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Several W.Va. ski resorts offer skiing at night

Feb. 11, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

DAVIS, W.Va. -- At Timberline Four Seasons Resort in Canaan Valley, the family-owned resort was a beehive of activity during the extended Martin Luther King Jr., Weekend.

During the day, skiers and snowboarders from as close as the Washington, D.C. suburbs and as far away as Florida and Georgia packed the slopes.

But in these shortened winter days the light isn't long and soon faded away, and the tangerine sun softly melted into the black bare bones of leafless trees like an oil painting brushed beyond the slopes.

The sprayed mist of the snow guns hummed, and the crowds huddled into the nearby lodge and into cabins. They will be back again but because the night the slopes belong only to the few who drink in the deepening, refreshing cold on near solitary runs.

While night skiing is not for everyone, there's a definite crowd of skiers and snowboarders that prefer haunting the night slopes getting in extra runs, or even avoiding the heart of the day in exchange for the solitude of the night.

Eric Saunders, who turned 12 on Tuesday, Jan. 22, was up at Timberline skiing with Boy Scout Troop 794 out of Ellicot City, Maryland. Saunders said the slopes showed another side at night.

"You had a different view of everything and it was kind of peaceful," Saunders said. "You get to see the stars, the fresh air. It was kind of a neat place to be in."

With the slopes less crowded, night skiing can also be a time when beginners can go out and not feel under the glare of the hundreds of better skiers flying past them during the day.

Saunders, who was on his first ski trip, said putting in an extra three hours at night, helped him get steady on his skis.

"It also helped me practice my braking," Saunders said. "I felt more free at night. It gave me time to practice and there were not a lot of people so that helped me do things I couldn't do during the day."

Bobby Snyder, veteran ski school director at Timberline, said especially during busy weekends, night skiing is a popular option for visitors to the family-owned ski resort that features about 30 percent lit terrain from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Thursdays through Sunday evenings during the prime season.

"In general night skiing there is less people so it can be more fun than day skiing," Snyder said, "And the visuals are different. Sometimes you will hit a dark sunset from the top of the mountain and it can be so beautiful."

At Timberline they also keep the terrain parks (including Bear Claw which is visible from the four-story lodge) open at night and that seems to draw quite a few of the younger crowd, Snyder said.

Not unlike the differences between driving in day and night, Snyder said there are a few safety considerations for night skiing.

"Dress warmer because you obviously don't have the sun to deal with, and you want to make sure you know what slopes are open," Snyder said.

While Timberline is known during the day for the South's longest beginner run, the two-mile long Salamander that snakes its way through the forest, at night, only blues (intermediate) and black (expert) trails are open from the top lift.

Snyder said grab a trail map and keep it since at all resorts what is open during the day is not necessarily open at night.

Just like day skiing, everyone at night should ski with a partner for safety reasons, and goggles are also helpful at night.

"You need to have good goggles for night skiing. While the lights are good there can be flat light depending on fog and you are also skiing on what everyone else has been skiing on during the day so there's more ruts and bumps which can be more of a challenge and more fun if you're an experienced skier and not so fun if you're a beginner," Snyder said.

In general, Snyder said it's best, as always, to ski at the speed at which you know you can turn and stop.

And know when to say when and head indoors.

"You know when your legs are getting too weak," Snyder said. "When you take that run and you know you're too weak that's when you can hurt yourself."

Also, Snyder said folks should wait until they are done skiing to head upstairs to the Pub to have an alcoholic drink.

Terry Pfeiffer, president of the West Virginia Ski Area Association, and president of Winterplace, one of five downhill ski resorts in the state, said night skiing is an important part of the ski experience.

At Winterplace they light up 26 of their 27 trails until 10 p.m. at night, including the snow tubing park as well.

Pfeiffer said they have multi-week ski programs for schools, businesses and home-schoolers that utilize night skiing with folks coming in the late afternoon after school or work and still hitting the slopes for hours of fun.

"We have always had night skiing, and most of the ski resorts in West Virginia have night skiing and we think it's a big part of our business," Pfeiffer said. "We provide programs that bring in a lot of people who are learning how to ski or enhancing their skills and so the night skiing and the night tubing work out really well. A lot of people go to exercise in a gym at night, and other people go out and go night skiing."

Canaan Valley Resort State Park: Davis, W.Va., (in Canaan Valley), has 11 trails open for night skiing on Friday and Saturday from 4:30 to 8 p.m.. Holiday Sundays (Feb 17), night skiing will also be available. The last weekend for night skiing will be March 2. Call 800-622-4121 or go online at www.canaanresort.com.

Timberline Four Seasons Resort: Davis, W.Va. Call 1-800-SNOWING or go online at www.timberlineresort.com. Timberline has 30 percent of its terrain open at night including its two terrain parks including Bear Claw, which you can watch from the lodge. No beginner trails are open from the top of the mountain. Runs 4:30 to 9 p.m. Thursdays through Sunday evenings during the prime season.

Snowshoe Mountain: Snowshoe, W.Va., Snowshoe Mountain has night skiing at Silver Creek area only. Silver Creek area is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. with 49 acres of night skiing comprised of 12 trails including 4 terrain parks. The Coca-Cola Tube Park is also at Silver Creek and open at night. Snowshoe Basin is closed for skiing and riding at night, but does do snowmobile and snowcat tours starting at 5 p.m. Call 877-441-4FUN or go online at www.snowshoemtn.com.

Winterplace Resort: Flat Top, W.Va. (south of Beckley off I-77, Exit 28, in Ghent/Flat Top, W.Va.) Night skiing features 26 of the park's 27 trails open as well as its tubing park. Call 800-607-SNOW or go online at www.winterplace.com.