Snow Quality, Friendly Staff, Apres-Ski
Lack of Expert Terrain, Short Runs, Small Room
I’m going to start by saying that I almost never ski-and-stay at a self-contained resort. The notion of parking my car and not moving it for four days is both a novelty and also prevents me from spreading my money around. I almost always never stay in resort accommodations and normally try to go to an area where I can hit up several resorts on my vacation. I have nothing against those of you who like to move into a condo and ski the same resort for several days, I’m just saying that’s usually not for me. Due to its remoteness, Snowshoe doesn’t really allow for that sort of thing, and for two years I had been hearing wonderful things about the resort, so I shifted gears and booked four nights at the Allegheny Springs condos, slopeside, at Snowshoe.
Since my non-skiing wife was accompanying me on this trip, I purposefully chose the accommodations close to the spa, hot-tubs, and other amenities so she wouldn’t have to go all over the place to do something. As it turned out, she slept until 10:30 every morning and confined herself to the room reading, catching up with social networking sites, and napping on the couch. I didn’t object…it was her vacation too.
Getting to Snowshoe was an experience in itself. Coming there from the northeast is probably the longest way to get there. Just looking at the maps, I know why Snowshoe can draw from Ohio, Virginia, and the Carolinas with more ease than it can from the Mid-Atlantic. After leaving the Interstate in Strasburg, VA we were on two lane roads for all but a short stretch where WV-55 is being turned into a freeway. From Strasburg it was 3.5 hours to Snowshoe. This was the route suggested to me by the reservationist when I phoned the day before to check on the best route since I had been told Highway 66 was prone to high snow drifts and was periodically closed. (That was the way Yahoo Maps and my GPS both said I should go.) Thankfully I only needed to throw my truck into 4WD once when crossing the high areas on the Pocahontas County line and then again when we actually got onto the Snowshoe access road. Like Vermont, the roads to the resorts get plowed frequently.
Check-In was easy and the desk agents, Wes and Morgan, were helpful and very friendly. Prior to coming I had made arrangements with the Ski Patrol to procure discounted tickets, which I was told I would have to get at The Depot. To my pleasure, Wes was able to print out my tickets right at the Allegheny Springs desk, thus saving me from going halfway across the resort the next day. So far, so good!
I was a bit disappointed with the size of the Junior Studio Room we chose. While it was well apportioned with a two-burner stove, a small refrigerator, toaster, and a full size microwave, I could see no way how four people could stay and function in the room as it was advertised. The dining area was a tiny against-the-wall bar shoved into the entry nook, there was very little closet space, and no room in the cupboards for food storage. There was about 12 inches of space between the wall and the side of the queen sized bed and no end table or other storage space on that side of the bed. The bathroom was too large and the designers could have easily shaved three feet out of the bathroom and given the main room more space. Likewise, I have no idea where we would have put the trunk/coffee table that contained the bedding for the pull-out couch if we did have four in our room. We barely had enough room for the two of us. Our room was available for sale at $144,000. Not a bad investment, but I wouldn’t use it as a vacation place on a regular basis. I would instead allow the sales team at Intrawest rent it out to unsuspecting suckers like me.
Thankfully, the remainder of the Allegheny Springs complex was superb, and since I was there to ski, I didn’t mind not spending a lot of time in my room. The courtyard between the two wings contained an outdoor heated pool with a connected hot tub (the cooler hot tub) and a separate hot-tub which was much warmer and thus more popular. Nevertheless, families could be found swimming in the large pool even while the air temperature hovered in the low 20’s. Full size storage lockers easily capable of holding four sets of skis and several ski bags were located in the lower level of the condo complex adjacent to the ski shop and a hallway lead directly out to the slopes near the Ballhooter lift. This was extremely convenient. Similarly, one could exit stage left and walk right into the main village complex where shops and dining were available, much as they are at other Intrawest resorts. It was very Stratton-esque.
Another reason I chose Snowshoe was because of the massive amount of snow that had fallen this season on the area. The Poconos had only reaped the rewards of one really good snowfall so far and Vermont had suffered rain and poor conditions all season. I witnessed that first hand in January and further calls to the North Country had not yielded a good prognosis. Snowshoe, much to my happiness, was covered in snow! My first run down the Blue-Square Ballhooter trail confirmed how good the snow was. There was no way it had seen the groomer the night before. There were too many tracks, but yet the snow was still loose and I was making effortless turns. Then I came to the bottom…a bit more sooner than I expected. The promo materials put forth by the Intrawest Ministry of Propaganda state the Vertical Drop is 1500 feet. There was no freaking way what I just skied had that much drop. So I continued to ski around the resort, enjoying the wonderful conditions on the trails near the Soaring Eagle lift. The Sawmill Glades were kinda pre-fab glades, but good for the average Snowshoe clientele. Camp 99 was the most challenging slope I found all day, and it wasn’t much of a challenge for someone who spent six years skiing the major resorts of Vermont. I began the first day at 9:30am and by 2:30 had pretty much skied everything at the main resort area except the terrain park and a green trail I wasn’t going to bother with. I still had yet to find anything of considerable length or anything with a high degree of difficulty. The snow conditions, however, remained excellent throughout the day.
