Snow in high elevations gives skiers opportunity; web cams show conditions
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It’s a tradition to dream of a white Christmas, but at the West Virginia Division of Tourism it’s almost a job requirement.
Even though West Virginia has the longest ski season in the mid-Atlantic region — Thanksgiving through March — tourism officials know a white Christmas and snowy New Year’s Day are real holiday presents. The state’s seven ski areas have projected about 800,000 skiers on the slopes this ski season, with 35 percent of those skiers expected to visit the Mountain State during the Christmas and New Year holidays.
So while holiday travelers might enjoy the mild weather, Amy Goodwin, West Virginia’s commissioner of Tourism, is hoping the forecast of colder temperatures around Christmas Eve and New Year’s weekend in the higher elevations will bring snow and visitors to the ski areas.
“These three weeks are very intense,” Goodwin said of the impact that Christmas and New Year’s ski visits have on the entire winter tourism season.
The seven ski areas include the following:
Canaan Valley Resort at canaanresort.com/winter
Timberline Resort at timberlineresort.com
Snowshoe Mountain Resort at snowshoemtn.com
Winterplace Ski Resort at winterplace.com
Oglebay Resort at ski.oglebay-resort.com
Cross Country Skiing
Elk River Touring Center at ertc.com
Whitegrass at whitegrass.com
“I walk around the office singing “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow,” said Goodwin, adding that her musical demand for snow is constant but apparently lacking in tone: “One employee at the office gave me a pitch pipe.”
A winter sports enthusiast who personally appreciates the outdoor opportunities West Virginia provides and professionally understands the value of a snowy winter season, Goodwin pays close attention to the weather forecast and makes no apologies for her calls for snow.
“This is the meat-and-potatoes part of the ski season,” Goodwin said, explaining that the winter tourism business impacts hotels, restaurants, gasoline stations and many other businesses. “We’re talking about 5,000 jobs and $250 million in financial impact,” she said.
A USA Travel Study by Longwoods International shows West Virginia attracts 25 percent of its visitors in the winter months.
Goodwin, who used Longwoods to gather data on visitors to the state, said many people come to visit family and friends, while many others come for the winter activities. “We draw a lot of families into the state from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida,” she said.
In terms of skiing and winter sports, Goodwin said West Virginia’s mountains are treasures. “We have the most unbelievable opportunities,” she said, explaining that it can be sunny and green in some parts of the state but still have great conditions at the ski areas. “West Virginia ski areas can produce 20 tons of snow an hour, enough to cover 20 football fields with a foot of snow,” she added.
A social media advocate, Goodwin encourages everyone to visit wvtourism.com or goskiwv.com and look on Twitter at #goskiwv or look for gotowv on facebook. “The web cameras show the conditions and the activities,” she said of the live video feeds from the ski areas.
Goodwin said Tourism plans its marketing approach using the Longwoods tourism data, adding that West Virginia is “fist-fighting everyday” to get visitors into the state.
West Virginia tourism has about a $3 million budget, Virginia has $20 million and the regional average is probably around $15 million, according to the commissioner. “So we are doing more with less. That’s that we do in West Virginia,” she said, adding that the social media sites help the state reach more people.
Nearly all West Virginians are less than three hours from one of the seven ski areas, and Goodwin encourages families to visit the slopes this holiday season.
“Skiing is our favorite family thing to do. Everyone can do it,” Goodwin said, “and no one is on their cellphone or saying ‘I’m bored.”’
Thinking back to early family excursions with her husband, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, and their two sons, Goodwin jokingly offered some parental advice: Get a lesson for the children. “It’s easier to have a professional show them,” she said, adding, “Parents know it can be difficult working with your children.”
Goodwin said West Virginia’s ski areas have good ski instructors and lessons often include equipment rental and lift tickets, adding that skiing and tubing in West Virginia is “extremely affordable.”
Canaanresort.com, Timberlineresort.com and Winterplace.com list several packages and specials for beginners, with group lessons starting at $30 an hour. Packages with rental, lift ticket and lessons are also available.