One of my favorite things about my home state of West Virginia is that it’s a “sweet spot” in terms of location.
We experience all four seasons.
During the summer, temperatures are perfect for swimming and enjoying the lakes and rivers that are part of our landscape. In the fall, the leaves turn vibrant crimson and orange for the quintessential autumn season. In the spring, the weather is that perfect in-between stage as flowers bloom.
In the winter, we get a true cold season.
Combine that with the mountain ranges that are practically synonymous with the state and that often makes for great skiing.
In fact, West Virginia boasts four main ski resorts and they all have some things in common. They’re all in the Appalachian Mountains. All four offer night skiing. And they all are open for snowboarding as well as skiing.
Yet after visiting each of them, I think they all offer a little something different too.
Here’s the low down on all four West Virginia ski areas so you can decide which one is the best ski fit for you.
Snowshoe Mountain isn’t just the largest West Virginia ski resort. It’s also the biggest ski resort in the entire southeast. Every time we’ve been we’ve met families who have traveled from lots of southern locations to enjoy the snow here.
The resort is located in, you guessed it, Snowshoe, West Virginia. It’s a little over 4 hours west of Washington, DC and a little under 4 hours south of Pittsburgh, PA. Roanoke, VA is 3 hours south.
Winding roads that pass through small towns bring skiers to the rural area. In fact, the area is so rural in parts that you’ll want to make sure you have the location plugged in GPS early. You’re likely to lose cell service during the drive there.
So, while Snowshoe is not the easiest to get to, the rural locale still has places to explore nearby. Cass Scenic Railroad is 20 minutes away. The Green Bank Observatory is 30 minutes away. And Seneca Caverns are about an hour away.
Snowshoe is also a year-round destination. Those mountains that are great for skiing in the winter are fantastic locations for biking and hiking in warmer months.
Why to ski Snowshoe Mountain:
Snowshoe encompasses three separate areas – Snowshoe Basin, the Western Territory, and Silver Creek. All three offer varied ski terrain and the latter is open for night skiing.
It’s the ski king of the mountain. Snowshoe Mountain has the highest elevation and biggest vertical drop. It has a variety of trails for both beginner and advanced skiers. And it houses a ski school for newbies or anyone hoping to improve their technique as well as glade skiing for those who are up for the challenge.
It also has the longest season with opening day usually at the end of November and the mountain closing for skiing during the latter part of March And it gets the most snowfall of all four ski resorts.
Snowshoe is the West Virginia ski resort that feels the most like a destination ski resort. The walkable village has over a dozen sit-down dining options, as well as an ice cream shop, small market, and a Starbucks.
A variety of lodging options are available including hotel-style rooms, condos, and rental homes. The Brigham Collection showcases some of the best lodging options. Shay’s Landing and Soaring Eagle Lodge are two of our favorite places to stay as a family.
When they’re not skiing, visitors to Snowshoe can go snow tubing, uphill skiing, snowmobiling or take an offroading adventure. Kids especially love the indoor pools at some resorts and hanging out at the Bear’s Den, where there’s everything from ax-throwing to arcade games.
Snowshoe Mountain Stats:
- Summit elevation: 4,848
- Vertical drop:1,500
- Number of trails: 56
- Number of chairlifts: 14
- Terrain parks: 5
- Snowmaking: 100% of trails
- Average annual snowfall: 180 inches
- Trail ratings: 41% beginner, 36% intermediate, 23% expert
Canaan Valley Resort is located in Davis in the Allegheny Mountains, which are the west central portion of the Appalachian mountain range. It’s about 3 hours and 20 minutes west of Washington, DC. And it’s about 3 hours south of Pittsburgh.
The Canaan Valley is the highest large valley in eastern North America. Because it’s also surrounded by high elevations along its rim, it’s been described as a “cold sink”. In other words, those topographic conditions are ideal for creating the cold needed for the white stuff.
Like Snowshoe, Canaan is a year-round destination. People come to hike the area, golf, fish, or boat the nearby lake. They also come to see Blackwater Falls State Park, Dolly Sods, and the national wildlife refuge.
But, from December to March, ski season is in full swing.
Why to ski Canaan Valley:
Snowshoe may be the biggest ski resort in West Virginia, but that doesn’t mean Canaan Valley doesn’t have a lot to offer.
For starters the beauty of Canaan Valley truly is remarkable. It’s a peaceful setting nestled in the Monongahela National Forest.
It’s also a family-friendly resort, offering a ski school and often smaller crowds than Snowshoe.
Canaan’s smaller size also comes with a smaller price tag. Lift tickets at Snowshoe cost around $135 for kids and $150 for adults in 2023, depending on the time of season and day. Canaan Valley’s kid and senior peak season, weekend lift tickets were $60 and adults cost $80.
Canaan Valley is perhaps a little easier to get to for some. And once you’re there, the resort offers hotel rooms, cabins and cottages for staying on property.
