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Snowshoe Mountain, West Virginia Hot

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Sprawled out atop Cheat Mountain in the Monongahela National Forest is the year-round resort, Snowshoe Mountain. Located in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, the snowshoe offers 60 slopes and trails with 14 ski lifts, including: 3 high-speed detachable quads, two handle-tows, and two “Magic Carpets.”

Although the resort markets towards beginner and intermediate skiers, Snowshoe has “the best, longest, and deepest terrain in the whole region” for experienced skiers, according to President Bill Rock. He also said, “One of the reasons why people like us is because it’s very easy for beginners and families with mixed abilities to ski together and ride the same lift.” This is also a record year for snowfall with 228 inches.

IMGP0371Snowshoe features, “a spectacular destination village with all sorts of activities that other resorts don’t offer. We’re the number one rated resort in the mid-Atlantic by Skiing magazine. It’s for a reason. We have great snowmaking, great experiences and the growth is a result of people telling other people how great it is here. It’s been really gratifying to see that customer loyalty,” said Rock.

Snowshoe first opened on December 13, 1974. Ed Galford, Vice President of Mountain Operations, has been a part of the resort since the beginning. The owner and president, Dr. Thomas Brigham, “had a vision of southern skiing and wanted to do something here in West Virginia,” said Galford. He said the mountain originally had 12 trails, three lifts and 18,000-20,000 skier visits per year. The first three lifts were Skidder, Ballhooter and Cupp Run, which stretches 1.5 miles long.

lodgingAccording to Galford, Franklin S. Burford bought Snowshoe in 1977. During this time another lift was added, as well as more trails. Burford was a coal operator, and he sold his business to buy Snowshoe. Galford said, “the resort basically took off at that point. He built two large ski lodges; prior to that there was no lodging here at all ,and immediately the skier visits jumped up to 80,000-90,000 a year”.

Snowshoe continued to grow over the years with new trails, lifts, lodging and restaurants. In 1990, TDC Management Corporation, a Japanese group, bought the resort and acquired a neighboring ski area, Silver Creek. An 18-hole Gary Player designed golf course was also built at the foot of the mountain. The current owner, Intrawest Corporation, acquired the resort in 1995.

Village 2“Intrawest is the largest ski operator in North America; they have some of the best ski resorts in the region. One advantage to being a part of Intrawest is that our team gets to work with their counterparts at other resorts to learn best practices. We get the chance to access some of the best minds in the business.

Also, this year Whistler hosted the Olympics, one of our sister resorts. The resorts that the company owns are worldclass; we are too, and we like to be associated with them,” said Rock.

Rock added, “Since Intrawest bought Snowshoe, over 200 million dollars has been spent. We built the village, lodging, high-speed lifts, and a state-of-the-art snowmaking system. We really transformed the resort. We have a great mountain with the ability to expand. As business grows, the resort will grow — it will be really exciting.”

Galford believes that the most important change over the past ten years has been the ability to hire great employees. According to Rock, Snowshoe has a year-round staff of about 305 people and roughly 1300 in the winter. “We have fairly disciplined training in every area so they can be effective in their positions very quickly”, said Rock.

VillageMost of the year-round employees live in Pocahontas or Greenbrier County. Many seasonal employees work in the Outer Banks, or Virginia Beach in the summer, and then work at Snowshoe for the winter. Others spend their summers as whitewater rafting guides. Some even work in construction or logging in the summer, then operate groomers or snow making machines at Snowshoe in the winter.

Although skiing and snowboarding are the main attractions at Snowshoe, visitors from all over the mid-Atlantic and southeast regions enjoy many other activities at the resort in both winter and summer. “We have horse drawn sleigh rides, snowmobile tours, snow cat tours, adventure dining and all sorts of stuff for kids. We’ve had a comedy club for 21 years and it really adds to the experience for our guests. And, of course, we have snow tubing, which people really love”, said Rock. Galford added that the resort also offers cross-country skiing and off-site tours to destinations such as the Greenbriar River Trail and the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace.

