Snow quality, apres ski, amenities, in-house transportation, excellent working staff
Crowded, expensive, arrogant senior management, dry county
As far as snow quality, there is no match in the Mid Atlantic. Snowshoe is a sprawling upside-down mountain where the resort facilities are but totally located on top of the mountain. At almost 5,000 feet, It is one of the highest ski mountains in the East, with a higher chair altitude than any peak to its North. Still, this doesn't translate into a larger vertical. The largest vertical drop at 1,500 feet, is on its Western Territory with only two top-to-bottom runs. The rest of Snowshoe's vertical elevation is an average of 800 feet. Still, the quality of the orographically generated snow on its slopes can compare to New England.
Going to Snowshoe, it pays to prepare. Its altitude translates into much colder weather than anywhere else in the Mid Atlantic and comparable to Northern New England. Early January temperatures of -15 to -20 F are not uncommon, accompanied by strong Westerly winds that will chill anyone. All the lodging on top of the mountain is made up of privately owned condominium complexes stretching for a mile and a half, with two distinct village complexes anchoring the resort. There is one inn at the base of the mountain, six miles away. As a result, there is a wide variety of accommodations. Snowshoe has an outstanding shuttle service, allowing for vacationers to park their cars and forget about turning on the car's ignition until it's time to leave. All the condos are fully equipped; vacationers may save money by bringing their own food and cooking at the condo. Libations can be a problem. Although the resort's 11 bars have a full compliment of liquor, it is for consumption on the premises only. Pocahontas County is unfortunately, still dry. As a result, the nearest place for stocking on wine or liquor is about 30 miles away in Marlinton WV, if coming from the South on Hwy 219, and all the way up in Elkins WV if arriving from the North. There are no full service stations nearby, so bring a little extra supply of anti-freeze just in case. The nearest gasoline and diesel fuel station is six miles away. There is a small convenience store located just off the center village complex with an amazingly wide variety of staples.
The restaurant facilities range from the almost inedible at The Junction, located in the Central Village, to the outstanding at The Embers, located at the South Village's new Soaring Eagle complex. Other places worth visiting are the Fox Fire in the Central Village, a new Taste of Asia bistro also in the Central Village, and a passable Italian restaurant. The Cheat Mountain Pizza Company serves a wide variety of pizzas and Italian food. Six miles from the resort, to the South, the Elk River Touring Center has a truly outstanding restaurant with native trout fillet on the menu. As well, the Brazen Head Inn, six miles to the North, serves an outstanding Irish-infusion faire accompanied by some of the best mountain music in the US. On three-day weekends, the best bet is to cook at the condos. Unless you show up early or make reservations, waiting lines can be up to two hours long.
One of the best parts of the resort is the spectacular views. Slope side, the views are excellent. The units facing the West, however, offer some of the most magnificent sunsets in the Eastern US.
The runs at Snowshoe are good to very good except on holiday weekends when the resort can run at capacity. The Western Territory's two runs are served by a high-speed quad and is quite under utilized, leading to almost no lines. Lower Shays in the Western Territory is a 55 degree double-black diamond that can challenge almost anyone. The main face at Snowshoe is made up of numerous 800-foot drop runs starting from the very easy Yew Pine, to the challenging Knot Bumper. Down a long access green run, the new Soaring Eagle (formerly Widow Maker) lift is a new high speed quad that leads to four black diamonds including a gladed run. This terrain is seldom overcrowded also. To the North, Silver Creek is a pleasure, with 800-foot drop, almost never crowded runs.
The resort's staff is absolutely magnificent and most of them will go out of their way to help you. The resort's senior management, however, is a drawback to the enjoyment of the place. Snowshoe recently abrogated most of the benefits for volunteers, unlike other resorts that incentivize volunteer staff participation. Complaints and suggestions often fall on deaf ears on the part of management, leading to further frustration on the part of the staff. Sometimes it appears that the staff makes the vacation enjoyable despite, not because, of their management. One indication is that the best restaurants are those not owned by Snowshoe.
Overall, with a little bit of planning, Snowshoe can be a dream vacation. Unless a local, it is not designed as a one-day excursion, but a destination.