HUNTINGTON - People are dusting off their skis, snowboards and snow tubes as several West Virginia resorts prepare to open for the season.
White Grass Touring Center in Tucker County opened earlier this month thanks to snowfall that reached that part of the state. Snowshoe Mountain, a Pocahontas County ski resort, will be open at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 21, offering 42 acres of terrain, including 11 different trails, three ski lifts and a recreation area to perform tricks.
For visitors at Canaan Valley State Park during the Thanksgiving holiday, snow tubing will be offered in the resort's ski area from Thursday until Sunday, Nov. 22-25.
Other alpine areas in the state, including slopes at Timberline Four Seasons Resort in Tucker County, Winterplace Ski Resort in Raleigh County and Canaan Valley Resort in Tucker County, will be opening in the next several weeks.
"This is a traditional opening for ski season in West Virginia. Traditionally we shoot to open for the Thanksgiving holiday," said Joe Stevens, executive director of West Virginia Ski Areas Association. "Due to the recent cold temperatures in the mountains and due to some of the natural snow, conditions are very good for the opening day."
Snow makers have been busy the past several weeks dumping tons of snow at Snowshoe Mountain Resort, making various trails ready for the skiing and snowboarding season.
Stevens said opening Snowshoe Mountain before Thanksgiving is a good sign for the rest of the season. The earlier a resort is open, the longer the season can last, he said.
"Anytime you can get ready, it creates momentum," he said. "We always hope Mother Nature cooperates and allows us to have a traditional season, which literally goes from Thanksgiving to the first of April."
When snow-making conditions are at their best, with temperatures in the low teens, more than 20,000 tons of snow can be produced per hour. That's enough snow to cover 20 football fields with a foot of snow each hour. So far conditions have been fall-like, which are still good snow-making conditions, he said.
When the season is in full swing, the state's resorts attract more than 800,000 skiers and snowboarders. The five-month-long ski season is predicted to have an estimated economic impact of more than $250 million and supplying 5,000 jobs at the resorts and other related companies, Stevens said.
Stevens said one of the biggest challenges the industry faces is attracting people to the resorts, even when it's warmer outside. They may not make the trip to the resorts if they think conditions aren't prime for skiing or snowboarding, he said.
"People in Cabell, Wayne and Putnam counties look out their back door and it's 40 or 50 degrees. They don't realize in the mountains it's a different situation," he said.
Webcams at the various resorts have resolved some of those issues. People can log on and view the webcams to get a complete picture of what conditions are like at the resorts before making a trip.
To view the resort cams and learn more about snow conditions, visit www.GoSkiWV.com.
Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.