Snowshoe also holds several events throughout the year. Rock said, “Events are what adds that extra fun factor for people who are here in the winter. In the summer, events really drive our business to a large degree. One weekend might be motorcycles, (check out www.allaboutbikes.com) and another might be bluegrass music. Events are very important to us.” During the summer season, all the food and beverage outlets stay open while the resort hosts conferences and weddings.

meat and potatosAnother significant component to Snowshoe’s continued success is the village and other businesses that operate within the resort. Rock said, “We have the ability to control the design within the resort through something called architectural review. Every developer in our resort has to abide by these guidelines.” Some of these businesses include the Tuscan Sun Spa and restaurants such as Foxfire and Ember.

“The spa offers a variety of massages, pedicures, manicures and a full hair salon,” said Laura Parquette, the Communications Manager at Snowshoe. The spa services can be found at the Whistlepunk location, while the Village location houses the salon and boutique.

“The village experience with our restaurants stacks up to a lot of the western resorts. Our customers tell us many times that coming to Snowshoe is like going out west. It’s just closer to home. The snow quality here is very good, and the hassle factor of getting here versus out west is much better. You don’t have to deal with airport security or extra baggage, you can just get in your car and get here within half a day from just about anywhere,” said Rock.

restaurantVisitors to Snowshoe have several options for lodging. In addition to hotels, guests can stay in condos and houses, both of which are available slope-side. Every amenity is available on the mountain. Rock added, “Once you come here and park your car, you don’t ever have to get in it again.”

The Inn at Showshoe, located at the base of the mountain, provides guests with a more budget-friendly option without sacrificing the amenities of a full-service hotel. Parquette added, “The beauty of having so many different lodging options is that people can really find something that meets their needs.” For its guests, Snowshoe has an indoor/outdoor pool, as well as hot tubs and a sauna. Many of the lodging complexes at the resort also offer their own exclusive pools and hot tubs.

Visitors to Snowshoe also enjoy a thriving nightlife. In addition to the comedy club, there is a nightclub, and several bars and restaurants throughout the resort.

Another key element to Snowshoe’s success is the West Virginia Tourist Board. Rock said, “West Virginia has one of the best tourism marketing programs that I’ve ever seen in any state, so we work with them to make sure that we’re all marketing West Virginia and our resort in particular effectively. They have a good group and they do a really good job.”

After speaking with Bill, Ed and Laura, I decided that I needed to experience Snowshoe first-hand. As I drove up to the village on a Friday night, it reminded me of something from a postcard. The mountain was buried in snow – always a good thing for a ski resort. 207 inches at that time.

I walked into my junior studio at Expedition Station to find a queen-sized platform bed, sleeper sofa, and stocked kitchenette. And I mean stocked. There were more dishes and utensils than I have in my kitchen at home. My favorite thing about the room? The storage. In addition to the dresser, closet and coat rack, there were two ottomans with storage in front of the sofa, as well as storage benches under the window. My least favorite thing about the room? The TV. An LG flat-screen TV was hung on the wall directly in front of the sofa, making it awkward and uncomfortable to watch from the bed.

14 backgroundAfter settling into my room, I joined my colleagues for dinner at Ember. The dining area of the restaurant had an urban, intimate ambiance without feeling cheesy. I ordered the roasted duck sandwich, I can honestly say that it was the best meal I had eaten since Christmas, or maybe even Thanksgiving. As an unexpected and unforgettable twist, every table is served cotton candy for dessert. Yes, cotton candy. On this particular evening, the featured flavor was banana.

On Saturday morning, I was ready to hit the slopes. Snow- Creek Mountain Sports/The Ski Barn outside the Silver Creek entrance hooked me up with some parabolic skis. I have never had such an easy, painless ski rental experience. I was ready to go in less than 15 minutes. Large amounts of snow had been dumping on the area on and off for weeks resulting in powder conditions on the mountain. The ski conditions were probably the best I have ever experienced on the east coast. Although I can’t speak on Silver Creek or the Western Territory, I didn’t get the chance to venture into those areas. After two days of skiing and too many visits to the Junction, I enjoyed my stay at Snowshoe. Definitely put it on your to do list for this season. Great food, snow, and ample entertainment options make for a memorable trip.

There was a huge influx of people at Snowshoe the weekend we were there due to the wonderful conditions. With loads of people there is inevitably longer than normal lines at the lifts, which did make getting around a little difficult. Although the restaurants did run out of some stocked item on their menus and in the bar, it was only a small glitch in an otherwise wonderful few days skiing and snowboarding. For more information log onto www.snowshoemtn.com.

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