As the leaves start to change color and fall, thoughts of the upcoming ski season are taking root in ski loving families everywhere. If you live on the East Coast, finding a great place to ski as a family with long and varied runs can be difficult amidst icy conditions that fall short when compared to West coast ski destinations. Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia stands apart as a top-notch ski destination well suited for skiers of all levels and families that are looking for fantastic skiing without having to fly across the country.
Why ski at Snowshoe Mountain?
We spent five days as a family skiing at Snowshoe Mountain during winter break, staying in a one-bedroom condo at the Soaring Eagle Lodge located on the South side of the mountain. My favorite part of the lodge was a large and cozy hearth room with comfortable leather couches, movie nights for kids, drinks and small plates menu that will appeal to the adults in the group.
With an elevation at the summit of over 4,800 feet and an average annual snowfall of 180+ inches, the 60 trails provide a skier’s paradise that is not far from East coast cities or the South Atlantic States. The only trick is that sometimes, Mother Nature does not cooperate. Having chosen Soaring Eagle because it was a ski in-ski out lodge, even if it was not located directly in the mountain village, we arrived during a dry spell as far as snow with several trails still closed including the ones below our lodge. Of course, we could not blame our lodge for the lack of snow, even if we did realize that when taking a child to ski school in the morning, you cannot really ski out depending on the level of trails under your lodge and the child’s skiing ability.
Ski School for Everyone
We are a family that believes in taking ski lessons especially during our first skiing of the weekend. During our trip to Snowshoe Mountain, our daughter who is now a tween was just starting to get comfortable standing on skis, and had only ridden up a small lift at a Pennsylvania ski resort once. It is always amazing to see how much a child can learn from someone other than their parent, or at least it was for us as our overly confident new skier wanted to show us what she learned each afternoon after her full day of ski school. (Snowshoe Mountain is actually changing its ski and snowboard lesson program starting in the 2013-14 season with a new teaching terrain park to enhance the ski school experience.) The only problem with going out for a run with your new to skiing child in the afternoon is that it can take an extraordinarily long time to get down a trail (a trail that took us adults 20 minutes in the morning, took an hour and a half with our daughter
in the afternoon). Not to mention the fact that all the stopping and “J” turns do a number on your legs and calves (it is a good thing that there are hot-tubs at all the lodges to soak sore muscles each evening).
Eating at Snowshoe
Admittedly, I have foodie tastes when it comes to eating out. We like good food and wine lists, and appreciate quality-dining experiences. Having said that, while the village at Snowshoe Mountain has several eateries, the choices are limited, the waits were long and we realized that our best bet was probably to bring groceries and make our own dinners in our condo-unit. Our favorite meals were pizza at Cheat Mountain Pizza and lunch of warm chili and hot chocolate at the Boat House overlooking Shaver’s Lake at the bottom of the mountain.
Although there is no doubt that I prefer to ski out West in places like Durango, Colorado or Park City, Utah- Snowshoe Mountain offers a close by (if you can call 4.5 hours in the car close) location with fabulous trails. And if nothing else, Snowshoe Mountain will be etched in our family history as the first time our daughter skied down a trail confidently, which will always make for a cherished family memory.
The ski season at Snowshoe Mountain goes from early December through March depending on the whim of the snow gods.