West Virginia cranks up the thrills in winter. Downhill skiing. Cross-country skiing. Ice skating. Snow tubing. Sleigh rides. You can even bounce through the forest on an ATV with snow flurries and mountain views as your backdrop. If it’s a wintertime adventure, it’s on tap in the Mountain State.
But what makes West Virginia almost heaven? The hospitality. From Wheeling to Snowshoe to Winterplace, folks are happy to share the state’s many outdoor riches.
Whether getting out to enjoy snow sports or cuddling up in a cabin, West Virginia is a winter wonderland © West Virginia Tourism
Basecamps for winter adventure
Snowshoe Mountain: High-octane thrills for daredevils
From Ballhooter to Widowmaker, the names of Snowshoe’s ski runs recall Cheat Mountain’s wild days as a logging and railroad hub, when dangerous jobs and tough machines earned evocative nicknames. Today, the mountain and its thick forests are an epicenter for outdoor fun. With 60 trails and five terrain parks, plus a whopping 180 inches of annual snowfall, Snowshoe – the largest ski resort in the state – earns its regional kudos.
What sets Snowshoe apart? Its full menu of adventures. Four-wheeler tours bounce across the backcountry while a dozen slopes stay open for night skiing. Sleigh rides, snowmobile tours, a heated outdoor waterslide, and other family-friendly adventures abound. The eight-lane tubing park goes ‘galactic’ at night, with multi-color LED lights bringing the cosmic bling.
Cabins, condos, and lodge rooms are on offer for overnight stays. Anchoring the mountaintop Village – and just steps from its many restaurants and bars – Allegheny Springs is a convenient launchpad for post-adventure conviviality. And ski deals? The famed Ikon Pass, sold from spring through early December, offers unlimited skiing at 15 US destinations. And one last tip – the multi-colored sunsets from the western ridgeline may be your favorite memory.
Canaan Valley Resort State Park boasts 47 trails for skiers and snowboarders © Cavan Images / Getty Images
Canaan Valley Resort State Park: Where snow tubers live their best lives
Snow tubers, hold tight for an extended ride at Canaan Valley Resort, where the powdery run drops on…and on…and on. Stretching nearly a quarter-mile, the multi-lane snow tube course at Canaan Valley is the longest in the Mid-Atlantic. Best part? No trudging back up the hill for another ride. Just hop aboard the “magic carpet” for an easy glide to the top. The Allegheny Mountains and the high-elevation Canaan Valley provide the scenic backdrop for ice skaters here, while high-elevation forests cast a captivating spell along 22 miles of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails. For skiers and snowboarders, forty-seven trails await.
Cabins and cottages feature wood-burning fireplaces, while lodge rooms flash a bit of modern style with bright décor, striking prints, and paintings of outdoor scenes. The resort is the perfect retreat for city dwellers, as it’s only 180 miles from Washington, DC, and 145 miles from Pittsburgh.
Winterplace Ski Resort: Calling families, newbies, and night skiers
Got a passel of kids? Or a group of novice skiers? Then pull off I-77 for a no-stress day on the slopes at Winterplace in southern West Virginia. The Skiwee and Snow Explorers classes will have younger kids schussing down the 1.25-mile Panorama Trail in no time. New skiers can appreciate the mountain’s 603-foot drop, which isn’t as dizzying as the 1000 foot plunges at resorts further north. And the ten convenient lifts whisk groups to the park’s 90+ skiable acres in a flash. More than 3/4s of the trails are rated beginner or intermediate, and once you’ve got your skis under you, enjoy skiing under the stars on the 26 runs open for night skiing. Still not sure about skis? With 14 lanes, the snow tubing park is the largest in the state.
Bunk beds are available for groups at on-site cabins, but your best bet for overnight accommodations is twenty minutes north at the Resort at Glade Springs. It has a variety of rooms across its inn, manor houses, and multi-room lodges.
Timberline Mountain is a must-visit destination for avid skiers and snowboarders © digidreamgrafix / Getty Images
Timberline Mountain: Revamped hotspot for skiers and snowboarders
Still aglow following a $10 million makeover in 2020, Timberline impresses guests with a modernized lodge and two new lifts, including a high-speed six-person lift, the first in the state. The resort keeps its focus on skiers and snowboarders, with a 1000-foot vertical drop and 36 trails across 91 acres. Intermediate and expert skiers will find lots to love here, while beginners can test their skills on the Salamander. At two miles, it’s the longest run in the Southeast. Snow Squall Terrain Park welcomes beginners while Thunder Snow kicks it up a notch with sculpted jumps and technical rails.
The Lodge has twenty rooms, but there are plenty of overnight options ten miles north in the adjoining towns of Thomas and Davis. These include the Cooper House Bed & Cocktail and its sister property, the lovably retro Billy Motel. For apres-ski, make your way to Mountain State Brewing, then see who’s playing at the Purple Fiddle.
