Snowshoe, West Virginia has been on my radar for a couple of years now. We usually take a family trip right after Christmas, to celebrate New Year’s and in typical Floridian fashion, we’re always looking for destinations that will satisfy our “cold weather” itch but also won’t take up much flight time to maximize our stay. This year, during a pandemic, as an added requirement, the destination also had to be close enough to get to by car, since we weren’t quite ready to get on a plane with two toddlers just yet.
We wanted somewhere on the East coast with guaranteed snow and since the average ski length is about 6 feet as it is, this place seemed like the perfect choice, especially since during these “social distancing” times.
To say Snowshoe, surprised me, is an understatement. 60 trails and 14 lifts in the stunningly beautiful Allegheny Mountains, makes this one of the largest ski areas in the mid-Atlantic. With plenty of ski-in and ski out lodging options, a charming little cobblestone village at the top of the ski mountain and restaurants and shops at the reach of skiers and visitors alike, Snowshoe Mountain makes for a great family travel destination.
We stayed off property in a log cabin in the Slatyfork area near the base of the mountain. We found it was conveniently located about 20 minutes drive from the ski village, and on an “off” year it still offered us the option to stay away from the crowds and just enjoy the scenery around us if we decided to just hangout at home that day. We’ve had good luck finding our vacation rentals this year on VRBO.com and it’s actually how we’ve continued to travel throughout the pandemic; Vacation homes, that allowed us to cook our own meals and just enjoy the different scenery around us. Sometimes that’s all you need.
We loved that this one offered a cabin with plenty of woods and streams to hike within our own property. I will mention, that Snowshoe does offer it’s own properties and there are number of resort and lodging options at the top, many of which offer ski-in and ski-out features, and a convenient shuttle service to transport you from place to place within the ski resort and those are great options as well, just not for us on this particular trip.
A word of advice in case you are driving to or within Snowshoe, a 4WD is absolutely necessary. I can’t stress this enough. The roads are steep and very windy with sharp hairpin turns and can be difficult to drive in with bad weather conditions. If you are driving in, I would advise making sure you are driving into your location with plenty of daylight and with a screenshot of GPS directions and any other information you may need like detailed directions, lock box codes, etc.
Cell phone service is nearly non-existent once you get into the mountain area. We barely had service our entire trip, although our cabin and the top of the mountain in the Snowshoe resort area did offer wifi service. We also saw many avid skiers carrying walkie talkies so they could stay in touch while skiing, which in hindsight seemed like a great idea. In addition, I will say, that while the roads can be difficult to commute on, they seemed very well kept, plowed and salted while we were there.
With that same token, although there are several restaurants in the village, Kroger, the nearest grocery store, is a little over an hour away in Elkins.
If you anticipate you will need anything from a grocery store, I would definitely make sure you stop somewhere on your way in and at the very least load up on some essentials: you know, milk, eggs, your liquor stash to survive a family trip for the week, all important for making sure you have a good stay.
A few pointers that I had to learn the hard way: MAKE YOUR RESERVATIONS EARLY. I mean this for lodging but I also really, really mean this for all activities. Lift Tickets, Ski School, Private Lessons, Tubing. All of it. If you are thinking about Snowmobiling or going on a Sleigh Ride make those reservations first. We weren’t able to snowmobile or go on a sleigh ride, because they have a very limited numbers of snowmobiles and horse sleighs available (and I plan way ahead). Autumn Breeze Stables is also an additional company in the area that offers sleigh rides in case the Snowshoe option is sold out.
If you are a parent traveling with a 2-4 year old they offer a Pre-Ski School option from 9am to 4pm. It’s operated more like a daycare and allows toddlers to engage in play and snow activities. The program offers half day or full day care and also has an option for an added ski lesson if you purchase a full day and the child is ready for it. It is a super convenient option for parents that want to bring their little ones but still want to be able to hit the slopes.
The Kids World Ski School on the other hand, is for ages 4 and up and is definitely strictly a ski school but oh, so worth it. Alec, my 4 year old, actually joined and loved skiing for the first time ever and it made the trip for us so much more enjoyable. For us that’s a HUGE win.
Not only because my husband has dreamed of the day he would have a child that would go skiing with him (Lord knows, that due to my limited ski skills, he’s given up on ME being that person) but also because Alec, is my shy child and we’ve never been able to leave him at any kid’s vacation club.
I was hesitant to put him in the school for fear that I would have to deal with the meltdown once he realized he was going to be dropped off alone. I took him on the first day, stuck around to make sure he was good and truthfully he LOVED every minute of it. I never got a complaint from him. In fact, we actually had to deal with daily meltdowns about NOT wanting to leave the slopes. I watched him for a little each day and I watched the interaction between the teachers and the kids and not only do they teach them, but they really do a great job of making it fun.
School starts between 9am and 10am and ends promptly at 3pm. There are 2 options for pricing $149 for only the lesson or the ski school package which goes for $189 + tax per day and includes the child’s lift ticket, ski gear rentals, lessons, lunch and hot chocolate breaks.
If you are planning on traveling there in the near future, while Covid restrictions are still in place, I can add that we felt completely safe while we were there. They are doing a great job limiting the amount of people that are on the mountain and keeping social distancing standards. Masks are enforced at all times, even while skiing. Plus everyone has so much on to keep from being cold, it’s inevitable to not feel you are protected.
One of the unique things I loved about Snowshoe is that their village is located at the top of the mountain. Because the village is at the top of the slopes, families like ours with smaller babies like Vera, and skiers with non-skier grandparents in tow can still enjoy the day together. Vera, was just shy of being able to join the Pre-Ski School group but both grandparents and Vera were still able to tag along to the village during ski days and grab lunch, window shop and play in the snow; while the rest of us would check in during our breaks from skiing. We had pizza at Cheat Mountain Pizza in the village one of the days together and then later all had a snowball fight after skiing was over and it made for a great family outing that everyone was able to participate in.
The Coca Cola Tubing Park is another great option for the whole family. Tickets run from $15 to $20 per person and there are also family packs available for a slightly better discount. They have LED lighting as you glide downhill and they have a “party deck” area with comfortable seating in case you want to watch your crew. They also have a really cute area for smaller babies (3 and under) to go tubing with their own mini tubes which allows for them to enjoy themselves just like the big kids without being trampled for $5 per child. If this is definitely on your to-do list, I would advise you to reserve those tickets in advance as well, but keep in mind that they are non-refundable even if the weather is bad. We had an odd rain downpour at the time we were supposed to go and we were really bummed that we had to miss out on our experience.
All in all we had a great time in Snowshoe. We skied, we built a snowman, we sat around the fire and we made some great memories welcoming in the much anticipated new year, which was exactly what we were hoping for. We would definitely be willing to visit again in the future, hopefully with both kids in ski school and sans a pandemic.
Hope this helps and if you are traveling to the area, please feel free to drop any questions you may have below. I will do my best to answer them the best way I can. I will also be posting a packing list for skiing with toddlers soon. So be sure to keep a look out for that as well!
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