Changing Weather Patterns Threaten West Virginia Ski Industry

In February of this year, three of West Virginia’s four ski areas suspended operations for several days. The reason why? A shortage of the subfreezing temperatures required to make snow. Lifts and trails at Winterplace, Timberline Four Seasons, and Canaan Valley resorts closed during the week to preserve the remaining snow for the busier weekend days. At nearby Snowshoe Mountain in Pocahontas County, eigh lifts and around forty trails remained operational.

While operations were halted, resort staff members worked tirelessly to strategically move and create snow to facilitate better trail access. Unfortunately, this closure impacted one of the most important periods in the West Virginian ski season; March and spring skiing draw big crowds to resorts statewide. Several ski races were also cancelled due to the closure.

 

 

Climate Change Over the Years

Over the last century, the average temperature in Charleston, West Virginia has increased by over one degree Fahrenheit. While precipitation has increased by up to 10% in many parts of the state, much of it falls as rain. Over the next century, the West Virginian climate is expected to change far more; projections made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicate that temperatures in West Virginia could increase by 3 degrees Fahrenheit. The frequency of extreme hot summer days is expected to increase because of the general warming trend, but it is not clear how the severity of storms might be affected.

Climate change in West Virginia is indicative of a larger threat to the ski industry. While resorts in other states continue to use more water on snowmaking processes, their northern locations guarantee typical season lengths. West Virginia, on the other hand, is at risk of losing ski capabilities altogether; though mountainous, our state already experiences warm temperatures. The ski industry in this state is thriving, but it is at risk.

 

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Head to a WV Ski Resort for Summer Vacation

West Virginia’s unique location–in both the Appalachians and the Mid-Atlantic region—has allowed the state to turn its ski resorts into year-round vacation spots. While the state boasts hundreds of other attractions, it is the flexibility of ski industry leaders that drives thousands of tourists to the state every year. If you live in the state, you can take better advantage of the amazing opportunity; purchase a year-round pass to your closest resort and reap the benefits every weekend.

 

Take, for example, Canaan Valley Resort. Just two hours away from Washington, D.C., this destination proposes a two-season vacation. The resort keeps its golf course open each winter, allowing visitors the change to ski and tee up on the same day. This particular resort has also increased its snow-making capacity by over 140 percent over the past two years. While not every West Virginian resort can offer both golfing and skiing in the same season, many feature accessible attractions in the off-season.

Snowshoe Mountain, another West Virginia favorite, is home to one of the largest trail systems in the East, making for excellent mountain biking, hiking, and trail running. They host archery competitions, golf tournaments, and dozens of mountain biking events every summer and autumn. Similarly, Timberline Four Seasons Resort has some of the best biking and hiking available in the area.

West Virginia may not be known for outdoor recreation, but the accessibility is unmatched in the Mid-Atlantic region. Whether you’re traveling here for a weekend of skiing or a backpacking trip, we expect you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

 

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Winterplace Ski Resort

Located in Ghent, West Virginia, Winterplace Ski Resort offers more than 90 acres of skiable terrain and a summit elevation of nearly 3,600 feet. Though their vertical drop is one of the smallest in the state (603), staff at the resort make the most of the stunning mountain. Winterplace has snowmaking ability on 100% of their trails, and the longest run is over a mile long. Don’t want to wait in line to access one of their 27 trails? With ten lifts, including two quads, two doubles, three triples, and three super carpet lifts, you’ll be at the summit in no time.

Though Winterplace has a relatively small vertical drop, they don’t skimp on the adrenaline. Beginner terrain comprises around a third of the mountain, and another 40% is designated intermediate. However, almost a quarter of the mountain’s trails are marked with black diamonds, making this an excellent resort for all members of the family.

Winterplace also offers night skiing on nearly all of its trails, including the resort’s two terrain parks. If you’re not a fan of skiing but still want to visit, Winterplace houses the largest snow tubing park in West Virginia; it offers two Super Tubing Carpet Lifts and up to 18 lanes of high-speed fun. Additionally, if you’re visiting with small children, you won’t have to sacrifice any fun; the resort offers ski programs for kids ages 5 to 12 and childcare for children as young as 6 months.

Importantly, a day at Winterplace Ski Resort won’t cost as much as the other West Virginia mountains. In fact, a weekend or holiday adult ticket is just over $50—a drastic change from larger resorts, such as Snowshoe and Canaan Valley. Planning to ski with a large group? You can save over $300 if your group has fifteen or more adults. For more information about Winterplace’s rates and promotions, see the following link.

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Canaan Valley Resort

Nestled in Cannan Valley, the highest mountain valley east of the Rockies, West Virginia residents and visitors will find the Canaan Valley Resort, a four-season mountain resort destination. With a summit elevation of 4,280 feet and a vertical drop of 850 feet, Canaan Valley boasts some of the best skiing and riding in the state. They have one high-speed quad, two triples, and one magic carpet to suit every lift availability. The resort also has snowmaking on 75% of their trails and an annual snowfall of more than 160 inches, making for wonderful conditions on any day of the season.

Canaan Valley’s 47 trails offer thrills for a wide range of abilities. Around 20% of their trails have a green circle designation, making them perfect for first-timers and beginners. 36% of their trails are marked with an intermediate blue square, while 44% are either a single- or double-black diamond. Though most of the mountain is designated as intermediate, advanced, or expert terrain, Canaan Valley’s extensive beginner area is perfect for those just starting to get their ski legs. The mountain also includes a terrain park, making their 95 acres of skiable terrain both diverse and dynamic.

