Hello Everyone –
There was a story out of Tucker County West Virginia last week that really got me to thinking about growing up in downtown Baltimore and how much fun it was to go sleigh riding with my dad and friends. On Wednesday, January 21, officials with Blackwater Falls State Park officially opened a newly installed conveyer belt that takes visitors back up the hill at the park’s sledding hill. You heard me correctly sledding hill.
In a story in the Charleston Gazette, written by a good friend of mine and outdoor enthusiast Rick Steelhammer, I learned that snow making equipment has been added to the hill along with the conveyer belt allowing the state park to provide this winter activity as soon as the temperature drops and manmade snowing operations begin. In recent years the park’s sledding hill was only open thanks to what Mother Nature would supply and a rope tow powered by a truck axle was used to move everyone back up the hill. I am really tired of the term “thinking out of the box,” but it serves its purpose in this case. I compliment state officials who looked from behind the trees and said an improved sledding hill operation would fit nicely in a county that also features two alpine ski resorts, Canaan Valley and Timberline, and a Nordic area for cross-country skiing and snowboarding, White Grass Touring Center.
Visitors to that section of West Virginia mountains now have the opportunity to enjoy, let’s see, skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, snowtubing and now sledding. If you toss in a well-timed snowball fight or the construction of a snowman, wow what a well-rounded winter trip a family can have in that region. By the way, if you want more information about that region may I suggest going to www.canaanvalley.org.
Now let’s get back to those sleigh riding trips I took growing up in Baltimore. Now when I say I grew up in downtown I mean it as it took me only 15-minutes to walk to Memorial Stadium to watch my Orioles play. My hills were not tree line as they are in the mountains of Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland but lined with row houses. You see my hills were made out of cement and instead dodging a stray tree or two, we dodged (hopefully) parked cars that were also on the streets we used to have fun on whenever Mother Nature allowed. My goodness did we have fun, enjoying ourselves hours on end. My point is we have come a long way in having fun during the winter months. But in the end, hats off to the folks at Blackwater Falls State Park for providing just another way to have fun in the winter and making sure that everyone, young and old can play together.
Now this brings me to another point, as the southeast region is finally seeing some natural snow, after a bit of a dry spell so to speak, I continue to be taken aback when I read posts on Facebook about folks complaining about the white stuff falling from the sky. I quickly react with a post of “Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow” and get jeered. If you are a frequent reader of this column you know I have a tough shell and can take it, so bring it on. Then I realize that the folks that are posting they hate any form of snow are the same ones who complain when it turns hot during the summer months. I just need to be happy that I have a 10-year old little boy who is all smiles when he looks out the window after waking up to find it had snowed while he slept. Come to think of it, I have never seen a frown on a snowman and don’t ever want to.
Now back to a familiar rant of mine though, why or why do the majority of the folks giving weather forecasts on any type of electronic media from television to the internet, seem to have to blow every storm out of proportion. I realize not all do it, but I just cringe when I hear or read a forecast that basically is telling everyone to bar their doors and don’t dare venture out to have any fun. I have come to the conclusion I need to drag those over the top weather folks to a nearby resort or state park and let them see for themselves the smiles on the faces of the young and old and maybe, just maybe, they will think twice the next time when they warn everyone the sky is falling. I know, wishful thinking, but I continue to hope.
That’s it for this week’s column, more to come as the season continues in 2015, just remember whether it be cold or whether it be hot, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather will be. Think about it! See you on the slopes.
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Joe Stevens, a member of the southeast ski industry since 1990 is a regular columnist for skisoutheast.com and serves as the Communications Director for the West Virginia Ski Areas Association.