Ready to take a break from the slides? Canaan Valley Resort has an ice skating rink, snowshoeing paths, and cross-country skiing trails. It also boasts one of the longest snow tubing tracks in the mid-Atlantic.
Once you’re ready to take off the snow boots for the day, you’ll find Canaan is a bit quieter than Snowshoe. But there are four restaurants onsite to refuel so you’re able to hit the slopes again.
Canaan Valley Resort Stats:
- Summit elevation: 4,280
- Vertical drop: 850 feet
- Number of trails: 47
- Number of chairlifts: 3 and 1 magic carpet
- Terrain park: 1
- Snowmaking: 75% of trails
- Average annual snowfall: more than 160 inches
- Trail ratings: 20% beginner; 36% intermediate; 44% expert
Timberline Mountain sits just 5 miles away from Canaan Valley in Davis, West Virginia. It takes only about 10 minutes to drive between the two.
Timberline shares a lot in common with its neighbor. It’s also open mid-December through mid-March. It also has one terrain park and receives a similar amount of snow each season.
There are just over 1400 skiable acres at Timberline. Trail difficulty is evenly split between beginner, intermediate, and advanced trails. Each category encompasses about ⅓ of the total number of trails.
Beginners wanting lots of instruction before hitting the slopes on their own won’t find a large ski school here. Lessons are available for perfecting those moves, but Timberline is best suited for skiers with some experience.
Timberline Hotel, the mountain’s primary lodging option, sits near the entrance of 2 ski lifts. Vacation home rentals are nearby, some of which offer ski in, ski out access and one restaurant is located near the hotel. Off-mountain lodging is available in the way of motels in Davis.
In terms of price, Timberline Mountain lift tickets cost slightly more than those at Canaan Valley. During the 2023 season, kids and senior lift tickets cost $64 while adult lift tickets ran $90.
Why to ski Timberline Mountain:
Skiers hoping to try different terrain will appreciate being able to ski both Canaan Valley and Timberline Mountain. The close proximity means it’s easy to test the powder in both places.
Although the resort may be smaller, this ski option has its own unique personality that seems to beckon skiers and boarders to come back. For example, it has lots of steeps, glades, and bumps to keep things interesting.
Timberline also boasts the longest run of all southeast ski resorts. A trail called Salamander runs a full 2-miles. The “green” rated slope has a few sections that look suspiciously blue-ish, but the length of the run makes it fun nonetheless.
Although high season can mean crowds at any resort and Timberline is no exception, the trails here tend to thin out crowds. So, waiting in line at the lift (which you will do during peak times) doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be jostling for space coming down the trail.
Timberline Mountain Stats:
- Summit elevation: 4,268
- Vertical drop: 1000 feet
- Number of trails: 40
- Number of chairlifts: 3
- Terrain park: 1
- Snowmaking: 92% of trails
- Average annual snowfall: 150 inches
- Trail ratings: 34% beginner; 32% intermediate; 34% expert
Winterplace Ski Resort is just minutes off Interstate 77 in the town of Ghent. It’s the most southerly ski resort in the state. So, it’s only 3 hours from Charlotte, North Carolina and 2 from Roanoke, Virginia.
This ski option is also close to other attractions in West Virginia. The must-see Greenbrier Resort is an hour drive. The quaint town of Lewisburg, which sits next to the Greenbrier Resort, is also close. And the New River Gorge National Park, the country’s newest national park, is only 30 minutes away.
Winterplace has a slightly shorter season than other West Virginia ski resorts and sometimes less snowfall. Lift tickets last season were a bit lower than some of the other resorts though, at $58 for kids and $79 for adults.
A food court, a lounge, and an outside eating deck are located at the resort. For lodging, guests stay in cabins on-site, in the town of Ghent, or at the many hotel options in Beckley, a 30-minute drive away.
Why to ski Winterplace Ski Resort:
Winterplace Ski Resort may be last on our list. But, don’t discount this little West Virginia gem quite yet.
For starters, Winterplace has the largest snow tube park in the state. So, when you’re ready to put away the skis, there’s still fun to be had on the snow.
Winterplace also has nice wide green trails that are perfect for learning. And it has a ski school that can help in that department as well. Experienced skiers will have a bit less to choose from, but will still enjoy the 90 acres of skiable terrain.
The location of Winterplace also just works better for some hoping to sneak in that ski getaway. It’s a feasible and easier drive from places a bit farther south.
Winterplace Ski Resort Stats:
- Summit elevation: 3,600 feet
- Vertical drop: 603 feet
- Number of trails: 27
- Number of chairlifts: 7 and 3 magic carpets
- Terrain park: 1
- Snowmaking: 100% of trails
- Average annual snowfall: 100 inches
- Trail ratings: 37% beginner; 40% intermediate; 23% expert