Oglebay: Low-key winter sports and a dazzling light show
Wheeling’s sprawling Oglebay Park is a four-season fun center. In winter, the Nutting Winter Sports Complex keeps active visitors happy with skiing and snowboarding on an adjacent slope. With one lift and a low-stress 168-foot vertical drop, the run works well for younger kids and those seeking a quick hour or two of exercise. Snow tubing is also offered, and ice skaters can take a few turns on the rink in nearby Wheeling Park. The big draw in winter? The Winter Festival of Lights. This six-mile drive across the park passes 90 attractions illuminated by more than one million lights (Nov-Jan). Stay overnight in Wilson Lodge or one of the cottages or estate houses.
Hit the trails: Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, and ATV adventuring
White Grass Ski Touring Center
The backdrop brings the magic at White Grass, where more than 37 miles of cross-country skiing trails unfurl along the Canaan Valley and climb forested slopes, reaching a high point of 4463 feet at Weiss Knob. The view on a perfect winter day? Snow-covered trees, the gentle Allegheny Mountains, and bright blue skies. Twelve warming shelters with snacks dot the course. Snowshoeing is permitted on the trails, as long as you stay to the side. Another high point is the on-site White Grass Cafe, a cozy natural foods cafe that’s considered a destination for dining for its sandwiches, soups, and housemade desserts. Lessons, tours, and rentals are also available.
Elk River Inn & Cabins
Touring adventures are a bit more intimate – and wild – at 40-year-old Elk River, a lodge-and-cabin complex eleven miles from Snowshoe. Tucked in the vast Monongahela National Forest, it’s an excellent alternative for outdoor adventure if you’ve had your fill of downhill skiing and busy slopes. There are 3.2 miles of trails near the lodge and another 16 miles off Hwy 150. Be ready to drop off the grid – there is no cell service on the trails. Rentals, lessons, and an area map are available on-site. Stop by for an update on trail conditions, too.
The namesake waterfall at Blackwater Falls State Park is exceptionally pretty after a snow © EJ-J / Getty Images
Blackwater Falls State Park
The star attraction at this state park in the Highlands? Amber-colored cascades that drop 57 feet into a tree-lined gorge. Icicles and snow-covered rocks flank the rushing falls in winter, creating a dramatic winter scene. But it’s the sledding that brings the big wows – at least from the kids. The wide and powdery glide through the forest here stretches more than a quarter of a mile, making it the longest sled run on the east coast. The return to the top on their Magic Carpet, which rises through a narrow tunnel of trees, keeps the fun running full-time. Sleds are provided with a ticket purchase.
Ten miles of trails are also open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, with rentals available. Spend the night in the park’s mid-century lodge or a fully furnished cabin in the woods. For an apres sled, head to Hellbender Burritos for green chili and a hefty burrito (currently take-out only) and a Holy Citra! Double IPA at Stumptown Ales.
Hatfield-McCoy Trail System
A thousand-mile network of all-terrain vehicle (ATV) trails are open year-round for rugged backcountry adventuring in southern West Virginia – site of the legendary Hatfield & McCoy family feud. With snow and ice, winter riding can be challenging on the most difficult trails, but there are plenty of easy routes to tackle in colder months. There are ten trail systems within the network. The Pinnacle Creek trail system has pretty views of the Appalachians, while trails in the Buffalo Mountain and Devil Anse systems swing by historic sites related to the feud and the Coal Wars. For information about permits and ATV rental locations, visit www.trailsheaven.com. There is a Hatfield & McCoy Trails Welcome Center in Julian, twenty miles south of Charleston.
Cass, West Virginia, is full of beautiful nature and scenery – especially in Winter © digidreamgrafix / Shutterstock
Winter adventures at scenic locales
When there is snow on the ground, the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs celebrates the season with horse-drawn sleigh rides – complete with warm blankets, of course. Another fun winter activity at the historic resort? Ice skating on the new outdoor rink. The rinkside fire pit will warm you up after that last triple-axel. Sleigh rides and the ice-skating rink are open to guests and the public.
Cross-country skiers searching for grand views can explore the woodsy hiking trails at Pipestem Resort State Park then unwind on-site at McKeever Lodge or one of the 26 cabins – equipped with wifi and fireplaces. The lodge overlooks the south rim of the Bluestone River Gorge and is located 35 miles south of Beckley. Fans of winter hiking can follow eight miles of trails in nearby Bluestone State Park then get cozy inside one of the park’s fourteen year-round cabins. All are fully furnished and feature modern kitchens and stone fireplaces.
The quiet winter beauty of the 78-mile Greenbrier River Trail is good for the soul. This multi-use rail trail connects the outskirts of Lewisburg with Cass, a former logging town at the base of Cheat Mountain in Pocahontas County. After a snowfall, the trail and its bridges and tunnels are a photogenic wonderland for cross-country skiers and snowshoers. Bed down at the white-columned General Lewis Inn in Lewisburg or one of the restored Company Cabins in Cass Scenic Railroad State Park.