If you’re not a fan of downhill skiing or snowboarding but still want a fun winter experience, Canaan Valley has you covered. In addition to providing world-class Alpine skiing, the resort offers snow tubing, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating. For more information about these wintertime activities, see the resort website.

Though their winter season is relatively short, spanning from mid-December to early March, Canaan Valley is a year-round resort. In addition to offering exciting ski and snowboarding opportunities, they offer camping, golf, hiking, and biking in the warmer months. Additionally, their chairlifts stay active year-round, providing scenic views of the Allegheny Mountains in every season. A trip up the mountain costs just $7 for an adult, but group rates are also available.

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Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort

Nestled in the heart of Pocahontas County, Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort is the largest in the mid-Atlantic region. Boasting 41 trails, 7 lifts (including two high-speed quads), 100% snowmaking capacity, and an 800-foot vertical drop, this resort offers some of the best skiing and riding in all of West Virginia. Around 40% of their terrain is beginner-friendly, but almost 30% is reserved for advanced and expert skiers; no matter your group size or ability, you’ll find a trail to perfectly match your speed and comfort level.

The “Shoe’s” annual snowfall is around 180 inches, meaning riders and skiers can enjoy packed powder nearly every day of the ski season. They also provide a Snow Guarantee, meaning that, if another resort in the region offers more skiable terrain, you’ll get your next day free. This, as it turns out, is a big deal; though one of the more affordable luxury resorts in the country, a weekend or holiday spent at Snowshoe will set you back $99 for an adult ticket. However, they offer significant student discounts and several attractive promotions throughout the ski season.

Snowshoe also understand the need for green initiatives within the ski industry and community. The staff and facility strive to ensure the mountain’s health through several environmental programs that meet or exceed regulatory standards. In 2008, the resort was the recipient of the Silver Eagle Environmental Award for Excellence in Fish and Habitat Protection. Additionally, their Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) was the first ever completed in West Virginia. They have invested more than $1 million in green initiatives, the resort converted to LED light bulbs, they’ve downsized their vehicles, and introduced lodging recycling programs.

Furthermore, Snowshoe has committed to using less electricity and is working to become more environmental conscious—all while providing a high-level resort experience. If you are concerned about the impact skiing has on the environment, you can feel good about skiing at this mountain. To read more about their environmental initiatives and impact, see the following link.

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Timberline Mountain Resort

Located in the Allegheny Mountains of Davis, West Virginia, this family-owned and -operated resort boasts some of the best skiing and riding in the area. They have some of the best teaching areas in the state, making it an excellent destination for families and first-timers alike. If you’re a bit more experienced, you have nothing to worry about—this is one of the only resorts in West Virginia to boast fully functional gladed areas. Additionally, at 180 miles away from Washington D.C., it makes for an excellent respite from the stress of city life.

Timberline sits at 4,265 feet above sea level with a base elevation of 3.268 feet. Riders experience a 1,000-foot vertical drop—one of the best in the area. With an average snowfall of over 150 inches per season, this resort boasts consistent conditions across its 40 trails. They also house the state’s longest run: Salamander, which stretches more than two miles down the side of the mountain. Timberline Four Seasons Resort also has a wonderful adaptive skiing and telemark racing program for everyone interested.

 

The mountain does not rest even after the snow melts; the high elevation is a sought-after adventure for hiking and expert-level mountain biking. Summer activities are nearly as exciting as winter skiing; Timberline offers scenic chairlift rides, self-guided hikes, horseback riding, and biking.

The resort is between two and three hours from Northern Virginia; perfect for residents in Washington D.C., Baltimore, Richmond, Wilmington, and Philadelphia who love to ski but can’t find a nearby resort. Timberline also takes part in an international and cultural exchange program, bringing diversity to the area through ski and sport. Season passes start at just $299, and the mountain has extended weekend hours. Here as a local? You can get a $10 lift ticket if you present your I.D. Timberline Four Seasons Resort is truly one of the most welcoming mountains in the state.

 

Timberline Ski Resort Video Intro

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Skiing in West Virginia is Possible—and Abundant!

Though not obvious, West Virginia houses some of the best skiing and riding in the Mid-Atlantic region. Located entirely within the Appalachian Mountain range, the state boasts stunning peaks, rolling hills, and plenty of skiable terrain. West Virginia is almost entirely mountainous, earning the nickname The Mountain State and the motto Montani Semper Liberi, or, “mountaineers are always free.” Elevations and ruggedness drop significantly near large rivers, such as the Ohio and the Shenandoah, but skiing is still available—this time, in the form of cross-country adventures.

 

This site is devoted to bringing West Virginia ski destinations into the spotlight. The state has four spectacular mountain resorts, each with an individual flair. Timberline Four Seasons, for example, has more expert terrain than the other three resorts combined. Winterplace Ski Resort is a family-friendly destination for groups around the state and greater region. Snowshoe Mountain Resort has a 1,500-foot vertical drop, rivaling some of the larger resorts in southern New England. Whether you’re a veteran skier or a first-timer, there is a West Virginia ski resort suited perfectly to your needs.

 

West Virginia is also home to some of the most spectacular cross-country skiing in the country. Adventurers can traverse open valleys between towering peaks nearly anywhere in the state. In addition to highlighting the abundance of alpine skiing opportunities in West Virginia, we will take the time to detail our favorite counties and trails for Nordic exploration.

 

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