By Carrie “Mudfoot” Stambaugh
Old Man Winter has finally arrived, and according to weather experts will most likely stick around through February and into early March. That’s good news for snow lovers, including myself.
Those of us who are prone to bouts of cabin fever need a little mountain sunshine and some mid-winter adrenaline to get us through the darkest days of winter. For me, that’s a February trip to the ski resorts of West Virginia.
For years it was an annual tradition for my husband and I to spend my birthday snowboarding. We visit Winterplace often during the winter, and we’ve been to Snowshoe several as well, but our favorite destination for snowboarding are the twin slopes of Canaan Valley and Timberline Four Seasons Resort in Tucker County, W.Va.
Tucker County is an outdoor enthusiasts paradise with plenty of hiking, biking, paddling options beyond the slopes. We prefer “the valley” because of its laid back vibe, the proximity of the two ski resorts and the ability to dine at locally owned establishments unlike other major ski resorts, which can be dominated by large corporations.
But this year, the weather through December and early January was unforgettably warm, and gray instead of brilliantly blue and white. For weeks in the absence of snow, I’d debated about what to do for our annual winter getaway as the date crept ever closer. We are overdue for a few days away.
“Should we make this the year we go to the Caribbean,” I wondered, while checking ski resort web cams. Each time before the frames popped up, I hoped to see a deep snow pack appear on the mountainside despite the weatherman’s report that the hills were bare and temperatures too warm to sustain even manmade snow.
Then suddenly, it happened. Forecasters called for record-breaking snows and freezing temperatures. Ski resorts threw open their doors offering, “Beat the Storm Specials” to entice revelers to get to the mountains before weekend snow squalls began.
Sadly, I watched it all unfold from my kitchen window, not the slopes. My vacation was two weeks away, and despite my longing for an impulsive getaway, I really couldn’t neglect my obligations that week, nor could Carl. Meanwhile champagne powder accumulated on the slopes, in thick cake-like layers.
The storm did one thing, however, it made up my mind. We would go the mountains with plans to snowboard, no matter what. Even if by the time we arrived it had melted into mud, we’d visit our favorite little neighboring towns of Thomas and Davis, W.Va. and if the snows remained in Canaan Valley, we’d take advantage.
If not, we’d find something else to do. There are plenty of other outdoor options, and if the weather turns windy and snowy, that’s okay too. There are amazing rental cabins of all sizes in the area from one room charmers to spacious modern log homes for rent, and most of them include some type of fireplace.
The area is also a hub for craft brewers, all of who offer their beers for drinking at the breweries or in growlers, cans and bottles to take home with you. Great restaurants abound and there are lots of shopping opportunities as well.
Snow Sport Destinations:
Canaan Valley Resort State Park, With 47 maintained trails for snowboarding and skiing; the resort offers a run for every level. For those who prefer to do their sliding sitting down try the resorts new tubing park, which features 1,200-foot runs and a “magic carpet” lift. An additional 30 miles of trails are open for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing and an ice skating rink offers family fun for all ages.
Timberline Four Seasons Resort The resort receives up to 18 feet of natural snow annually! In addition to 41 trains for beginners, advanced and intermediate skiers and snowboarders the resort offers two terrain parks. The two-mile long Salamander Run is the longest in the southeast. It also offers glad skiing.
White Grass This renowned ski center attracts cross-country skiing and snowshoeing enthusiasts, who can enjoy more than 60 km of maintained trails, but it’s laidback charm makes it’s a welcoming destination for any visitor. Both the White Grass restaurant and ski shop are worth the visit to this cherished locale. Located at 643 Weiss Knob Ski Road near Davis, W.Va.
Blackwater Falls Sate Park One of my favorite short day trips is to visit Blackwater Falls State Park. Two of the most iconic West Virginia landmarks are located here. The falls themselves, so named because of the dark, tannin-stained waters of the Blackwater River that tumble 60 feet over a ledge of sandstone, are located here along with Lindy Point, a rocky lookout that gives visitors sweeping views of Blackwater Canyon. There are two other waterfalls in the park as well as a lodge, cabins and a campground. The park is also a hub of snow-based activities. Visitors can snowshoe, cross country ski or slide down the newly modernized slope of the Blackwater Falls Sled Run in a rented toboggan. It’s a blast for children of all ages.
Eat, Drink & Be Merry
The Purple Fiddle Coffeehouse and Mountain Market in Thomas, W.Va. is a general store turned restaurant and music venue. It serves up healthy homemade casual fare and is known for its selection of Lakeside Creamery. It also offers a wide selection of craft and micro-brewed beers and has live music most days or nights of the week.
There are lots of restaurant options in the area, but these are a handful of my favorite tried and true locations: Bright Morning Breakfast, Sirianni’s Pizza Café, Sawmill Restaurant, Hellbenders Burritos, Blackwater Brewing Company.