Mountain State Delivers Down home Charm and Outstanding Winter Activities
One of my dearest friends goes skiing in West Virginia every year. I thought it was a bit odd, since I didn’t consider the state a particular bastion of winter activities, but then I thought, ‘what does someone from Opp, Alabama, know about good skiing?’.
But then another friend also mentioned skiing in the Mountain State, and I started to wonder if something was going on here. Is West Virginia the new “in spot” for skiing?
“West Virginia is great,” my friend told me. “It’s closer than flying to Colorado from Atlanta and it’s so much cheaper. The skiing is awesome, the people are really friendly and it’s beautiful. Did I mention that it’s so much cheaper?”
Yes, one might say that winter in West Virginia is “Almost Heaven.”
My friends ski at Snowshoe Mountain Resort, which boasts the second highest point in the state with an elevation of 4,848 feet. Snowshoe is a four-season resort that covers 11,000 acres in the Appalachian Mountain Range. There is plenty to do including spa treatments, snowmobiling, golf, tennis, tubing, ice skating, horseback riding — not to mention speeding down on 257 acres of skiable terrain, 1500 vertical feet and 60 trails. A one-day ski lift weekend pass for an adult is $99; a three-day weekend adult pass is $237.60.
Accommodations at Snowshoe consist mostly of large, well-kept condos or townhomes and a few single-family homes. Mine, a one-bedroom with a living room, dining room, kitchen and a working electric fireplace, was located in the middle of the village. Others are scattered throughout the resort and most contain a variety of amenities such as hot tubs, pools, basketball courts and laundry facilities. There are hotels including the family-owned Corduroy Inn, which is adjacent to the Powder Monkey chairlift and offers ski in/ski out options.
While most people cook at least some of their meals, there are restaurants throughout the resort as well as in town. The resort’s “town square” features several restaurants such as Cheat Mountain Pizza and the Junction (try the Elk River Burgoo, a stew of beef, chicken, pork and vegetables). It’s perfect after a morning on the slopes.
Our first evening we were treated to a Backcounty Hut dinner, which meant going two miles up through the Cheat Mountain Ridge Trail that runs through a towering spruce forest in a Polaris RZR to reach a cabin in the woods. Dinner was delicious but the real thrills were the crisp cold air and being far away from civilization. The stars burst through the evening sky.
Our second dinner was the polar opposite from our backcountry hut experience; the Appalachia Kitchen is a sophisticated, white tablecloth farm-to-table restaurant that serves modern American cuisine with regional Appalachian flare. The bison meatloaf won rave reviews and the chef uses as many local ingredients as possible.
Another “almost heaven” experience was to be found in Davis, a charming town of fewer than 700 that is truly an outdoor lover’s paradise. There are two state parks, a ski resort, more than 10 miles of cross-country trails and the longest sled run in the East. Davis is about equal distance between Washington, D.C. (162 miles) and Charleston (172 miles).
Nestled in the higher ranges of the Allegheny Mountains, the area features amazing skiing, (it averages 160 inches of snow annually) and beautiful scenery. We did a very manageable hike in Blackwater Falls State Park (there are several hiking trails of various degrees of difficulty) to view Blackwater Falls, where amber-colored water cascades 62 feet down to the river.
Dinner was at the White Grass, a resort that serves as a XC skiing information and rental center. White Grass offers 45 trails for cross-county skiing and snow shoeing while the café offers wholesome, natural foods, soups and baked goods. It was a funky, almost hippie-type of atmosphere perfect for relaxing, making friends and having fun. One almost expected a jug of moonshine to make an appearance but, alas, it didn’t. A day pass is $20; boots, skis and poles are another $20.
Other highlights included Blackwater Falls State Park Lodge and its SmokeHouse, which offers regional fare and an outstanding view out the back, and lunch at Sirianni’s Café, a family-run pizza joint (where everyone seems to know each other). The restaurant boasts that “some say that at Sirianni’s freaks appear for free and no medium drinks are served.”
Be sure to stop at Wild Ginger & Spice, which offers a little bit of everything. Housed in an old bank (the vault showcases local honey), WG&S sells clothes, spices, jewelry, toys, essential oils, musical instruments and CBD products. The real finds are the mostly organic Annie Mac Naturals skin products that are made in a back room by store owner, Annie McIntyre.
West Virginia is a state overflowing in unspoiled natural beauty, excellent outdoor activities and friendly down-home folks who love their state and aren’t all that anxious to change it. It’s an authentic, simple way of life that brings a sense of peace and freedom. After a few days, you understand it.
When looking for your next winter wonderland vacation, consider West Virginia. It is, indeed, “almost heaven.”