GHENT, W.Va. — While ski resorts across West Virginia are optimistic about the strong ski season ahead, businesses around the resorts are excited as well.
“That’s one thing that we all look forward to”, said Rhonda Hazuka of the Ski Barn in Ghent. “The past couple years, with it being not very good, we are really excited about the snow so early. A lot of times people are not excited about cold temperatures and snow. People within the ski industry are very excited, we’re very hopeful for a good season this year.”
The Ski Barn boasts five locations near popular ski resorts. Locations in West Virginia include near Winterplace, Canaan Valley, Timberline and Snowshoe Resorts with a location near Wintergreen Resort in Virginia.
Hazuka said their stores are a spot for first-timers and regulars before hitting the slopes.
“We’ve developed relationships with people who live out of state. They come back. They specifically want to come up here.”
Commissioner for West Virginia Tourism Chelsea Ruby said in a previous interview the ski season brings in roughly $250 million to West Virginia annually. One of the busiest weekends of ski season is around the Martin Luther King Jr holiday. While a lot of participants are from in-state, a great percentage come from all over the east coast.
“This is an important month for our winter ski folks,” said Ruby. “What they’re doing is bringing in new people teaching them to ski and to snowboard getting them to fall in love with it, and in turn fall in love with West Virginia and keep coming back.”
Hazuka agreed, saying it is a great feeling watching groups from coastal states experience snow for the first time.
“We have a lot of groups all the way down from Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia. We see them get out of our parking lot and the first thing they do is run over to the yard and they start throwing snowballs. It’s really exciting to get to see that first look. Their eyes are huge and they’re not listening to us. They want to get out there and play.”
Governor Justice recently said at his State of the State address following the first day of the legislative session he would be allocating more money toward the Tourism Office’s budget. The office was initially hoping for a $20 million boost. With more funding to help promote the state, Hazuka hopes more people will see a positive image of the state.
“We’re easy to get to, we’re obtainable, we are friendly. We’re West Virginia, that’s who we are.”
West Virginia’s ski season typically runs from Thanksgiving until April.