. . . While the Getting is Good

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Snow sports are at an absolute fever-pitch, right now . . . The Winter Olympics are well-underway, resorts are nearly 100% open, and solar spring just arrived on Saturday, February 5th. Since solar spring is the first of three markers of the vernal season (I don’t leave my chances to that pesky groundhog), does that mean we are technically spring skiing now?!?!

However you define it, check out our meteorologist Brad P.’s latest report on, at least, the near-term forecast.

This time of the year, though, is absolutely delightful. Although there are yearly variances, peak snow-depth is also typically reached AROUND this time of year. That really matters to the xc-ski areas in the region that do not make snow.

“Wind hammered snowfarm offers up drifted snow and good grooming for lessons, training, scenic loops, kids, beginners, and in general all skiers. We may be unique in stretching 2 miles of fence thru a cattle farm pasture.” -The Daily Report (02/07) Whitegrass Touring Center.

These two miles of fence throughout the cattle farm provides snow to pile up on the leeward side of the corrugated fence. Groomers are then tasked to go out and groom both skate and classic tracks.

WV 25k Ski Marathon

Over the weekend, I thoroughly enjoyed some of this “au-naturel” snow. Every year, on the first weekend of February is the annual Mountain State (WV) 25k Ski Marathon. After all, I believe the race has a nearly 40-year running (minus a couple of low-snow years). If there was a ‘nordic week’ in the southeast leading up to a race, it was last week.

With 30 racers, in classic and skate, it was well subscribed, and I knew we would have a good race on our hands. While the snow was a little thin to run the usual 25k race course (Snow-farm plus Spring Orchard loop), it was decided the morning-of to take the safe route, and race on just the snow farm. This consisted of a 10-lap loop that weaved its way along these, deeper, snow drift fences.

After a nice little ski warm-up to get the body loose in the 11F temps, the race started at 11am, as Chip Chase (owner of Whitegrass Touring Center) yelled “GO!!!”. Us skaters got a jump on the field and from there the group was thinned-down to just four guys running the lead pack. We took turns taking the front, setting the pace, and blocking some of those notorious Canaan Valley winds.

The war of attrition continued and the group settled down to just three in the lead group. On the ninth lap, I thought I saw an opportunity and attacked off the front . . . Safe to say, I was reeled back in and wound up in second place going into the tenth lap, where I stayed through the finish-line. It was a good race, and I finished about 20 seconds behind the leader . . . Italian national skier, Riccardo Monaco.

Afterward, we got a photo of the top 3 . . .

After a lunch at their (award-winning cafe) and the award ceremony, I couldn’t help but get in some (cool-down) uphill skiing and truly enjoyed the famous ‘3-mile’ downhill trail.

One of the best experiences you can have at Canaan is interacting with the Mountain Chickadees atop Bald Knob. It’s pretty magical to feed the chickadees, some bird seed, out of your little hand.

Give it a try!

If the Winter Olympics has you inspired to try some xc-skiing, check out our page on xc-skiing in the region. While xc-skiing is so accessible (you can basically do it anywhere there are a couple of inches of snow), here are a couple of resorts in the region that offer xc-skiing AND have updated their information, recently:

Elk River Touring Center (just minutes from Snowshoe Mountain):

Ski Report: 2/4

Base 0-10″ Some trails are closed or have bare spots. Snowshoeing is the better choice at Elk River this weekend.
Trails above 3500′ and the Highland Scenic Highway are skiable.

Elk River Touring Center Lodge

Blackwater Falls State Park (rents xc-skis and has 10 miles of trail) as well as nearby Canaan Valley State Park:

There is still a substantial (nordic) season out there. Because even though solar spring is here, we still have the astronomical spring, followed by meterological spring markers, before it’s official. Get some while the getting is good!

See you on the mountain.

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