Chill Out in the Mountains

Summertime travelers are discovering what skiers already knew. You can't miss with a trip to Snowshoe in any season.
Annette Thompson

At 4,848 feet in elevation, it's cooler here on Snowshoe Mountain in the Alleghenies of West Virginia. Where better to escape the heat of summer than at a mountain resort? Temperatures may run 10 to 20 degrees lower than those in the valley below, which creates a summer playland where evenings are chilly enough for a light jacket. And the days warm up amply for swimming and sunning.

Snowshoe's best feature may be that it's tucked away--two hours from any noisy, congested interstate highway. Imagine curling up on your private patio at night under an inky blanket studded with stars, and then returning to your room where a small fire glows in a fireplace near the bed. That's Snowshoe--the ideal spot for an end-of-the-season getaway.

On Top of the World
Snowshoe's 11,000 acres spread across the summit, hillsides, and base of West Virginia's Cheat Mountain. Without the snow, the verdant forest invites plenty of activity.

Start the fun with a ride down the Ballhooter Chair Lift to Shavers Lake. The lift takes its name from timber days when men would holler "ballhooter" to signal a log's journey down the mountain. If you'd rather travel via the road, opt for the free shuttle service.

The lake serves as the summer centerpiece (in the winter, the resort uses its water to create snow). Rent a canoe, kayak, or paddleboat here, or claim a spot along the beach to relax with a book. If you listen closely, you can hear the Cass Scenic Railroad's horn nearby.

Miles of paths encircle the lake and stretch out along the mountain's ridge. Snowshoe furnishes easy-to-read trail maps (pick up one at check-in) when you want to strike out on your own, or you can join one of the guided hikes.

Most trails share hiking with mountain biking, another must-do endeavor. The resort's bike shop rents bikes, leads guided rides, and provides a shuttle service to the nearby Greenbrier River Trail, a flat 75-mile gravel route.

Reserve a day for the Gary Player-designed golf course. At the foot of Snowshoe Mountain, it offers views of the mountains in the distance and wildflowers along the fairway edges.

On another day, explore a mountain lane from atop a horse, or take aim at sporting clays at the shooting facility. Afterward, indulge your senses at Spa Romanoli, where massages and saunas remove any vestiges of stress.

The Gathering Place
When you're ready to shop and dine, or if you simply want to look around, amble down the cobblestone esplanade in the Village. Crowning one end, the heated indoor/outdoor Split Rock Pools attract families. Try a sunset dip at about 8:30, when most folks have returned to their rooms for the night.

During the daylight hours, check out the excitement around the Eurobungy. Participants don harnesses attached to bungee cords to leap, turn, twist, and flip to new heights over the trampoline ($10 for 5 minutes or $25 for three [5-minute] sessions).

The rest of the Village seems calm in comparison, and thankfully so. Several shops, such as Calhoun & Kipp and Mountain Kids, help you get a jump on the giving season. Don't resist treasures for yourself in the specialty places, such as the Pulp & Paper Company bookstore and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Go to Pocahontas Supply Company for outdoor paraphernalia.

August features the best sales of the year on winter gear at 4848' Mountain Performance Shop. As they clear shelves to make way for the new items coming in, the store typically marks down last year's stuff by 40%.

A Taste of the Mountains
When you need a hearty breakfast to fuel a day of cycling, enjoy the buffet at The Junction Restaurant. For a quick lunch, The Boathouse burgers fill the bill (it's also a great place to linger over the midday and watch the sunlight sparkle on the lake). Foxfire Grille's steaks and beer rival its westward vistas. Dine here for the best sunsets. When only a pizza will do, visit Cheat Mountain Pizza Company, a favorite among the younger set.

Splurge on two meals at Snowshoe. Make reservations at The Red Fox Restaurant for a fancy night out. Ask for a window table, and order the signature Cottage Cheese Bisque and Huntsman's Grill (a mixed grill with pheasant sausage, elk, and roasted pheasant [$29.95]). Expect to pay about $50 per person--before libations.

The best meal on the mountain comes at a price, but it's one-of-a-kind. For $190 per couple, Snowshoe escorts you in an 8-wheel-drive vehicle out a winding trail to the rustic Sunrise Backcountry Hut on the mountain's rim. There, the staff prepares a scrumptious filet mignon or planked salmon dinner. After dessert, snuggle with your sweetie in the hammock.

Where To Stay
Almost every lodge room at Snowshoe features a small gas fireplace. On the coolest nights this month, don't feel guilty about turning it on.

Allegheny Springs is the newest lodge and marks the Village with its alpine style. Rimfire and Highland House also flank the Village. Highland House faces east, with two outdoor hot tubs and a workout facility. Rimfire has west-facing rooms, Shaker-style furnishings, and rock fireplaces. Be sure to avoid the hostel-style Spruce Lodge, opting for the quiet of the others.

All accommodations on the mountains do their best to take in the spectacular views. It's a summer escape to remember for a long time.

The Peak Resort

Snowshoe Mountain: P.O. Box 10, Snowshoe, WV 26209; toll free 1-877-441-4386 or www.snowshoemtn.com. Rates: $119 (junior studio) to $284 (3 bedrooms) per night. Ask about packages; guests staying three or more nights can receive a 25% discount or a fourth night free.

This article is from the August 2004 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.