While West Virginia might not be the top US state for skiing, it has the nickname ‘Mountain State’ because it is entirely within the Appalachian Mountain range. Its highest peak – Spruce Knob – reaches a decent 4,863m (15,955ft) above sea level. There are dozens of cross-country tracks as well as five downhill ski resorts across the state. The beauty of West Virginia is that most resorts are within easy day-trip distance from major cities, such as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio. You’ll be singing John Denver’s song all the way to the ‘mountain mama’.
Timberline Mountain is an old favorite in West Virginia. It’s currently undergoing a $10 million redevelopment, ready for the 2020/21 winter season, including two new lifts and one super-speedy six-man chair to reduce queues. Alongside beginner and intermediate trails, there will be a racecourse, a terrain park and ski-in, ski-out accommodation. They’re additionally updating the beginners’ area with a magic carpet lift, as well as pumping more money into more snow-making facilities and a renewed rental shop.
For backcountry skiing, head to White Grass. Also located in the Canaan Valley, it is owned and run by Chip Chase who co-founded the touring center for excellent cross-country terrain, which is known for its warm, welcoming vibe. The center has over 60km (37mi) of trails and borders the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area of the Monongahela National Forest if you want more rugged, ungroomed trails. The Nordic ski center has rentals and lessons for cross-country and snowshoeing as well as a core telemark community. Don’t leave without visiting the hip White Grass Cafe that offers great vegetarian food and live music on Saturdays and holidays.
Snowshoe is West Virginia’s largest ski resort, and some argue it offers the best East Coast skiing south of New York. It joins the nearby Silver Creek ski resort to offer 65 runs, including 24 green, 20 blue and 16 black ones. Interestingly, it is an upside-down resort – the car park is at the top of the mountain, and the runs drop down from there. With 457cm (180in) of snow on average each year, it’s pretty good for east of Colorado. Accommodation is quite expensive, but there are plenty of amenities in town – from heated swimming pools to the kids’ indoor adventure center. Snowshoe is also part of the Ikon Pass, which is a season pass for 44 ski resorts across the world, including Aspen, Jackson Hole, Revelstoke and Zermatt.
With a name like Winterplace, you know the place is perfect for skiing and snowboarding. Located off Interstate 77 south of Beckley, West Virginia, Winterplace is a great family ski resort in the southern part of the state. The ski season always depends on snow, but the resort usually opens in December and closes in March. All of the runs have snowmakers, so, even if the natural snow is lower than normal, the trails will be open as long as the temperature is cold enough. With 27 runs, 10 lifts and one snow park, the resort caters to all abilities. Night skiing is available on nearly every single run, allowing for long days on the hill. For those who don’t want to ski, check out the snow tubing park, the largest in the state. The resort has cabins to rent for a weekend away, or you can find hotels in nearby Beckley.
Every in December, this golf resort and city park transforms into a ski resort. While it is only open on weekends, it does provide a fun afternoon on the slopes. It has a tiny hill with three lifts and a couple of green and blue runs to schuss down. Beginners can sign up for lessons – it’s a great place to learn before progressing onto a bigger resort once you’ve mastered the basics. Kids are well catered for here, thanks to the Bunny School and tubing slope. Lift passes are cheap, starting at $22 for adults, while under-fives ski for free when accompanied by a paying adult.
Additional reporting by Nina Zietman