Best of the Blue Ridge 2020

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The sun rises over Grandfather Mountain. Photo by Best of the Blue Ridge photographer winner Leslie Restivo.

DISCLAIMER: We are not affiliated with any company offering plaques or trophies. If you are contacted by people offering this, it is a scam. All winners can contact BRO for a certificate free of charge.

2020 Readers’ Choice Awards

Our region is full of inspiring athletes, cultural hubs, and wild and wonderful spots to explore. In our ninth annual Best of the Blue Ridge Awards, we asked you to cast your votes for your favorite places, races, and faces in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. Read on to learn about who you picked in this year’s contest.

Businesses

Environmental Organization

Southern Environmental Law Center (Charlottesville, Va.)

Across the Southeast, the Southern Environmental Law Center is fighting to protect the water, air, mountains, forests, and coasts that you enjoy. From advocating for cleaner energy resources to opposing offshore drilling, they are currently working on more than 200 cases across six states. 

Runners-Up

—MountainTrue (Asheville, N.C.)
—James River Association (Richmond, Va.)

Locally Made Gear

Photo courtesy of Farm to Feet

Farm to Feet (Mount Airy, N.C.)

Socks for hiking. Socks for running. Socks for fishing. Socks for wearing around the house. From the materials to the workers, Farm to Feet socks are 100-percent made in the United States. With the Appalachian Trail and Mountains-to-Sea Trail Collections, a portion of the proceeds go to the organizations that help maintain those trails for future users. 

Runners-Up

—Skylark Hammocks (Waynesboro, Va.)
—XOSKIN (Frederick, Md.)

Summer Camp/Program

Camp Drift-a-Bit (Fayetteville, W.Va.)

Fayetteville is a recreation hotspot, bringing in climbers, whitewater kayakers, and hikers from all over. With so much to do in the surrounding area, the staff at the New River Gorge Learning Cooperative recognized they were in a unique location for a summer camp.

“We realized that while there are some camp opportunities in the area, we live in an outdoor mecca and we don’t really have a lot of outdoor adventure summer opportunities for kids who are local,” said Veronica Crosier, the camp’s first director. “Many families bring their kids here from out of state for vacation, but we realized there is a huge gap in opportunities for kids growing up right here in West Virginia.” 

The weeklong program introduces kids to activities like rock climbing, mountain biking, gardening, and animal identification. As the program continues to grow, there are plans to add an outdoor survival camp for a more intense experience. Full and partial scholarships are available for students in need.  

Runners-Up

—Adventure Treks (Hendersonville, N.C.)
—Peak Experiences and Passages Adventure Camp (Richmond, Va.)

Educational Outdoor Rec Program

Photo courtesy of WVU Tech University Relations

WVU Tech Adventure Recreation Management (Beckley, W.Va.)

A degree in adventure recreation management from WVU Tech is about more than the technical skills students learn to go into guiding rock climbing, mountain biking, or whitewater paddling. It’s about building managers and investing in the next generation of outdoor leaders. 

“Where we are is world class,” said professor Dave Bernier. “Our classroom ends up being in those places. We’re climbing in the New River Gorge. We’re working with different whitewater operations on the New River and Gauley River.” 

On top of their coursework, students are required to complete an internship to help them get real world experience in the industry. 

Runners-Up

—Blue Sky Fund (Richmond, Va.)
—Muddy Sneakers (Brevard, N.C.)

Outdoor Club 

Trail Sisters (Asheville, N.C.)

Trail Sisters started to encourage women to get out on the trail, whether it’s hiking, running, or wogging (walk/jogging). Although it’s a national organization, the Asheville chapter hosts two meet-ups a month for women to get together and hit the trails as a group. Mindy Bayless, one of the chapter’s co-leaders, said they are expanding to offer volunteer opportunities like doing trail maintenance and working aid stations. 

Runners-Up

—Champion Brewery Run Club (Charlottesville, Va.)
—Outdoor Access (Richmond, Va.)

Outdoor Startup

Alleghany Outdoors (Covington, Va.)

Since opening their doors in the spring of 2019, Alleghany Outdoors offers several ways to get outside and enjoy the Jackson River. Take to the water by kayak, canoe, raft, or tube with a variety of trip lengths. Rent a bike to ride the Jackson River Scenic Trail, a converted railroad bed of gravel that follows the river. Take advantage of their shuttles to get back to your car. 

Runners-Up

—High Tor Gear Exchange (Charlottesville, Va.)
—Namaste in Nature (Asheville, N.C.)

Yoga Studio

New River Yoga (Fayetteville, W.Va.)

Located in downtown Fayetteville, New River Yoga offers a wide range of classes for all abilities. Take your practice further with workshops, private sessions, and group events. 

Runners-Up

—In Balance Yoga Studio (Blacksburg, Va.)
— Asheville Community Yoga (Asheville, N.C.)

Spa/Healing Center

Photo courtesy of Travel Berkeley Springs

Berkeley Springs (Berkeley Springs, W.Va.)

At the center of town, the warm springs of Berkeley Springs State Park have drawn visitors to the area for centuries. At a constant 74 degrees, visitors can enjoy the water year-round. Beyond the state park, this spa town features an additional half dozen spas that use the same waters for a full range of treatments, including saunas, bathhouses, and massages.

Runners-Up

—Wintergreen Spa (Wintergreen, Va.)
—The Spa at Massanutten (Massanutten, Va.)

Mind/Body Studio

Gaia Den (Princeton, W.Va.)

From gentle yoga and meditation groups to Reiki sessions and massages, the Gaia Den is a place for healing, reflection, and gathering. 

