In a good snow year, ski season in the Mountain State can stretch from Thanksgiving to Easter—depending, of course, on Mother Nature. The next three months or so offer an opportunity to experience winter at its best—and you don’t have to be a downhill skier. Picture yourself lounging in front of a toasty fire, swapping stories of your day’s escapades with family or friends. Depending on where you decide to enjoy your West Virginia snow days, your adventures could include snowmobiling, ziplining, ice-skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, tubing—or simply hiking through a forest that snow has turned into a frosted confection. Here are some of your choices:
1. Snowshoe Mountain Resort
10 Snowshoe Drive, Snowshoe. (877) 441-4386; snowshoemtn.com.
West Virginia’s largest downhill ski area has much to offer beyond its expanse of groomed slopes. Away from the village center and clusters of condos and cabins, the 11,000-acre resort is mostly wilderness carved by rugged trails. One exciting way to explore the backcountry is to climb aboard a snowmobile, lower your helmet’s visor, and roar through old spruce forests and meadows, dropping into steep ravines and crossing frozen streams. Kids can ride behind you on tamer (but still exciting) night snowmobile tours of the ski slopes. For a scenic wilderness ride with more creature comforts, slide behind the wheel of a Polaris RZR, an enclosed, heated, four-passenger off-road vehicle that can handle any terrain. Save one afternoon for a fun, old-fashioned experience (no seat belts required): trade horsepower for horse power on a sleigh ride through the forest.
2. Adventures on the Gorge
219 Chestnutburg Road, Lansing. (304) 461-6570; adventuresonthegorge.com.
Eleven years ago, four long-established rafting companies joined forces to create a resort devoted to adventure. Today, Adventures on the Gorge (AOTG) is a sprawling campus on the edge of the New River Gorge National River, with several restaurants and lodging that ranges from tent platforms to luxury cabins with fireplaces and hot tubs. Best known for whitewater encounters on the famous New and Gauley rivers, AOTG’s activities extend beyond paddle sports, including a couple of aerial pursuits that are spectacular in winter. On the Treetops Zipline Canopy Tour, participants fly along 10 lofty zip lines, wobble across five sky bridges, and finally rappel back to earth. For an even higher bird’s-eye view, AOTG partners with the Bridge Walk. The heart-pounding three-hour stroll takes place along a 24-inch-wide catwalk beneath the famous New Gorge River Bridge, more than 850 feet above the river. Not a fan of heights? Gorge views are also spectacular from the Endless Wall Trail, which has enough tree cover to keep snow underfoot to a minimum.
3. The Greenbrier
101 Main Street, White Sulphur Springs. (844) 837-2466; greenbrier.com.
If your winter escape is to this 243-year-old bastion of luxury, you may be tempted to spend all of your time indoors. Behind the hotel’s massive Georgian facade lie many diversions, including the spa, casino, shops, restaurants, bowling alley, indoor tennis courts, and restaurants ... and, of course, tours of the Cold War bunker built to house Congress in the event of a foreign attack. If you’re staying in the Spring Row Cottages instead of one of the main hotel’s 710 rooms, you’ll also find it hard to budge from the fireplace in your sitting room. But you must, because the hotel grounds are magical under a blanket of snow. Take one of the daily carriage rides, which become sleigh rides when there’s enough snow. Practice your axels (or simply staying upright) on the Rhododendron Terrace ice rink outside the indoor pool. Indulge your inner driving animal with an off-road foray in a Polaris RZR or Jeep Rubicon.
4. Canaan Valley Resort State Park
230 Main Lodge Road, Davis. (304) 866-4121; canaanresort.com.
One of West Virginia’s popular family-oriented resort state parks, Canaan Valley is located in a bowl-shaped valley high in the Allegheny Mountains. Its altitude (3,430 feet above sea level) usually means ample snow on its ski slopes and 35 kilometers of wooded cross-country and snowshoeing trails. For guests who don’t want to stray too far from the contemporary lodge or their cabin, the golf course is open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing all winter. Remarkable views of the valley and mountains await ice skaters on the covered rink behind the lodge. It’s hard to tell who enjoys the multilane, 1,200-foot tubing hill more—parents reliving their youth or their children. The hill has a “magic carpet” lift back to the top.
5. Blackwater Falls State Park
1584 Blackwater Lodge Road, Davis. (304) 259-5216; wvstateparks.com.
Adults, surely you remember those snow days when you were off from school and spent all your time on your favorite neighborhood hill, pulling your sled back to the top after every run? You can re-create that fun for your family at Blackwater Falls State Park. The quarter mile–long sledding run is the longest and fastest on the East Coast, according to Assistant Park Superintendent Eric Risinger. And, best of all, a cool conveyor returns you and the sleds back to the start. While there’s no magic carpet to return you to the lodge after a hike to the park’s namesake famous falls, it’s well worth the walk. The falls, which are tinted amber by fallen spruce and hemlock needles from the surrounding trees, can freeze spectacularly in winter. It’s one of the state’s most photographed vistas—and the trail is easy to navigate. As with Canaan Valley (only 15 miles away), Blackwater Falls State Park is known for its family activities and rustic lodge and cabins.
6. The Resort at Glade Springs
255 Resort Drive, Daniels. (304) 763-2000; gladesprings.com.
If you crave first-class amenities for yourself and snow tubing for the kids, a stay at The Resort at Glade Springs in south-central West Virginia could be your family’s best-ever snow days. In winter, Glade Springs shuttles guests to Winterplace Ski Resort (800-607-7669; winterplace.com), a downhill ski area that also has the region’s largest snow tubing park—14 lanes and two Super Carpet Lifts. When you return to your lodging at Glade Springs, you can relax in the spa, bowling alley, indoor pool, or sauna and book dinner reservations in resort restaurants ranging from fine dining to casual. Resort accommodations range from 420-square-foot suites to eight-bedroom manor houses.
West Virginia resident Dale Leatherman strays on various adventures, but always returns to the mountains. She is a past president of the Society of American Travel Writers.
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