Explore Snowshoe in West Virginia
We're doing our best to keep the wine in our plastic cups on the ride to the Backcountry Hut. This takes some doing in our off-road limo: an old military ambulance lurching over the slopes on army-tank treads. Twenty minutes into the woods, our tank shudders to a stop in front of a rustic lodge glowing bright between heavy-limbed trees. Silence. We pause in the gathering snow, lit blue by an early moon. These frosted woods are ours tonight.
Inside the hut, we rub our hands above a potbellied stove as a chef in ski pants preps a dinner of steaks and salmon. In the morning, we'll make snowballs, forge fresh tracks, and light a bonfire. But tonight we toss tales across a wood table well into the night. Tucked away in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia, we've discovered the soul of Snowshoe Mountain.
You know you're on Southern slopes when you zip down a black-diamond run called Moonshine. Snowshoe is way more "y'all" than "dude." Yet it's filled with the requisite perks you'd expect to find out West. This is the kind of place where you can chow down at Foxfire Grille on Way Uptown Mac 'n Cheese (secret ingredients: lobster and crabmeat). Where resort management cancels all meetings on powder days. Where Ember, the fancy new bistro in town, serves fresh-caught fish flown overnight from Hawaii; Champagne in a can (Francis Ford Coppola's latest drink); and artisan cotton candy.
It's also the kind of place where people help others. We heard it from Southern Living reader Denise Ott Land of Norfolk, Virginia. On her second trip here, her family got stuck while driving in a blizzard. The first carload of locals pulled over. The local family fed and watered the Lands while fixing their car. "They treated us like family," Denise said. And they wouldn't take a dime.
Where to Eat and Stay
Where to Eat
Follow off-duty staffers to the best meals. We tailed them to Foxfire Grille, where the upscale mac and cheese was delish and our tabletop s'mores drew admirers. Splurge at Ember (pictured), a trendy bistro with inventive food, Fed-Ex fish specials, and sushi even a snob could love. Warm up at Starbucks with free wireless Internet and an indoor-outdoor fireplace.
Where to Stay
Choose from 1,400 properties in Snowshoe's rental program. Many condos sit slopeside. Prices can fit almost any budget. The newest lodge, Soaring Eagle, offers luxury suites with wireless Internet, underground parking, a fitness center, market, and a 15-person outdoor whirlpool.
I could take the free shuttles around this resort and never bother with parking. But why? Skiing is quicker. The heart of this "inverted" resort, the Village crests the nearly mile-high summit of Snowshoe Mountain. Shops, restaurants, and other fun stuff sit at the top, not on the bottom like most resorts. I can walk out of my condo, strap on my skis, zip down a run, and then ride a chair lift almost anywhere.
The other perk of inverted resorts? Summit sunsets. At dusk, the famed alpenglow paints the Allegheneys pink, and the bustle in the Village grows still as all eyes pause to drink in the sight.
My New Left Foot and More
I can handle expert slopes on skis, but I'm having more fun on the bunny slopes. This new snowboard feels like a giant left foot at first, but after a lesson and some practice, I'm linking turns, gathering speed, and feeling the free-riding vibe. I've found the perfect place for beginners like me: Silver Creek, Snowshoe's novice-friendly sister resort.
Reachable from the main resort by shuttle, Silver Creek offers wider trails, molehill slopes, and fewer crowds. (All-inclusive lift tickets are available.) A stand-alone entity with its own lodging, dining, shops, and ski school, it's perfect for families with kids. I'd come here just for the tubing park (humor required; skills optional) and night skiing.
I swap my snowboard for skis to explore Snowshoe, a mountain big enough to keep me entertained, but small enough that I don't get lost. Then I cross the street to the experts-only Western Territory. First thought: Wow, this is steep! Second thought: Whew, this is long! There may be only a few runs, but they serve up 1,500 vertical feet in a 1¼-mile stretch. Few resorts in the East can offer slopes like these.
Into the Night
It's dark. And I'm roaring uphill. Snowflakes dart through the headlights of my snowmobile like Star Wars on fast forward. I'm tapping the inner NASCAR fan I never knew existed. I give in to the urge to holler "Shake and bake, baby!" Me--a rebel? Who knew?
That's the beauty of Snowshoe: It's not all about downhill. Live shows at the Comedy Cellar. A cozy soak in the Split Rock Pool, an indoor-outdoor winter haven. Terrain parks with ramps and rails. Family fun at the Big Top, an 11,000-square-foot entertainment center with a climbing wall and trampoline. You don't need to be a downhiller to have fun here.