pretty well. When resorts *first* open, they have limited terrain, but usually only the die-hard skiers show up so crowds aren't always bad. Shortly after that - but before they reach 100% open - is when it can be most crowded.
Another compromise is to try to go on a Sunday/Monday. Crowds start to disappear by Sunday afternoon, with hardly anyone left by Monday morning.