’Tis the season for adventure
For those willing to brave the coming winter blast, West Virginia offers winter adventures aplenty. Want to spend a day rocketing down snow-covered mountains? You can do that. Trekking in solitude over sweeping vistas in a sub-alpine wilderness? There’s that, too. World-class ATV adventures? Flying without wings? Check and check.
Dig out your mittens and balaclava; it’s time to explore the outdoor treasures in your back yard.
Ski the Western
West Virginia’s four major winter resorts offer skiing, snowboarding, airboarding and snow tubing. Skiers can save by purchasing multi-day passes, visiting on weekdays and booking ski-and-lodging packages. Prices increase during peak season. While early season tickets may seem like a great deal, building a snow base takes time. Call ahead to check snow conditions.
Snowshoe Mountain (1-877-441-4386) is West Virginia’s largest and highest ski resort. Winterplace Ski Resort (1-800-607-7669) is home to the state’s largest snow tubing park. Timberline Four Seasons Resort (1-800-766-9464) boasts the Southeast’s longest ski trail, the two-mile Salamander. Canaan Valley Resort State Park (1-800-622-4121) is one of only six ski resorts in the country with a dedicated airboarding terrain park. And nearby Seven Springs in Pennsylvania is routinely listed among the Northeast’s best ski resorts.
In addition to the above resorts, cross-country skiers can find groomed and marked trails at Elk River Touring Center (1-866-572-3771), Alpine Lake Resort (1-800-752-7179), White Grass (304-866-4114) and Blackwater Falls State Park (304-259-5216).
Day Hike in Monongahela
With a land area larger than the state of Delaware, eight wilderness areas and several unique climactic zones, the Monongahela National Forest is a hiker’s paradise. Two areas in particular are worth visiting for their otherworldly landscapes.
Thirty miles of trails crisscross the tundra-like Dolly Sods, a former U.S. Army artillery practice range. Select day hikes include Rohrbaugh Plains Trail (3.5 mi), Blackbird Knob Trail (2.2 mi) and the challenging Red Creek Trail (6.1 miles).
Hikers exploring the Cranberry Backcountry and Wilderness can visit boreal bogs and hike over 130 miles of trails. Popular walks include Summit Trail (1.8 mi) and Cow Pasture Trail (5.5 mi). Don’t miss the 0.6 mi boardwalk at Cranberry Glades Botanical Area.
Never underestimate backcountry weather. Dress appropriately, stay dry and, for longer hikes, leave an itinerary with a park ranger. During deer season, blaze orange is an important, non-ironic fashion accessory. For detailed maps and trail information, visit your local bookstore and pickup the Monongahela National Forest Hiking Guide 8th Edition.
Motor the Hatfield-McCoy Trails
ATV riders can explore the southern coalfields year round on the Hatfield-McCoy Trails (1-800-592-2217). With six trail systems and over 500 miles of trails, visitors can play for a day… or a week. Many of the towns near the trails are ATV-friendly and offer lodging, fuel and dining.
For non-ATV owner, tours, shuttle service and rental ATVs are available from Happy Trails Outdoor Adventures (1-877-498-2887) and West Virginia ATV Tours (304-890-9690). Helmets and permits are required. Trail permits ($26.50 for WV residents) are valid until the end of the year.
Fly in Fayette County
Ever wanted to glide between treetops with nothing saving you from freefall but a steel cable and some safety equipment? If so, then head down to Fayette County for an adrenaline-pumping adventure.
The TreeTops Canopy Tour ($99; 1-877-811-5321) was recently named by USA Today as one of the 10 best zipline tours in the country. The 3¢hour Canopy Tour has 10 ziplines ranging in length from 100 to 730 feet. The new Gravity Ziplines ($79) soar 200 feet above the ground and can be booked along with the Canopy Tour. Discounts are available for West Virginia residents.
ACE Adventure (1-800-787-3982), the largest adventure resort in the country, operates a seven-zipline canopy tour ($85). One of the zips on the tour, The Plunge, was featured on The Travel Channel. In the winter, tours are limited to weekends and require at least four people.
Both companies provide experienced guides, safety equipment, and high-speed thrills. Advanced bookings are recommended.
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