Once back in the hotel room I fired up the computer and logged onto Google Earth. Just as I had expected, Google Earth put the top of the Ballhooter lift at 4758’ and the base at 4072’. You wanna do the math? No? OK, I’ll save you the trouble. It’s 686’! Further playing with Google Earth revealed that the slopes on the Western Territory section were much longer (1426’) but still short of the purported 1500’.
Luckily the Western Territory was on my schedule for the next day, but first I wanted to hit the Silver Creek area a mile away from the main resort. I started late the next day, not getting out of my hotel until almost 10am and then I had to wait for the shuttle and spend some time on the bus. Upon arrival I easily cruised Robertson’s Run (a Green) and then rode the lift to the top of Fox Chase in the anticipation of heading to the couple of Black-Diamonds that were on the far skier’s left. Much to my chagrin, I found the connectors were roped off and I was confined to Fox Chase. Did I miss something? Perplexed as to how to access the other slopes I asked the lift attendant who informed me they would open those trails around noon. Noon? I remarked, “It’s barely 10:30!” So I proceeded to ski the rest of Silver Creek. I relegated myself to staying on the Cascade chair except for one ride on the Cubb Run lift. The massive 395’ vertical drop kept me occupied for about an hour and I quickly polished off the five other open runs several times over before I ducked into the snack shop at the base and leisurely sipped a Seattle’s Best coffee. At 11:45 I took the chair back up to the top of Fox Run and waited again for a bit before I descended to the crossover, which by now was finally open. The other two dozen skiers and riders who were at Silver Creek did the same thing. I was happy to find fresh snow since it had been snowing all night, but again, the length and grade of the trail weren’t anything remarkable. I took three runs on Flying Eagle and two on Bear Claw before I decided to head over to the Western Territory.
The shuttle arrived soon after I got to the stop and the ride to the top of the Territory area was quick. I decided to first try Cupp Run in spite of the warning from the departing guest that it was windy and I would be cold. Surprisingly, Cupp Run was actually a good run. While the snow here wasn’t as quality as it was in other parts of the resort, nonetheless it was not icy and the length of the piste was commendable. There were some longer dropping sections and a few short flat spots along the trail which made for a nice variety. I had the quad to myself on the way up. It was mid-week. The traffic was low and I was fine with that. Next was Shay’s Revenge. The upper section was not remarkable. The snow was great, but there wasn’t anything particularly hard, then came a long flat spot which led to the mogul area. The moguls are signed Double-Black. It was not a particularly long section but I still haven’t mastered skiing bumps on telemarks, so to me it was the most challenging slope I found. Had it been groomed out I would have dropped that section in two turns…no problem. It wasn’t big or steep. I played on these two slopes for an hour or so and decide to head back to the condo around 3:00pm.
My third day started out with a run down Grabhammer (a Black Diamond) and a lift ride on the Powder Monkey lift with the intention of hopping the road and hitting the Western Territory again. Instead, noting the amount of loose snow under the lift, hit that instead and was very happy I did. While not steep, the Choker (another diamond) was rather fun and now it was time to head over to the Western Territory. I spent an hour and half over there before returning again to the main Snowshoe area where I proceeded again to ski Sawmill, Camp 99, and Soaring Eagle several times. As usual, I skipped lunch and skied through the noon hour rarely waiting more than one chair to load the lift. Short runs and faster lifts meant a lot of slope time and by 2:30 I was bored once again. Thus ended my skiing time at Snowshoe.
While there we dined at the Hot Dog place that featured Taco Hot Dogs as well as a deep-fried PB&J sandwich sundae…totally awesome grub. A Taste of Asia had excellent food but the service was lacking. The Junction was good, well-priced, but not spectacular. The Foxfire Grill however was the best ski-trip dining experience I’ve had in a long time. Our waiter, Paul, was extremely attentive and very prompt. My rack of ribs were excellent, my wife’s salmon was delicious (I tried it) and for dessert we had DIY S’mores. We were given a basket of S’mores fixin’s and a small metal firepot with which we toasted the marshmallows on. This was hands-down the coolest dessert I think I ever had in a restaurant. Paul admitted that it is very popular and when they run out of an ingredient there is a small revolt among both the staff and the patrons.
In spite of the shorter-than-expected trails, I had a wonderful time and would return if I was running a trip with a large group of intermediate skiers who wanted a vacation that involved skiing…but maybe not a “ski trip.” The snow conditions were excellent but Snowshoe is at best a beginner-to-intermediate resort well suited for families, couples, and college kids who only get to ski a couple days a year.