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West Virginia's top ski resort defies all expectations

by , SmarterTravel Staff
The Village at Snowshoe Mountain, West Virginia (Photo: Steve Shaluta/Snowshoe Mountain)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on February 9, 2007. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: Erica Silverstein, ski, weekend getaways, West Virginia.

Gossamer curtains enclosed our romantic, candle-lit table for two. Our waitress brought us a surprise amuse bouche, freshly baked breads from a local bakery, and our dinners in elegantly angular bowls. The check came nestled in its own lacquer box, and homemade vanilla cotton candy came with it.

"This is the most romantic meal I've ever had while dressed in jeans and sneakers," I whispered to my fiancé.

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"It's the most romantic meal I've ever eaten on a ski slope," he whispered back.

Our stay at Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia defied all our expectations of a traditional ski resort. For starters, the resort village is located at the top of the mountain, rather than at the bottom, and its on-site lodging, shopping, and restaurants create a community atmosphere that can't be found in an old-school ski lodge.

Snowshoe's plentiful outdoor activities—downhill skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and tubing—are nearly matched by its indoor options—shopping, swimming, and relaxing at the spa. After cramming as many of these as I could into a two-night stay, I discovered that both skiers and non-skiers can have a wonderful winter weekend at Snowshoe.

Winter fun for all

West Virginia skiing, it's true, can't compare to the skiing out West. The runs are relatively short, and a warm winter can lead to closed trails and lots of ice. Snowshoe, however, is the largest ski resort with the most terrain, most slopes and trails, most amenities, and second-highest elevation (4,848 feet) south of New York and east of the Mississippi. Ski enthusiasts from as close as Virginia and as far away as Florida flock to Snowshoe because many consider it the best downhill experience within driving distance.

What sets Snowshoe apart is its mountaintop village. All of its lodging, dining, shopping, and activities are clustered along the mountain's flat peak. Whether you're staying on the east or west end, you can walk out the door of your hotel and only be steps away from the top of a ski slope.

Since all the attractions are close together, you can park your car once and leave it in the lot until it's time to go home. A shuttle bus runs throughout the village to transport guests on cold winter nights or between one end of the resort and another. Most of the time, we just walked.

One of the benefits of the village system is that when you break for lunch, you can easily return to your condo rental to make yourself a sandwich or heat up some soup. Alternately, you can get a sit-down meal in any number of restaurants just steps away from the ski lifts. While the Shavers Centre does have a typical cafeteria-style lodge, it's not the only dining option. Plus, all slopeside restaurants allow customers to stomp inside in their ski or snowboard boots.

The convenience factor makes Snowshoe attractive for the non-skiers in the family as well. Don't want to ski? You can try your hand at snowshoeing or snow tubing instead. Indoor attractions include the Split Rocks indoor pool complex and the Vantage Spa and Fitness Center, as well as numerous bars and coffee shops. In the evening, adrenaline junkies can speed around the slopes on a snowmobile tour. Even better, non-skiers can easily meet up with skiing friends for lunch or après ski because everything's within walking distance.

Snowshoe also has some of the best nightlife I've ever encountered at a ski resort. Restaurants include the trendy West Virginia-meets-Asian-cooking Ember, BBQ-and-Southern-style Foxfire Grille, an Italian place called Auntie Pasta's, and local favorite Cheat Mountain Pizza. Most of the restaurants have bar areas, while Hoot's is a dedicated pub with karaoke, open mic nights, and pool tournaments. The Comedy Cellar hosts comedians on Friday and Saturday nights (they're funny if you're drunk), and the Connection is a slopeside nightclub. No one worries about driving icy roads after drinking because—did I mention this before?—the bars are an easy stroll from the lodging properties.

Practicalities

Snowshoe is a four- to five-hour drive from the D.C. area. Whether you're coming from the north or the south, you'll have to drive through mountain passes to get there. It took us an extra two hours to drive home through a snowstorm in our little Toyota. If you don't own an SUV or four-wheel-drive car, I'd recommend you rent one for the trip.

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