Mrs. Body knows exactly where she needs to be at 4:15pm.
When I was a young body, my kin and I ventured to Snowshoe Resort in West Virginia almost every year for your typical family ski vacation. Snowshoe is just about the perfect place to take a family of five kids of the most awkward ages on a ski vacation. It has varied terrain, an abundance of accommodations and just enough room for the older kids to lose the parents and those embarrassing younger siblings “accidentally.” It also put out the vibe of quasi-intensity, in that you could ski hard all over the mountain, all day if you wanted or you could easy-style-it in the morning and fall into a post-lunch food coma without feeling too bad about yourself for only getting in two runs in the afternoon. Throw in a terrain park, hot tub and mass amounts of winter vacation food (i.e. tiny chocolates and huge sandwiches) and you had a recipe akin to grandma’s fruit cake.
Much has changed at Snowshoe since I was scudding out on Powder Monkey and learning the falling leaf in a group lesson, but much has also stayed the same. Snowshoe has established itself as the largest ski resort in the Blue Ridge, with the most slopes, lifts, acreage and amenities available to the weekend warrior. It is the ski destination for anyone within driving distance, and probably beyond in the southern direction, and as such Snowshoe has developed its mountaintop retreat in the model of the premiere resorts west of the Mississippi. Along with slope-side condos and ski-in, ski-out hotels, there is a very quaint “village” complete with pizzerias, bars, lodging and pseudo-high Alpine architecture. These are the type of touches that can make or break a ski vacation and indeed are what people have come to expect when shelling out big dough for time on the slopes. I have no recollection of anything resembling the Swiss Alps when we vacationed there 10-15 years ago; in fact, quite the opposite if that’s possible. The skiing was always fun, but it was usually straight from Ballhooter to the condo and back with nothing in between. Of course, this could have been my parents just trying to keep expenses reasonable, but I faintly remember my undeveloped brow furrow when contemplating the atmosphere. Well, those days of juvenile speculation are gone my friends.
Mrs. Body and I headed up on a recent Saturday and despite not having pristine weather, had high hopes for our first ski day of the season and were not disappointed. We crawled up the mountain going at an impossibly slow pace, our convoy lead by a Pontiac Gran Prix with a 17mph governor. This only proved to raise our anticipatory excitement from “Gee, this is going to be fun” level to “Road Rage” level. By the time we reached the parking lot (FREE PARKING – a testament to Snowshoe “keeping it real” while also “keeping it awesome”) I was ready to shred the mountain a new one. We hopped on the shuttle bus from the lot to the Village to secure our lift tickets, guided by directions from the very helpful shuttle driver – the shuttle drivers turned out to be very helpful the entire trip, coming through with crucial directions to the nearest gas station on the tail end of the trip. I payed it forward, however, by rescuing multiple ejected skies and rejected poles to dejected skiers who felt the middle of the run was a good place for a yard sale (HA!).
Tickets to paradise in hand, we strapped in and got down to business, and business was good. After a few warm up laps on the front side, we headed for the Western Territories for a taste of the steeps. Patchy fog and soft snow made for a delightfully fun, nerve-wracking run down the 1,500 feet of vert. As luck would have it, the low clouds parted at just the right time to straight line through the flats which also provided a natural goggle squeegee if you carried enough speed and if I’ve learned one thing in this crazy snowboarding life it’s “Always carry enough speed to smash through any barrier or span any traverse at any time, ever.”
Following a few laps, we broke for lunch at Arbuckle’s at the base of Cup. Sitting down to a bowl of chicken chili and a cold PBR in the warming cabin, we were joined by a Mark The Ski Patroller who had been working at the mountain in various positions for over 35 years, a remarkable feat. We exchanged mini life stories and spoke candidly about the kids these days and their videos. Mark is a photographer on the side, and is blown away by the production value and skills of riders in ski films that have come out in the last couple years. I had to agree. Movies like The Art of Flight, All.I.Can, and Solitaire are mind-blowing in their scope and are bringing art back into the ski porn industry.
But I digress.
This lunch chat and subsequent lift ride up with local ski patroller was one of the highlights of the trip. Too many times, lift rides become silent people movers with no acknowledgment of who is sitting next to you. One of the beauties of a place like Snowshoe is the diversity of the people. Because it draws skiers from all over the South and Mid-Atlantic, the range of characters hitting the slopes is huge and the best part about it is how stoked they are to be there shredding. A little fog? Whatever. Too cold? Not gonna keep anybody down. Just rip it up and have a good time. This infectious enthusiasm is definitely something I remember from my former trips to Snowshoe and I’m glad it’s still hanging around.
We got in a few more runs before our legs gave out and we had to pack it in. Rolling down the mountain with sore ankles, tired legs and soggy gear reminded me that although the mountain may change, the feeling of a satisfying day on the slopes stays the same.
For more about Snowshoe Mountain Resort, check out http://basecamp.blueridgeoutdoors.com/?p=2543