Runners-Up

—barre.[d] studio (Charlottesville, Va.)
—Blacksburg Pilates & Fitness Studio (Blacksburg, Va.)

Inn/Bed & Breakfast

WildManDan Beercentric BnB (Afton, Va.)

Kick back and relax in comfort at the WildManDan BnB. Enjoy delicious farm-to-table cooking, a welcome beer tasting, and a fire pit. While you’re there, sign up for a class on how to judge beer on Saturday mornings. 

Runners-Up

—Inn at Gristmill Square (Warm Springs, Va.)
—Iris Inn (Waynesboro, Va.)

Budget-Friendly Lodging

Buffalo Trail Cabins (Bluefield, W.Va.)

Whether you’re looking for a cabin, treehouse, full hook-up RV site, or a campsite, Buffalo Trail has something to fit your budget and your adventure. 

Runners-Up

—Hotel Floyd (Floyd, Va.)
—Massanutten Resort (Massanutten, Va.)

Luxury Lodging

Homestead (Hot Springs, Va.)

The Omni Homestead Resort offers an exclusive getaway with luxurious accommodations, spa treatments, skiing, golf, ziplining, and more. 

Runners-Up

—Greenbrier Resort (White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.)
—Lafayette Flats (Fayetteville, W.Va.)

Outdoor Shop 

Water Stone Outdoors (Fayetteville, W.Va.)

For over 20 years, the adventure enthusiasts at Water Stone Outdoors have been providing visitors to the New River Gorge area with gear and advice to get the most out of their trip. 

Runners-Up

—Rockfish Gap Outfitters (Waynesboro, Va.)
—Great Outdoor Provision Co. (N.C. and Va.)

Bike Shop

Photo courtesy of Blue Ridge Cyclery

Blue Ridge Cyclery (Charlottesville, Va.)

With its two locations, Blue Ridge Cyclery can handle all of your cycling needs, from rentals and repairs to fitting you for your next ride. Their mobile service will meet you out on the road if you need a quick fix.

Runners-Up

—New River Bikes (Fayetteville, W. Va.)
—The Hub (Pisgah Forest, N.C.)

Running Shop

Ragged Mountain Running (Charlottesville, Va.)

Ragged Mountain provides more than just shoe fittings and other running gear. Since 1982, the shop has provided a community for competitive and recreational runners in Central Virginia. Donate a pair of shoes to be distributed throughout the community and receive a 10 percent discount. 

Runners-Up

—Two River Treads (Ranson, W.Va.)
—Fleet Feet (Roanoke, Va.)

Climbing Gym

Climbmax (Asheville, N.C.)

Get your fill of bouldering, top rope, and lead climbing with Climbmax’s two locations in Asheville. When you’re ready to take your skills to the next level, their mountain guides can take you out into Pisgah National Forest for a day on the rocks. 

Runners-Up

—Rocky Top (Charlottesville, Va.)
—Peak Experiences (Richmond, Va.)

Climbing Guide Company

New River Mountain Guides (Fayetteville, W.Va.)

Conveniently located just down the road from the New River Gorge area, New River Mountain Guides provide beginners and experts with the tools and resources to help you meet your goals on rock. 

Runners-Up

—Blue Ridge Mountain Guides (Nellysford, Va.)
—Seneca Rocks Climbing School (Seneca Rocks, W.Va.)

Fly Fishing Outfitter

Fly Fishing the Smokies (Bryson City, N.C.)

Discover some of the best trout fishing waters in the region with Fly Fishing the Smokies. From Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the Tuckasegee and Nantahala Rivers, choose from several different wade and float trip options. 

Runners-Up

­—South River Fly Shop (Waynesboro, Va.)
—Albemarle Anglers (Charlottesville, Va.)

Zip Line

Adventures on the Gorge (Lansing, W.Va.)

Take a ride through the trees at Adventures on the Gorge. Choose from the adventure park with tree-based obstacles, a canopy tour with sky-bridges, and a 1.5-mile zipline course for an adventure off the ground.

Runners-Up

—The Gorge (Saluda, N.C.)
—Buffalo Mountain Ziplines (Floyd, Va.)

Raft Guide Company

Adventures on the Gorge (Lansing, W.Va.)

Run the New River and Gauley River with the whitewater rafting guides at Adventures on the Gorge. Families will enjoy the scenic views on the Upper New trip while those looking for an adrenaline rush will want to check out the Class V rapids on the Upper Gauley. 

Runners-Up

—ACE Adventures (Minden, W.Va.)
—RVA Paddlesports (Richmond, Va.)

Ski Resort

Snowshoe Resort (Snowshoe, W.Va.)

You can spend all day on the slopes at Snowshoe as you try out 60 different runs and five terrain parks. At 1,500 feet, Cupp Run and Shay’s Revenge feature the highest vertical drop in the region. 

Runners-Up

—Wintergreen Resort (Nellysford, Va.)
—Cataloochee Ski Area (Maggie Valley, N.C.)

Outdoor Company to Work For

Wintergreen Resort (Nellysford, Va.)

Working at the scenic four-season resort in the Virginia Blue Ridge, Wintergreen employees enjoy opportunities to lead a variety of outdoor activities from skiing and snowtubing to ziplining and archery.  

Runners-Up

—Adventure Treks (Hendersonville, N.C.)
—Wander North Georgia (Clayton, Ga.)

Adventure Vehicle

Subaru Outback

The Subaru Outback was built for adventures, featuring all-wheel drive for off-roading, raised roof rails to hold your gear, and driver-assist technology to keep you safe. 

Runners-Up

—Jeep Wrangler
—Toyota 4Runner

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