Spectacular multi-colored winter skies are bursting at the seams and beckon us to West Virginia's high country where a Mountain-State Mini (a three-day "Wild, Wonderful West Virginia" vacation) awaits the traveler who is not afraid to get up and go and press the snow. We are, of course, embarking upon the Snowshoe trail, where some of the highest peaks in the eastern United States can be found along with an Old World village and amenities that steal one's heart and imagination.
Even with recent inclement weather conditions, our state road crews do an excellent job of making ice disappear and ensure that our major travel arteries are clear. The huge overhaul of Corridor H last summer with West Virginia State Police protection was a safety success story, and if those Ohio speedsters who pass West Virginians like "paint on a fence" could be slowed down, getting to Snowshoe Mountain Resort would be delightful.
When Olympic and World Cup skiing champion Jean-Claude Killy visited this ski paradise in its early beginnings, most did not realize it would become the premier ski slope of the Mid-Atlantic. Southern routes to Slatyfork are kept absolutely busy with traffic coming from I-64 stretching across Virginia to North Carolina and beyond.
It is best for any visitors to call 1-877-441-4386 or get in touch with snowshoemtn.com to ask questions or request information that can be mailed before planning a visit. A number of great restaurants are not only on top of the resort's mountain, but are scattered through the Tygart Valley. Many of the mountain visitors will tell you that they actually wait to get to Elkins to eat their last big meal before moving toward their home destinations.
With all the school days that have been missed, local residents may want to inquire of Snowshoe representatives about special rates for Randolph and Pocahontas County children and families who want to do tubing or skiing for large discounts on days schools are not in session. Introduction to winter sports only increases a child's ability to be active in winter months. While my neighborhood's youth began at our highest city street and ran sleds through two intersections with friends as monitors and cops stopping traffic, today we have a much more sophisticated arrangement. Why not take advantage of it, when we can?
Reports have been good from Snowshoe with a completely booked Martin Luther King Holiday week-end. Visitors enjoyed the usual food variety of juicy, grilled hamburgers and steaks, fancy pasta dishes loaded with sausage and cheese, and a visit to coffee and chocolate shoppes that would entice even the most avid Weight Watcher. And, if boredom sets in with eating, the Ski Barn, bookstore, and novelty shops are fine places to find some warmth as afternoons can be spent shopping for most anything one would find at a favorite mall.
For those who do not believe the place is affordable, take $20 there and spend the day. A lunch and an afternoon cocoa are doable and as you wander through the snow banks and can spend hours viewing the majesty of other peaks from the top of the mountain, it is worth the drive just to look out on freshly fallen snow and realize you are part of a very peaceful world - calm, pristine and priceless.
Pocahontas County markets the area as Nature's Mountain Playground and the 4,848-foot Snowshoe Mountain is its pinnacle. In other seasons, the Cass Scenic Railroad, the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, Droop Mountain Battlefield and the Pearl S. Buck Home at Hillsboro are additional places of interest.
We settle into these winter months never quite sure what the forces of nature will hand us. Sometimes, frigid conditions keep us in our homes so much that we nearly go stir-crazy for lack of fresh air and socializing.
It is these times that cause us to wonder why we remain loyal to the mountains. Why do we not just pack up and head south? Let someone else feed the livestock and thaw out the pipes.
Probably the familiarity of those around us keeps us here. It is difficult to quit worshipping with those of like beliefs. There is something very comfortable about knowing who lives on your city block or down the road.
And, when you go to the Post Office or grocery store, having people to greet and be greeted by erases the anonymity of a new community or place where no one will know your name, let alone call it.
So, as we tough things out for a few more weeks and sip hot tea while watching squirrels chase up a tree and birds light on their feeders, it might be well for us to reflect about things we are thankful for, though simple as they may be.
God's seasons each have their own sense of wonder. The ice holding snow on our waterways only reminds us that as it melts and moves on downstream, so life moves on, too.
We think about our position in it, who matters to us and who we matter to, and we had best consider that we are all connected somehow; that it's one-for-all and all-for-one in the big scheme of things. Our care for one another ensures that each of us will be safe and able to enjoy the Snowshoe Mountain vistas.
At the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Nature Conservancy (nature.org) that I recently attended, I was reminded of some literature the group dispersed. John Muir reflects, "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe."
Many times, I think Mountain People believe they live a life separated from the rest of the world. (Especially in the winter months when we wonder if the Eskimos are any colder than we are.) It is good for us on a sunny day to open our eyes and remember we own part of this globe and it is a better place because we do.