At around 3:45pm on Friday, the 23 of January, we finally lock the door to the house behind us. The car is full of all kinds of winter clothes and paraphernalia. We’re starting the 5 hours long drive to Snowshoe Mountain, West Virginia, where we’ll spend the weekend.
This “mountain” is 4848’ high and the Snowshoe resort is built on top. This is rather unique, as most ski resorts are built in the valley with lifts taking you up to the top of the slopes. Here, it’s the reverse: you first ski down and then the lift brings you back up.
Through the undulating hills of Virginia we make our way to Front Royal, where we leave I-66 to turn to the south on I-81. As usual, the interstate was crowded with 18-wheelers, driving too fast for their size. We’re happy to reach Harrisonburg and our exit onto state roads.
It is dinnertime, when we arrive there and we find a cozy Italian restaurant, “L’Italia”. Harrisonburg is a nice university town. One of Virginia’s well known universities is here: James Madison University. The houses are painted in cheerful colors and most have a wrap around porch, usually with some rocking chairs. I love those kinds of houses, especially when an old couple sits in the chairs, watching the world go by. But it was too cold for that now.
Harrisonburg is also an important town for Mennonites, as it houses Eastern Mennonite University. Along the road warning signs for horse drawn carriages, which mix in with traffic, are posted everywhere. The Mennonites are fascinating to me, maybe because they are followers of the Dutch minister Menno Simonsz.
From Harrisonburg we continued our trip (it was dark by now) through the mountains and after about 10 miles we entered West Virginia. The roads here are very curvy and unfortunately, Saskia’s stomach didn’t do well with that! Thankfully, we brought plastic bags, so she could throw up in one of those. Since this was the second time Saskia got car sick when driving through the mountains, we’ve decided to give her Dramamine from now one, before we take off on a trip through mountainous terrain.
It had started snowing in the meantime and we had only reached the halfway mark (the total distance is 225 miles and we had only covered 120 miles. The roads quickly deteriorated and it was pitch black outside, as the area is uninhabited for miles.
I had visions of our car in the ditch and no help for miles around. Rick did get into a skid, but the “Advance Trac” feature on the van helped him right the car again. We all had our hearts in our throats!
At 9:30pm we finally arrived at Snowshoe. This is an entire ski village with all kinds of chalets and lodges and a lot of fun restaurants, bars and stores. Of course there are also a bunch of ski slopes, a tubing hill and a large swimming pool complex.
We stayed at the Mountain Lodge, located very centrally in a “village” with 4 restaurants and a bunch of stores.
We got an apartment with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a sleep sofa and a kitchen. It was nice and roomy for the five of us, but rather old and not in the best shape. The beds slept well though, so the mattresses were newer. We looked out on the parking lot, but we weren’t planning to spend much time in the room anyway.
Soon after we’d unpacked the car we went to bed. The wind howled around the building and it was snowing quite hard. It was a cozy feeling to be in our warm bed!
The next morning we ate breakfast at one of the restaurants. There I showed my assertive Dutch nature, as we had to wait for a table, even though there were empty tables for 6. Ok, fine. But then another family with 5 people walked in and, when they pointed at one of those tables, got seated right in front of us, without a word to us! I made my displeasure known and the girls were quite rude in response, but we were seated within 5 minutes after that.
We had breakfast at that restaurant twice more (there was no other sit down breakfast restaurant nearby) and there were service problems every day (not just for us, others were affected too). The food was very good, though.
After breakfast, it was time to go rent ski’s for Kai and Saskia and a snowboard for Katja. They would all have lessons in the afternoon. Rick too, though he’s an advanced skier, he wanted to hear from a pro what he can improve on.
Unfortunately, snowboarding wasn’t a success for Katja. She found it too difficult. So she traded the snowboard back in for ski’s, on which she feels very confident.
While the kids had their ski lesson, Rick and I went to the little supermarket in the wind and snow. I was going to walk, but it was too cold outside! In the pictures you can see, that all you could see of Kai and Saskia’s faces are their eyes through the snow goggles!
