Whitegrass Ski Season Events: 2016-2017

November 23rd, 2016

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Canaan Valley’s ski season is upon us and last week’s snow has created an extraordinary opportunity for cross country lovers: Whitegrass is open for Thanksgiving weekend!

According to Chip Chase:

“We are open for the season no matter the snow now that it is winter season!”

Whitegrass Ski Touring Center is the much-beloved heart of Nordic skiing in the Canaan Valley, maintaining over 60 km of trails ranging from 3220 – 4463 ft. with over 1,200 vertical feet to cross country up and over. It offers lessons, rentals and a fantastic and cozy cafe offering homemade, healthy and hearty food — an important requisite for the cross country crowd.

Located in the southern end of Canaan Valley in what was once the Weiss Knob ski area, Whitegrass is ten miles south of Davis, WV or about 15-20 minutes. Davis is the Valley’s closest town and provides the Valley’s post office. The town’s quaint downtown offers numerous restaurants, two craft breweries, a grocery store and Dollar General, two art galleries and several lodging operations, including the Bright Morning Inn.

Whitegrass is also unique in its partnership with the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. In exchange for allowing skiers on its property, Whitegrass provides the Refuge with numerous educational outreach events, that help teach visitors about the Refuge and its environment. Chip often serves as a leader at these events, which are largely FREE snowshoe walks on Sunday afternoons…and snowshoes are included!

The following is a list of Whitegrass events for the coming winter taken from its website. These events, largely free and family-friendly, are a wonderful chance for visitors to get to know the Canaan Valley Nordic ski community and its unique environment.

November 27, 2016 Evergreen Wreath Making Workshop – Join us for an afternoon of fun learning how to make your own holiday wreath. Bring a hand pruner and any decorations or adornments you’d like to add to your wreath. We’ll have all the materials you’ll need including a variety of firs to construct your very own piece of artwork. We’ll get started at 1pm and be around all afternoon. Dave Saville will be outa the country and WG is running this event, had plenty of practice…

December 3, 2016 35th Annual Jack Frost Celebration – Help open up the season in honor of one our favorite snowy characters. Bring a dish to share Saturday eve and we will provide the refreshments. We are making a community monetary donation matching all Jack Frost celebration and beer tips to our Tucker County Food Bank. Join in and bring a nonperishable goodie and we’ll add that to the whole shebang! Sunday brunch rounds out the weekend.

Dec. 18 Snowshoe Discovery Tour – 1 pm A natural history snowshoe walk with Chip Chase, owner of White Grass, as he shares fun facts about the climate, forest type, and geology of the area. Enjoy a short streamside jaunt that lasts about an hour and covers around a mile of easy rolling terrain.

Jan 1, 2017 Snowshoe Discovery Tour – 10 am A natural history snowshoe walk with Chip Chase as he endlessly gabs about the history of local skiing, quirky climate facts, railroad history, and the environmental battle for Canaan Valley vs. the Power Company.

Jan 7 Winter Trails Day 2017 – Free lessons, area use, and clinics to all first time interested skiers or snowshoers. XC lessons every hour and a 10 am and 2 pm clinic on types of snowshoes, clothing, basic techniques, and outdoor winter snow travel followed by a natural history tour on snowshoes into our neighboring National Wildlife Refuge.

Jan 8 Snowshoe Discovery Tours The Wonders of Winter Wildlife – 10 am Americorp Mallory Gyovai will be talking about animals adaptations to the winter season within CVNWR. Focusing on a few species, and keeping our eyes peeled for tracks and other animal signs, we will discuss how the season creates a plethora of reactions from our wild neighbors.

TBA Jan 20 West Virginia Special Olympics Winter Games Gathered are racers from three states, parents, coaches, volunteers, and helpers. This event will give back tenfold what is put in!

TBA Women’s Wonderful Weekend9am to 3 pm Refresh or pick up some new ski techniques. Instruction available for all types of skiers and experience levels from track and skate techniques to downhill control and telemark turns. Lunch included.

