Winterplace is an easy day trip for winter fun
GHENT, W.Va. - Thumbing through all the mattress sales in the Sunday paper on Feb. 17 and we got to thinking there has to be a better way to celebrate Abe’s and George’s birthdays.
And indeed there is. In the gloomy gray and cold of winter, on the recent no-school Presidents Day, we let freedom ring the best way we Mountaineers know how: by strapping on some sticks and going careening down a snow-covered mountain.
We dropped off our hound at our neighbor’s, piled in the Dave Trippin’ mobile and set off for a wild and wonderful day-trip run to Winterplace (https://www.winterplace.com) which at almost exactly two hours (125 miles from Huntington) makes for the closest West Virginia ski resort for a day trip.
While the past week was filled with false promises like Wednesday’s fake spring with 60-degree temps and flowers popping up everywhere here in the Ohio River Valley, let it be duly noted Jack Frost is not done and will have his icy way in the next few weeks as winter roars back to life.
Here in West Virginia’s mountains, home to four downhill ski resorts Canaan and Timberline (now closed for the season), Snowshoe Mountain and Winterplace all popped along the Appalachian Mountain spine, the ski and snowboard season will, weather permitting, roll through mid-March and often into April - at Snowshoe Mountain, the highest ski resort in the state at 4,848 feet in elevation.
For folks wanting to try out the sport, March can be a great time to do so. March can bring some of winter’s biggest snows (last year Snowshoe got 100 inches of snow in March) along with winter temps easing up a bit and some fun end-of-season parties on the mountain to boot.
Here’s a few tips for folks wanting to go day trip down to Winterplace to ski, snowboard or tube.
I say one of the first things is to just do it, in spite of what the weather may look like here. The day that we left Huntington it was raining and raining in Charleston but by the time we hit Beckley and the mountains that rain was snow. Although it didn’t continue, it was still good crisp conditions for a day on the slopes.
Another great reason to go try skiing or snowboarding is that it will make you feel great about the Mountain State. Unlike West Virginia’s status in just about any category you can name, it is actually one of the best places in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic for skiing. And people come here to do it by the droves. In fact, the top states providing skiers and snowboarders to West Virginia slopes are Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio and Florida.
On the day that we went, President’s Day, there were cars just around us in the Winterplace parking lot from Georgia, North and South Carolina, Alabama, New York, Maryland, Tenn., Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia.
“It’s interesting because when I talk to people from the South, they don’t want to go to the beach because a lot of them live near a beach, but they want to come up to the mountains and play, and this is their getaway,” Winterplace president Terry Pfeiffer told me in a previous interview.
He’s right, and I can tell you we walked a little prouder through the parking lot seeing all of those out-of-state license plates and knowing tourists are flocking here to the tune of 800,000 skier visits a year making an estimated economic impact of more than $250 million and 5,000 jobs at the resorts and other related companies.
For people who have never skied, let me tell you what all the church groups in Alabama and Georgia already know. There’s nowhere easier to learn than Winterplace. Their Terrain Based Learning area is serviced by two Super Carpet Lifts (like giant conveyor belts) so beginners don’t have to navigate ski lifts (which can be tricky) when you are learning.
Perennially named one of the best places to learn to ski in the Southeast, Winterplace also some great deals not only for group skiing but for beginners. Packages include the beginner lift ticket, lessons and rentals for $69.95 during the week and $94.95 during the weekend. The prices are even better if you do multiple days, which I do recommend if you’re just starting out since your first day of skiing is typically your worst day of skiing.
One thing to note since Winterplace is a day-trip option for those in Huntington, it is better to roll down on a Friday or a Sunday (or better yet mid-week) is a great option since Saturday’s can get packed.
That said, Winterplace has the longest ski day in the Southeast from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the weekends and has 26 of its 27 trails open for night skiing. Only the expert run Turkey Chute is closed at night. With that long window for skiing, a trip down after work Friday could still give you four or five hours of skiing, which if the crowd is light can be plenty depending upon how often you go.