After all the skiing we ate at The Junction restaurant again. This restaurant is decorated with parts of an old train station and had a cozy atmosphere, with much wood and a fireplace in the middle. The menu was interesting too. I had tuna steak with cucumber salad. And for dessert a berry cobbler, my favorite dessert in winter!
That evening we wanted to try to go to the swimming pool complex, but it was so bitterly cold and we were very tired from being outside all day, so we decided to relax in front of the tv instead.
On Sunday morning Rick, Katja and Saskia went skiing, while Kai and I took the resort’s shuttlebus to the Nordic Center. This turned out to be a small wooden cabin in the middle of the woods, a beautiful environment! We rented snowshoes and walked in the deep snow for 40 minutes, taking in the beautiful nature. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any animals, much to our disappointment.
Around noon we had to change apartments, because the one we were in was rented out for the third night. The housekeeping department helped to make it very smooth, so it took a minimal amount of time out of our day.
The new apartment was bigger (with a fireplace!) and had a wonderful view of the slopes. I took a picture of Rick, Katja and Kai on ski’s from the deck of the apartment.
Those 3 went skiing in the afternoon. Saskia had had enough of that, so she and I took a shuttlebus to the “Silver Creek”, another part of the complex, where the tubing hill was. Here we glided down the hill on enormous tubes, we loved it! It had started snowing again and was quite cold, so after an hour we went back.
For dinner we went to the Foxfire Grille, a cozy barbecue restaurant. At this resort they know how to create an atmosphere in restaurants! Again there was a fireplace and rustic tables and chairs. The menu had many barbecue dishes. Rick and I ordered the “Redneck Surf and Turf”. This was a large pork chop with fruit sauce and fried oysters, delicious!
For dessert the kids had S’mores, they got a little flame at the table to roast their marshmallows. Very cozy and campfire like.
When we were done with dinner the snow had changed to ice and again we decided to cancel our plans to go swimming. It’ll have to be for another time.
The weather forecast for Monday sounded bad, especially a lot of ice, so just to be sure, we booked an extra night, because the hotels were quite full.
In the morning it turned out it was thawing and the freezing rain had stopped. On the Weather Channel we heard that our area had received 7 inches of snow, but that there would be a lull in the precipitation until Tuesday morning. So we decided to go home, as originally planned.
After our final breakfast at the Junction we checked out and started on the long road home.
A few miles down the road it was below freezing again outside, which gave us a beautiful view, because the clouds were hanging low and the trees were covered with frost. Because of the ice the roads were quite slippery, so Rick definitely had to drive slowly.
Along the road we passed run down white houses with porches in the town of “Cass”. There was also an old station with old trains, old glory. It’s situated beautifully on the Greenbrier river, that was half frozen. Picturesque, but we wondered what people that live there do all day! It’s so remote, beautiful nature, but otherwise so boring!
A little while later we passed the enormous telescope of the National Radio Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia (http://www.nrao.edu/directions/greenbank/). That was very impressive!
The landscape was beautiful, totally snowed under and with the traditional red barns. Occasionally they were white barns and sometimes wooden. Some with silo’s. There were a lot of black cows/bulls out in the pastures. Some farms had sheep (with black heads) and goats.
None of this was visible on the way out, as we traveled in the dark then. What’s also remarkable in West-Virginia and less photogenic, are the rusty mobile homes, old, rusty cars, old refrigerators, washing machines etc, that people have standing in their “yard”. People often live in trailer camps too. You can tell it’s overall a rather poor state.
But there is always money for beautiful churches. We came by gorgeous little churches, white with a steeple, a red door and beautiful stained glass windows. I had asked Rick to stop for pictures too often already, but oh, how I would have liked to have photographed one of those churches!
We drove for miles through uninhabited woods, first the Monongahela National Forest and then the George Washington National Forest, where the roads were hardly cleaned. They were so bad even, that a car in front of us didn’t make it up the hill. Thankfully, Rick was able to pull past them.
The moment we crossed the Virginia border, the roads were clean and stayed clean till we got home. We look back on a fun ski vacation and are already planning the next one!