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I traveled up the winding, narrow roads of Route 92 giving way to Route 66 with growing anticipation and as I got stuck behind a "flat-lander", impatience. I headed to Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort (West Virginia) for a day of skiing this past Saturday. My first of the season.
Snowshoe was my backyard as a child, I grew up just 30 minutes from the windy, often snow capped summit, an elevation that tops out at 4848. I've traveled that road in every form of transportation; a school bus, SUV, car, and ATV. But somehow the road was different, it was clear of snow to begin with, which is a rarity in mid-January, but there was something else, I couldn't quite grasp.
Perhaps it was the fact that my instantaneous frustration with a tourist who didn't know the mountainous roads disappeared as I was entertained by the curves and spectacular scenery. Scenery that I hadn't taken the time to appreciate in years past as I raced up the mountain.
As I forced my feet into my ski boots (I ski with boots that are a size and a half too small, so I can get more aggressive turns) and looped my lift ticket into my ski jacket, I again got the feeling that I was in a new place. I ran to the snow (as best as one can in ski boots), snapped my feet into my bindings and launched myself off "Widowmaker", my favorite slope at Snowshoe, when realization struck.
Only then as I was traveling over the man-made snow, listening to the chatter of my skis over icy spots that the the Nelson Mandella quote, "There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered," reverberated through my head. Of course, on a much less momentous and world-altering level, but yet, I was experiencing change.
The vibrant, cloudless sky, the bright sun softening the gritty snow, the ice-tipped spruces dripping water into the rushing streams, and the wind-chapped, smiling faces greeted me with an awareness I'd never experienced.
Snowshoe is an incredibly beautiful and natural playground, this I knew, but I was finally experiencing it with all my senses.
Feeling very focused and confident, I finally skied the storied "Cupp Run" also known as the Western Territory for the first time in my 21-year career of skiing Snowshoe Mountain. I had allowed the slope to take on a mythic presence in my mind. A mixture of shear cliffs, rugged moguls, and out-of-control-skier stories kept me off the slope.
Instead what I found was an appropriately challenging, quad-burning, mountain-view fantasy slope. It's the longest slope on the mountain along with it's twin, Shay's Revenge at 1.5 miles and is classified as a black diamond. Needless to say, it is not beginner territory. But if you're an experience, confident skier, ride the Powder Monkey Lift, pop your skis off to cross the road and lock back in for a slope that is steep in places and affords incredible views of the Appalachian Mountains and rewards your efforts with a small restaurant lift-side that serves beer, soups, and general lunch fare.
My day was rewarding. I attempted to tally the number of runs I made but lost track so my best guess is 16 runs in a 6 hour period. I like to make the most of my days on the mountain and am still sore from the experience but am looking forward to heading back up in two weeks to take in more of the natural beauty and improve more not as only as a skier, but someone who lives in the moment and enjoys every second of this beautiful life.
Snowshoe Mountain is about 150 miles from the Leisure Publishing Offices in Roanoke. Visit www.SnowshoeMtn.com for more information on lift tickets and lodging.