Jan 22 Twenty Five Km Mountain State Marathon – 1 pm A rolling long course or settle for a shortened version. Kid’s classes and well groomed for classic or skate. $20 entry fee. Sweet prizes along with website photos making you look like a champ.

Jan 22 Snowshoe Discovery Tours Time to get Squirrelly – 10 am They rummage through garbage cans, steal our bird feed, and love college campuses. But what do you really know about squirrels? Join Americorp Lauren Merrill and CVNWR on a snowshoe hike as we talk about the behavior and life history of these little creatures. You’re guaranteed to see at least one.

TBA Kids Clinic and bb biathlon 9:30 am – noon For Ages 6‐10 Both beginner and experienced kids will have fun playing games and learning new skills. 1 pm optional bb biathlon has 3 targets, 9 shots, and everyone wins!

Jan 29 5 Km Snowshoe Walk/Run – 11 am Well organized by Helvetia, WV distance runner Dan Lehmann this event features a rolling course full of prizes and fun. Snowshoe rentals available for $8. Race costs $5!

Jan 29 Snowshoe Discovery Tours Water Water Everywhere – 10 am Join Park Ranger Ted Hodson on a hike where we discuss how water in all of its forms moves through the valley. Find out why the wetlands are so important to the water cycle, and how we can guarantee its survival.

Feb 1 Our Ground Hog’s Day Ski – 9 am Our annual trek in search for clues to the rest of winter never seems to end. Full day backcountry journeys usually have no route in mind and end up lost.

TBA Parent Child Clinic – 10am to noon Ski lessons for our littlest skiers. Parents and children ages 3-5. Morning session from 10:00-­11:00. What does every skiing parent want for their children? Good health, happiness, and of course a love of skiing. We’ll engage your youngest skier in games and activities that will make them beg you to go skiing again. Plus parents will learn how to play skill-­based games with your little ones.

Feb 19 Snowshoe Discovery Tours Where Wildlife Comes Naturally – 10 am Join Park Ranger Ted Hodson who will be talking about the history and importance of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Learn why the refuge system was created, what our mission is, and all of the fun activities that are allowed on wilderness land.

Feb 26 Snowshoe Discovery Tours Volunteering at CVNWR – 10 am Join Mallory and Lauren who will be talking about AmeriCorps, Appalachian Forest Heritage Area (our program within AmeriCorps), and volunteering at the refuge. We will talk about all of the projects that are made possible by the help of volunteers, and how to get involved.

TBA Skiathon Fund Raiser for Mtn Laurel Learning Coop…start 3 pm, 1hour, 2 lap distances (one for older kids and one for younguns). Pledge forms soon to be arriving.

Mar 5 Natural History Snowshoe Discovery Tour – 10 am with Chip Chase, owner of White Grass and lifelong outdoorsman sharing his knowledge of the area as well as the history of the relationship with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the formation of the Refuge here.

TBA bb biathlon championship – 1 pm 3 targets, 9 shots, everyone wins, adults are encouraged to ski and shoot.

Hash Hound Harriers ski hash schedule announced as they are determined.

NATO Telemark WorkshopDickie has retired and will not be leading classes or tours for 2016-17 as far as we know.

Full Moon Skiing Trips are around each month’s lunar glare Dec 14, Jan 12, Feb 11, and Mar 12. We usually head out around 7:30 pm. Good snow, surprising visibility, mysterious sense of control.

Paragliding at Canaan Valley Resort

November 12th, 2016

Canaan Valley is known for outdoor adventure. It’s the home of West Virginia’s earliest ski industry. Today the Valley offers two downhill and one cross country ski resorts: Canaan  Valley Resort, Timberline and Whitegrass.

Its cool summers are beloved by mountain bikers, hikers, golfers, hunters and fishermen.

But the area’s newest activity is the high adrenalin sport of paragliding. Also known as hang gliding, paragliding is a growing sport in North America. Canaan Valley Resort State Park is home to a new paragliding launch site that further expands the Valley’s offerings .

“It’s a project that we’ve been working on for the past six years, and finally it’s come to reality and everybody is really excited about it,” said Stan Beafore, park superintendent.

