Every time I return to West Virginia, the beauty of its mountains and the friendliness of its people strikes me anew. What a pleasant change from my carefully-managed, packed-full daily routine living just outside Washington DC! A couple of nights away from the city in Appalachia, and my family is refreshed. It’s even more special when a layer of snow glitters over the trees and icicles hang from the waterfalls; winter in West Virginia’s Canaan Valley is simply magical.
Skiing at Canaan Valley Resort State Park
It was a such treat driving into Canaan Valley State Park’s ski area on a Thursday morning in late January to see the trees and ground covered in a couple inches of fresh powder. I parked our SUV right in front of the small ski lodge alongside just a few other vehicles; there were only a some avid skiers and a couple of families there at opening ready to make first tracks on the fresh fallen snow.
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First, I stopped to register my kids with the ski school and got them geared up in their rental equipment. Soon their instructor, Monica, was leading them out to the slopes, and I was off to get my own rental gear. Both my kids and myself have skied a few times and are starting to really enjoy the green trails at the ski areas which we visit. Occasionally as I practiced my turns on B Slope, I crossed paths with my children and Monica. After parting from Monica with lots of hugs, the kids were so excited to show me their skills on the 1.25 mile long Timber Run trail.
After my first experience on the Timber Run Trail, I didn’t feel the need to explore further; instead, I kept heading up to the top of the mountain to wind gently down again and again. In the afternoon the sun came out and the snow really began to sparkle. With 160 inches of snowfall on average a year, chances are good that if you plan a visit to Canaan Valley, you’ll enjoy fresh snow too!
The lodge at Canaan Valley ski area is simple, classic and even a bit rustic, but that’s just part of the laid-back West Virginia charm. Food is easy to purchase in either the restaurant or the cafeteria. The lodge has all the basics you’ll need for a day out on the mountain.
Snow Tubing at Canaan Valley State Park
There are plenty of thrills at Canaan Valley, even for those that don’t ski or snowboard. With clear blue skies and 45-50F temperatures the afternoon that we visited, conditions were perfect for some super fast runs at the snow tubing park. Unlike we’ve experienced at some of the larger resorts in the region, the snow tube runs at Canaan Valley were not quite smooth and not quite straight; however, the unexpected bumps and turns just increased the thrills and added to the fun.
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Depending upon conditions and the staff in charge of the course, linking up and riding face first on one’s stomach are allowed at Canaan Valley. Our entire family linked tubes for a few memorable rides down the hill. If you’re fearless, Canaan Valley is certainly one of the best places to tube in the region.
Snowshoeing and Cross Country Skiing
Unfortunately, there was not enough natural snow for our family to go snowshoeing together during our visit to Canaan Valley. My children had been begging to snowshoe since a large Mid-Atlantic storm two years previous, and I had even purchased kid-sized snowshoes for my son. So we found a place with a few snow drifts and let kids strap on the snowshoes to explore a bit; fortunately, they were satisfied, but still wishing for large drifts of snow to fill our own neighborhood sometime this winter.
When the snowfall is good, there are more than 30 km of snowshoe and XC ski trails open at Canaan Valley Resort. We’ll just have to try again another time; it certainly is a beautiful area for hiking, snowshoeing and cross country skiing.
Accommodations at Canaan Valley Resort and Conference Center
Whether you are looking to a stay in a cabin or at the Lodge with hotel-like accommodations, there is something for everyone at Canaan Valley Resort and Conference Center. For a short stay, the convenience of the Lodge can’t be beat; rooms and suites generally have either a king bed or two queens. Breakfast is available in the dining room and pizza can be ordered from a small cafe in the lobby opposite of reception. I hate cooking on vacation so the convenience of the dining options at the Lodge won me over. However, if you are visiting with a larger group a cabin or cottage is certainly the way to go with a fully furnished kitchen and wood burning fireplace.
Day Trip to Blackwater Falls State Park
Canaan Valley State Park is simply lovely in the snow, but it’s not the only state park in the area that deserves your attention. Blackwater Falls, arguably one of the most recognizable sights in the entire state of West Virginia, is only a 15-20 minute drive from Canaan Valley Resort. The falls and the gorge are beautiful in any season, but they might be at their most photogenic with icicles adorning the falls and snow covering the trees. Sledding and XC skiing are available at Blackwater Falls State Park during the winter months dependent upon conditions.
All Photos by Melissa Moore unless otherwise credited.
Disclosure: My family was hosted by Canaan Valley Resort State Park. All opinions are my own.