Allegheny Mountain Escape: Canaan Valley, West Virginia

img_8151It’s been oddly warm this February, and Mother Nature’s bizarre mood has me longing for a real winter. I’m hoping that before spring arrives we will get another good snowfall, and can enjoy a true winter wonderland. In the meantime, I am finding myself day-dreaming back to a recent outdoor adventure in West Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains.

The first week of January, my dear friend Heidi and I headed to Canaan Valley, West Virginia for a much-needed girls getaway. The weekend just so happened to be an ideal time to visit Canaan, as there was a perfectly timed snow storm that blanketed the resort in 8 inches of powder for us to play in.

We left on a Thursday afternoon and planned that driving from Richmond it would take us just under 4 hours  (without interruption). We headed west on I-64 to Staunton and then north on I-81 to Harrisonburg, where we started meandering our way to Canaan via backcountry roads (AKA Route 33). We weren’t on the backroads long before things started to go awry. It was in Franklin, West Virginia, to be exact when our journey became … adventurous. A dusting of snow started to fall, and we pulled over at a gas station for a pepperoni roll and bathroom break. I disconnected my iPhone from GPS and suddenly we were off the grid.

Without GPS, naturally we were lost. We were an hour away from the ski resort and had no clue which winding mountain road to take.

The friendly gas station hostess / pepperoni roll lady didn’t know how to get to Canaan, so we purchased a West Virginia atlas for $21.15 and had to navigate our way down Route 33 to Route 32.

As we left the gas station, the snow started coming down hard. Heidi mapped our way from Franklin to Canaan, an hour-and-a-half drive in the snow on curvaceous mountain roads with hairpin turns. At one point, Heidi got a little too quiet and I realized that the curvy roads — along with my bad driving — were making her carsick. Luckily every couple miles we saw a snow plow clearing and de-icing roads, preparing for the big storm that was en route.

When we arrived arrived at the resort (only 30 minutes late!), we found out from the resort’s manager that there was a quicker, safer and more convenient way. Of course there was. [Note to self: Next time take I-81 North to Route 259 (Broadway exit) and drive to Baker, West Virginia where you get on Route 48 (a shiny new four-lane expressway! Imagine that.), which will take you all the way to Davis, the small town just down the road from the resort. I digress … ]

Here are a few highlights from our stay at the West Virginia resort.

CROSS COUNTRY SKIING

We spent one morning exploring Canaan’s beautiful meadows via cross country skis. Thirty kilometers of trails traverse the picturesque and peaceful landscape. If cross country isn’t your thing, the sports club also has snowshoe rentals.

canaan-trail-map

DOWNHILL SKIING

This was my first experience skiing on the east coast, and I have to say it did not disappoint. (Although, plenty friends told me it would be a letdown, knowing that I grew up skiing the Rockies.) Great snow, no lift lines and winter’s solitude made skiing Canaan an enjoyable experience.

Heidi and I skied two days on the mountain, and one of the mornings had the amazing, one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ski “first tracks” with the ski patrol. So, we rolled out of bed at 6 a.m., and moseyed over to the mountain before it opened to help ski patrol open the mountain. We hit four runs of fresh corduroy, from the long, easy green Timber Trail to its neighboring Black Diamond Gravity run.

canaan-valley-resort-trail-map_highres_nokey15-16

Situated on the highest mountain range east of the Rockies, Canaan Valley has an elevation of 4,280 feet and has nearly 100 acres. It is small but mighty ski area with an average annual snowfall of more than 180 inches, and features nearly 50 trails (20 percent beginner, 26 percent intermediate and 44 percent advanced/expert), along with glade skiing (new this year!).

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In the afternoons, Heidi and I found ourselves on the tubing hill, which is a quick walk from the ski hill. Canaan is home to the Mid-Atlantic’s longest tubing hill, and boy was it a blast! Even though it was zero degrees out, we couldn’t get enough.

We enjoyed après ski at Quencher’s Pub at the base of the ski hill. A perfect place to unwind after a day of skiing, the bar offers healthy selection of tasty local brews from Mountain State Brewing Co. and Blackwater Brewing Co.

Overall, I highly recommend Canaan for a winter weekend getaway. There’s plenty to do — and you don’t even need to leave the resort! When not enjoying the great outdoors, the hotel has plenty of opportunities for lolling about — from the hot tub and sauna to grabbing a beer at the bar.

I’m hoping to head back for some warm weather activities, and to explore neighboring towns Davis and Thomas. Taking recommendations now for cool places to visit near Canaan!

Cheers, marissa

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