Canaan Valley is West Virginia's third largest ski resort.
Canaan Valley Ski Resort is one of two alpine ski resorts in the beautiful Canaan Valley. The other is Timberline Four Seasons Resort (a third, Whitegrass Touring Center is a nordic and backcountry skiing area). Given the proximity between the two comparisons are inevitable, but the two resorts compliment rather than compete with one another.
The ameneties are modern and nice, particularly in comparison to the somewhat rundown appearance of Timberline's base lodge. The old school wooden trail signage evokes a feeling of hiking through a state forest. In that sense, Canaan Valley is a very pleasant mix of old and new. New facilities to accommodate the influx of skiers comfortably, but a traditional, minimalist take on the slopes. It's a formula many resorts would do well to emulate.
There are relatively few trees on the face of the mountain and the wide trails wind in and out of the gaps in the forest. This gives the ski area a unique feel. When the sun is shining, skiing at Canaan Valley gives the pleasant feeling of skiing through a high alpine meadow.
Canaan Valley has very respectable 850 ft vertical drop and boasts and annual snowfall of over 180 in. Toss in a summit elevation of 4,280 ft and the skiing is more like upstate New York than Dixie. However, the resort layout is a bit perplexing as it requires two lifts to go from base to summit. This makes Canaan Valley ski a lot smaller than it should for a ski resort with a decent vertical drop. Most skiers avoid skiing all the way to the base and instead utilize the Weiss Quad in front of the main lodge.
The skiable acreage is divided into two section. On the left of the trail map is the main face which funnels back down to the lodge. Strung out along a ridgeline to the right of the trail map is a series of slopes which drop off the traverse one at a time. Eventually the traverse drops down towards the ski area's lowest point, requiring skiers who venture that far to ride the Sissy Schuss Triple to return to the Weiss Quad.
With the exception of a lone trail from the summit, Cannaan Valley's green trails are clustered around the bottom of the parking lot. The three main green runs are serviced by the Sissy Schuss Triple and beginners have the option of skiing down the fall line directly under the chair on the "B Slope" or taking a switchback via the Sissy Schuss trail over to the main base lodge. From the base lodge, skiers can take Bunny Buster back to the base of the Sissy Schuss Trail or hop on the Weiss Quad to the summit.
Although there is only one green trail from the summit, the lone beginner offering is a good one. The Timber Trail winds through a beautiful forest along the banks of a quiet stream. It's exactly the type of green trail that beginners love to lap - and that's a good thing given there are no other beginner options from the summit. Additionally, unlike many resorts where there is little to differentiate blue trails from green, there is a noticeable step up at Canaan Valley. The blue and black trails ski similarly, but the blue trails are definitely a notch more difficult than the green ones.
Intermediates love Canaan Valley for its wide open cruisers. Most of the blue runs at the ski area fall somewhere between a trail and a slope. One might just as easily call them wide trails or narrow slopes. Intermediates will enjoy ditching the trail map and skiing whatever looks good in front of them. There's little to differentiate the blues from the blacks at Canaan Valley and with so many short trails intersecting and criss-crossing, it's best just to pick a comfortable line on the way down.
Canaan Valley's premier blue trail are the runs underneath the Weiss Quad. Again, the trail map makes distinctions for small variances in terrain that most skiers would not notice. For examples, in light of how wide and open the front side of the mountain is, it's difficult to tell where the blue Valley Vista run stops and the black Face slope continues.
One blue trail that intermediates should not skip, however, is Weiss' Meadows. Located at the end of the long Upper Spruce traverse, this wide blue slope feels oddly like skiing on the West Coast. There are few trails in the Southeast as wide and sun-splashed as Weiss' Meadow.
Experts tend to find Canaan Valley's layout a bit annoying. The black trails are not particularly steep, which experts probably could live with if not for the fact that the runs are short-ish and the chairlifts slow. The long enjoyable blue/black runs off the main traverse are a lot of fun, but it feels like punishment to be forced to ride the ultra slow bunny slope triple chair just to get a ride on the only-marginally-faster Weiss Quad. It's a lot to ask for only an 850 ft. drop.
That said, the expert terrain is a lot of fun, if on the easier end of the black diamond spectrum even by regional standards. True experts will find better, steeper black diamond runs at nearby Timberline.
Our two favorite black diamond runs at Canaan are Dark Side of the Moon and Gravity. The former is a wide bowl at the end of the Spruce Traverse that affords long views of the valley. The latter is a solid black run to the left of the trail map - head towards Timber Run and turn left for the most consistently steep run on the mountain.
When conditions are good, backcountry skiing is accessible from the summit of the ski area. However, it is recommended that those unfamiliar with the backcountry terrain take a guide. Those interested should arrange a backcountry ski tour through nearby Whitegrass Touring Center.
There are two main on-slope restaurants. The Bear Paw Food Court in the main base lodge offers cafeteria-style dining with good food at reasonable prices. In a separate building across the plaza from the main base lodge is Quenchers Pub. This modern sports bar offers excellent sandwiches and cold beer with views of the slopes and plenty of flatscreens.
There are also a number of restaurants located in the Canaan Valley Resort. The Hickory Dining Room is the main restaurant for hotel guests. The large room is centered around an inviting stone fireplace. Entrees are traditional American fare with a well-stocked salad bar. Down the hall, hungry skiers will find the Laurel Lounge, the hotel bar.
By far the best food in the valley, however, can be found at the Whitegrass Cafe. Located at the base of the Whitegrass Touring Center, seats can be hard to come by at this popular farm-to-table establishment. Two seatings are available each evening and tables are on a first-come-first served basis. Local music and brews accentuate an eclectic offering of outstandingly-prepared dishes. Be sure to check the website in advance as only one menu option is offered per night.
There is no village at Canaan Valley, but the nearby Canaan Valley Resort State Park is affiliated with the resort. Most guests to Canaan Valley select lodging at this newly-rennovated hotel.
Canaan Valley is a long day trip from pretty much anywhere. As a result, most guests stay overnight in a condo or a hotel. A number of condominium complexes are scattered around the valley, as are some smaller, low quality hotels. The best lodging option for Canaan Valley skiers is the Canaan Valley Resort and Conference Center. The ski area and hotel are both owned by the State of West Virginia and affordable ski and stay packages are available.
There are several additional winter activities available at Canaan Valley. The most popular by far is the resort's snow tubing located near the beginner skiing area. There are 10 lanes available with long 1,200 ft runs. Sessions last two hours.
Additionally, cross country skiing and snowshoeing is located on site. There is no trail fee and the resort offers 30 km of trails. Rentals are available for a fee. Also popular is a small covered ice rink below the Canaan Valley Resort.
Canaan Valley is located in the West Virginia mountain approximately three hours from Washington, DC. New roadway improvements along "Corridor H" from the capital have greatly reduced the drive time in recent years. Stretche remain incomplete, but much of the drive is now on four-lane divided highway.
The drive from Washington, DC is through the mountain. With 180" of annual snowfall, 4WD is recommended, but not required.
Top: 4,280 ft
Bottom: 3,430 ft
Vertical: 850 ft
Skiable Area: 91 ac
Annual Snowfall: 180 in
+ high base and summit elevations
+ affordable lift ticket prices
+ nearby Canaan Valley Resort
+ 180 in of annual snowfall
- cannot ski laps on full 850 ft vertical drop
- slow lifts
Updated for Winter 2015-2016 - David B. Cronheim