CANAAN VALLEY, W.Va. — Ski resorts across West Virginia hope to help set a record on Friday: the single-largest ski lesson in U.S. history.
“West Virginia is poised with a lot of professionals who want to pass their passion for snow sports onto those that are coming in,” Thomas Wagner, Executive Vice President of Winterplace Ski Resort in Ghent, WV, said Tuesday on MetroNews “Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval.” “We always say that, ‘We like to take you to the fun faster and take the fear out of it.'”
Across the entire state, participating resorts will open their doors with deals for first time skiers and snow boarders Friday at 10 a.m.
“There’s going to be some sort of special program that allows first timers to get in and try the sport a very manageable cost–either next to nothing or close to it,” Wagner said.
Ghent, a small community in Raleigh county, will be joined by a number of resorts, including the Canaan Valley resorts in Tucker County.
“This weekend coming up is the weekend after a holiday, which is a kind of a slow time to be honest with you,” Steve Drumheller, General Manager of Canaan Valley Resort, said Tuesday. “So it’s a good time to come up because it’s not as crowded.”
The effort is part of a collaboration of the West Virginia Ski Areas Association and Wild, Wonderful, West Virginia to promote winter sports and activities and West Virginia tourism–an initiative that Drumheller is thrilled about since winter sport interest peaked and leveled off throughout the last two decades.
“Now that snow boarding has kind of leveled off itself, there’s a slight increase every year depending on which region we are talking about and what the weather is like in those particular regions,” Drumheller said. “We’ll see an increase or decrease, a bit of a fluctuation. But it’s more or less kind of leveled off.”
Jessica Waldo, Executive Director of the Tucker County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said there are small, mountain communities across Tucker County and the state that rely on cold weather and snow to survive.
“Tourism industry itself employs about 21 percent of the Tucker County work force,” she said. “Around 44 million dollars is spent in direct spending in the county from visitors to the area. Winter and year-round, tourism is really an important part of Tucker County’s economy.”
“Some of those resorts weren’t able to participate, but we’ve got almost all the resorts in the country now doing something this Friday,” Thomas Wagner said.
The start of the ski season in November was a welcome return to normalcy for Drumheller and his cohorts.
The previous ski season suffered a failure to launch due to mild temperatures–causing some resorts to close their doors during a normally vibrant holiday season.
“The holiday period, roughly the 10-day holiday period of Christmas and New Year’s, represents about 30 percent of our total revenue for the entire ski season,” Drumheller said. “When you lose that, obviously, that’s a pretty big hit.”
It doesn’t take much to launch the season, according to Thomas Wagner. But even if snow is hard to come by–cold weather is more important than anything else.
“The West Virginia ski areas have invested heavily in snow making,” Wagner said. “So what that means is that we’re going to have cold temperatures, our snow makers are going to come out, and we’re going to cover our slopes. What you’ve got is easy driving and great skiing.”
Snow helps though, according to Waldo.
“We’re able to get a good base, but when it snows, it gets everybody excited,” she said. “Everybody comes up and wants to play in the snow.”
Drumheller said Canaan Valley Resort employs more than 300 people, many of whom are from Tucker County.
“It keeps the ski areas viable and keeps us hiring people,” he said. “Right now, we’re the largest employer in Tucker County.”
And it’s through that, Waldo said, that other businesses thrive.
“They work together, which is really important, to sustain everyone,” she said.
In Tucker County, Canaan Valley and Timberline Resorts will participate.
In Raleigh County, Winterplace Resort will join Oglebay Resort in Ohio County and Snowshoe Mountain in Pocahontas County.
The economic impact of the five-month period is projected to exceed $250 million, according to estimates from the West Virginia Ski Areas Association.