One thing to note on the drive is that the tolls along I-77 have gone up so its $12 each way ($24 round-trip) to make it to Winterplace. You should also bring cash money for the lockers which take four quarters and are handy for stowing your shoes while skiing. And if you are driving up and back in a day, remember you may get wet while skiing some bring a change of clothes for the drive just in case.
Since some families or friends may have folks who aren’t into skiing or snowboarding, one cool aspect of Winterplace is that like Canaan Resort and Silver Creek at Snowshoe, they have tubing.
At Winterplace, the 16-lane snow tubing park, which is the largest in the Mountain State, is conveniently located just off of a couple of ski trails including Panorama, so folks skiing can ski by and get pics of other people in their party tubing. And everyone can meet up down at the Mountain House which is located at the base of the snowtubing park and at the bottom of the Snow Field ski run.
One thing to note for beginners is that skiing and snowboarding can be incredibly frustrating at first. Skiing and snowboarding can serve up humble pie by the slice. There’s nothing more awkward than the Stormtrooper-like ski boots and having to carry or try to push-pole your way slightly uphill from the lodge to where you learn at Winterplace.
But if you can buck up and do it, skiing and snowboarding can certainly lessen the dull, depressing ache of what can be a long winter here in the rainy river valley and give you an exhilarating and adventurous life-long sport that will make you proud in a new way of the Mountain State of West Virginia.
A great day escape from our maddening modern world, and a true winter adventure awaits just an easy day-trip and three tollbooths away.
Let’s Go Trippin: Here’s a closer look at day-trippin’ to Winterplace Ski Resort:
WHAT: Winterplace Ski Resort has 27 slopes, one terrain park and 16 lanes of snow tubing. The largest Snow tubing park in WV with two super tubing Carpet Lifts. Children must be at least 44 inches or taller to snow tube.
WHERE: Located south of Beckley, just five minutes off of I-77 in Ghent/Flat Top, W.Va. It’s about a two hour or just under (in good weather) drive.
FOOD AND DRINK: Winterplace has Mountain Mamas, the cafeteria style restaurant in its main lodge as well as The Snowdrift Lounge, a sports bar with regional craft beers, big screen TVs and pub grub. There’s also The Mountain House which services both the tubing park and expert/intermediate side of the mountain.
NIGHT MOVES: Winterplace has night skiing on 26 slopes, The Terrain Park and the Snow Tubing Park are also open at night.
HOURS: The skiing and snowboarding are open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekends and holidays. The tubing park is open 1 to 10 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekends and holidays.
MOUNTAIN FACTS: Base Elevation - 2,997 Feet, Top Elevation - 3,600 Feet, Vertical Drop - 603 Feet, Skiable Acres - 90+ Acres. Snowmaking is 100 percent based on the weather.
WHERE TO STAY: Beckley is just 15 minutes away with a slew of hotels. Nearby is Cabins at Winterplace (Call the Winterplace Central Reservations, toll free 1-800-607-SNOW. Also nearby is Skyline Lodge (on the road to Winterplace) as well as Glade Springs Resort.
NEARBY ATTRACTIONS: Weathered Ground Brewery is located just a few minutes from Winterplace at 2027 Flat Top Road, in Cool Ridge, W.Va. They have live music on the weekends. Go online at http://www.weatheredgroundbrewery.com/
ON THE WEB/SOCIAL MEDIA: Go online at www.winterplace.com and @winterplaceskiresort on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube
MORE TRIPPIN: Dave Lavender is the author of “Dave Trippin: A Daytripper’s Guide to the Appalachian Galaxy of Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia” and his new travel book, “Mo’ Dave Trippin” now for sale on Amazon.com and through CreateSpace. Check out the new book at the Red Caboose, Empire Books and News, Camden Park and Amazon.com Lavender covers regional travel. Follow The Herald-Dispatch reporter on Facebook and