Skiers and snowboarders will be heading to the mountains of West Virginia this week as the first downhill area opens for the 2012/2013 season. Snowshoe Mountain opened Wednesday, with two top to bottom runs and three lifts at the Snowshoe area and one top to bottom run and one lift at the Silver Creek area.
The other alpine areas in the state, Canaan Valley, Oglebay and Winterplace, are all planning to open for the season the early part of December. The natural snow that was produced by Hurricane Sandy in October allowed one of the state's Nordic areas, White Grass Touring Center, to begin providing cross-country skiing last month.
Along with the natural snow from Sandy, which produced over 50 inches of accumulation in the mountains, temperatures in the higher elevations have been cold enough for snowmaking operations to take place, allowing Snowshoe to provide excellent season opening conditions.
"The skiers and snowboarders here for the Thanksgiving holiday are going to be pleased with the amount of snow we are opening up with," said Dave Dekema, Snowshoe Mountain's marketing director. "After last season's delayed opening, it's great to open on time for the first time in a few years."
The snowmakers at all of the state's ski resorts can produce manmade snow whenever temperatures permit, allowing the industry's unsung heroes to cover the slopes for skiers and snowboarders. When snowmaking conditions are at their best (in the low teens), over 20,000 tons of snow is being produced in West Virginia per hour, enough snow to cover 20 football fields with a foot of snow each hour
The mountain state's resorts annually attract over 800,000 skier visits, which was off about 15 percent last year, due to the delayed opening and mild season long temperatures.
"It's great to open on time," says Terry Pfeiffer, President of the West Virginia Ski Areas Association. The top states providing skiers and snowboarders visiting West Virginia slopes are Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio and Florida.
The ski and snowboard season traditionally, weather permitting, continues from Thanksgiving through early April. The five-month long ski season in West Virginia has an estimated economic impact of over $250 million and 5,000 jobs at the resorts and other related companies.
For more information on skiing and snowboarding in West Virginia, go online at www.goskiwv.com.