Alaska! . . . in the Southeast

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Friday Afternoon

The mission was to scout conditions on Roan Mountain to host a first (annual) ski Race UP Roan Mtn. Road, on Sunday. Roan, like the rest of the region, has seen a GOOD snow year. I don’t have any snowfall stats to dork-out on, but take my word for it. I thought that this would be THE year, but “best laid plans . . . ”

Skunked! The race would be a bust

Tail between my legs, I went for a trail run up there, and got some fresh air. While running, I remembered the word of the 2020-21 (Covid) winter . . . PIVOT. The question was, how was I going to pivot to a better situation? So, I kept driving, “North to Alaska” . . . Ok, not that far north. But what felt like Alaskan conditions when I arrived.

I went the ‘No Trolls’ route!

Drowsy, I pulled into the Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge parking lot, and got some sleep in ‘Back-o-the-Truck’ Lodge.

Saturday Morning

I woke up to a bountiful snowpack! According to the Canaan page on Wikipedia, “Snow pack usually reaches a maximum depth of about 2 feet plus (0.7 m) in late February. In exceptionally cold snowy winters, packs can exceed 4 feet (1.2 m) in depth in the woods.” It couldn’t be any more correct on the late-Feb conditions.

My first stop was Whitegrass Ski Touring Center . . . business before pleasure. I’m training for a couple of SkiMo (ski mountaineering races) in March at Ober Gatlinburg and Canaan Valley Resort and needed to get in some training laps on the SkiMo gear.

Saturday Afternoon

Thanks to a strong partnership between the Canaan Valley State Park Foundation and the Canaan Valley Resort, the Resort started allowing some uphill access on two connected runs . . . (advanced) Upper and Lower Prosperity. I bought my (cheap) uphill access pass at the ticket window and started the grind for an afternoon training session.

Uphill Signage

This was followed by some downhill rips, in fresh powder!

Sunday Morning

Remember those Alaskan conditions I mentioned, I woke up to THE coldest temps in the nation that morning. Yes, I was sleeping in the back of a truck in MINUS 19F . . . don’t try this at home kids. In fact, it’s way more dangerous than the actual skiing/snowboarding. Believe it or not, it is not uncommon for it to be that cold in the Canaan Valley. According to Wiki, “The average growing season of about 95 days is shorter than in Fairbanks, Alaska in interior central Alaska.”

It took me an hour or two to thaw-out, and I made the 2-minute trek back to Whitegrass, but this time to do some skate ski training on ‘bullet-hard’ conditions. I got in about 15 kilometers on skate skis, and it was an absolutely magical that morning . . .

 

Sunday Afternoon

After the snow softened up a bit, I drove down the road to Timberline. This was the marquee event of the trip, as I had never been to Timberline before. I ran into my buddy Jason there and we rode the lift together. He is a good guy and a great ambassador to the Canaan Valley. Looking forward to making some more turns with him in a couple of weeks!

I started on Salamander, went to Twister, and just kept progressing through the runs. I chatted with a couple of employees and they are stoked on the return of night skiing for next year.

What a trip, and the best weekend of the winter, so far . . . Stay stoked everybody!

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