by Joe Stevens
Hello Everyone –
It’s been a few years since I made my first turns on the slopes of Massanutten Ski Resort in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia on January 1, 1985. Since those first turns I have been fortunate to have fun skiing and snowboarding at resorts from the east coast to the west coast and a few in between those boundaries.
But this weekend I was able to visit the resort where I had to take my first real deep breath while looking over a true steep. The trail I am talking about is Gravity, one of Canaan Valley Resort’s expert slopes and the very first black diamond I logged in the winter sports career.
It all started a few weeks ago while Mike Doble, this websites captain, dropped me a line suggesting a rendezvous at Canaan Valley for the annual Governor’s Cup Ski Race competition. Well, after checking with the boss (my wife Angie) and my favorite, now 16-year old skier (my son Christian), it was decided by all to make the trip and make some turns with him and his daughter Madi.
Needless to say, it’s been a challenging year for ski resorts in the southeast, but for the last four weeks, the weather has been mostly good for skiers and snowboarders, especially over the all-important weekends. We were blessed with a ton of natural snow last weekend for the annual Skisoutheast.com Summit at Snowshoe and this weekend is basically a carbon copy.
We headed towards Canaan Valley late Friday afternoon in rain, but fully knowing that it was snowing and snowing hard in fact in the mountains of West Virginia. As I have made the snowy drive to Canaan Valley a few times in the past, I knew that meant some possible trying moments behind the wheel, the last 30 miles of the trek from Elkins, West Virginia to the resort area in Tucker County at the western base of the Allegheny Mountains.
That thought process proved correct as the last 30-miles, which included three-major climbs, found snow covered roads, with blizzard-like conditions. I am here to say, whatever plow drivers were out there in those conditions, and we saw plenty of them, they had their plows full and did the very best they could to make travel as safe as possible. Now I was at the wheel of my 2016 Subaru Outback, which handled like a charm and I had 70’s on 7 (SiriusXM) playing and my trusty co-pilot (Angie) along-side, so the experience, though a bit of a white-knuckle, wasn’t that terrible, knowing full well it meant freshies on the slopes for Saturday morning.
Seriously folks I sometimes I think we take the snowplow drivers for granted and don’t give them enough credit for being out there all hours of the day and night, trying their best to stay ahead of Mother Nature and provide passable driving conditions. I have heard way too many times people complaining that they never saw a plow, not knowing probably that a snowplow wasn’t that far away from them at any given time. I am here to tell you that if I could find out who the drivers were that night, their next coffee stop was on me, that’s for sure.
I am a firm believer when you do something fun, you should do it with family and friends and I was able to check both boxes while making turns with Christian, Mike, Madi and Christian’s friend Ethan. Nothing better than getting on that first lift chair and seeing fresh tracks in natural snow underneath you, knowing you and everyone in your party were going to be adding to those fresh tracks.
As I mentioned earlier in this column, Canaan Valley will always provide a special moment for my time on the slopes, but this was also the first-time experiencing Canaan’s slopes for Mike, Madi and Christian. I can’t remember the last time I was with that many skiers or snowboarders experiencing what a ski resort has to offer for fun. But on a day with such great conditions, basically it was just a matter of pointing your skies or snowboard down the hill and let it rip.
Please let me to digress a bit right now because I had to share a moment Mike and I had with Mike Chaney, Canaan Valley’s Mountain Manager. A veteran of over 20-years of making and pushing snow around the West Virginia resort, he explained to Mike he had a first-time experience Saturday morning. He told us that he had a visitor make a complaint to him that there was too much snow and they wanted a refund. After picking our chins off the lodge floor, all we could do was shake our heads and laugh. Then we proceeded to go back out and enjoy all of the snow that the misguided visitor left us.
Now back to where it all began and that’s Canaan Valley’s Gravity slope. Our group passed by the slope’s entrance a couple of times, before realizing it was right there in front of us, and I know Christian and Mike were itching to give the trail a try. So, it was decided the next time up, it was on our to-do list.
Now remember, the first time I stood at the top of the steep was March of 1985 and I was a skier. I have enjoyed the trail a couple of times as a snowboarder, but not with this number of friends and family. As our group made the turn off the lift to the top of Gravity, I had that feeling of deja vu, going back to 1985, and this time instead of following a fellow skier down the slope, I followed my son, as he was exploring every little powder stash and making the experience a memorable one for this old guy, as he was able to get back to where it all began.
That’s it for this week, thanks for joining me for my weekly thought process. 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.