Just more than 4,000 feet in elevation, it can be accessed via the resort’s scenic chair lift. The southwest facing launch site faces into the prevailing winds, which are extremely rare in the Appalachian Mountain range.

“We actually had some people launch off here for the first time last week. Really great experience. It was fun to see, it’s going to be popular,” Beafore said.

Canaan Valley Resort and the Mountaineer Hang Glider Association opened the site on Oct. 8. The site is one of only two sites in the Eastern United States that is accessible by a ski resort chairlift.

It can be accessed from Memorial Day through the end of October, and mid December through mid March. The fee to ride the chairlift to the top of the mountain is $7 for adults. Pilots can carry their paragliding equipment with them on the lift, and the launch site is a short walk from the lift.

To use the launch site, pilots must be current members of the U.S. Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association. Beafore said its legal to paraglide in Canaan Valley Resort State Park. Landing sites have also been set up with two family farms nearby.

Although pilots can fly year round in the region, the most favorable flying time in the Potomac highlands of the state occur in the afternoons during the summer and fall.

Park officials also developed a plan to not harm the Cheat Mountain salamander, that’s listed as a threatened species, and known to live atop Weiss Knob.

A raised boardwalk to cross over the habitat and to reach the launch site was built. The species can travel under the structure to avoid having their area disturbed by visitors.

Beafore said the West Virginia State Parks Foundation, the Foundation for Free Flight and the Mountaineer Hang Gliding Association helped pay for the launch site.

The Mountaineer Hang Glider Association have a contractual agreement with US Hotels, the management company for Canaan Valley Resort’s operation. Pilots using the launch site work direction with the hang gliding association for launch times. Pilots can make launch reservations with Ben Herrick by phone at 304-866-3312.

 

Portions of this article reprinted from The State Journal October 20, 2016

Dog in a Bog: Picking Cranberries near Canaan Valley

October 21st, 2016
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Pitcher plants in Olson Bog filled with rainwater

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Happy little dog laying in a bog

There are many reasons to visit West Virginia in the fall besides beautiful foliage. True, we have remarkable fall color here, which peaks early in the Canaan Valley and Blackwater Falls area.

But for some of us, the most exciting part of fall isn’t the leaves, it’s the cranberries, and the beautiful bogs where they grow.

These photos were taken in an especially fine bog called Olson Bog, which is near one of the few remaining fire towers in the Monongahela Forest: Olson Tower

The tower provides 360-degree views of the surrounding area including the Cheat River watershed, Parsons, Blackwater Canyon, Canaan Mountain, Backbone Mountain and the Otter Creek Wilderness.

The tower offers spectacular views when the leaves are changing, though it’s the bog that’s the real treasure. It stretches out as a sea of fluffy cotton grass. Underneath, cranberries lay thickly, ripe for the picking by anyone with wading boots and a bucket. In between are clusters of maroon pitcher plants, which fill with rainwater, waiting for insects to fall in…and drown.

Hiking in a bog with a happy dog, picking cranberries in the quiet, is a delightful way to spend the final days of fall.

Ripe cranberries growing near Davis, Wv

2017 CVNWR Calendar Now for Sale

October 7th, 2016

2016-calendarEvery year in late summer the Friends of the 500th produce a calendar highlighting photos from throughout the Canaan Valley Region. The project is a fundraiser for the group, which provides valuable financial and volunteer support to the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

This year’s calendar is now on sale at shops throughout the region, including the Bright Morning Inn. The calendar retails for only $11.95, which is a bargain. It’s printed on hefty card stock and professionally produced through the gracious effort of West Virginia photographer Frank Ceravalo, whose own Mountain Mist calendars are sold throughout the state, including Tamarack.

The calendar features stunning photos from the many photographers who visit this special region. It makes an inspiring gift for anyone who loves visiting the Canaan Valley and Blackwater Falls area or those who dream of the outdoors… while sitting inside at a desk!

 

New Canaan Valley Trail Map Gets You Out Where You Belong

September 27th, 2016

It took months, maybe years, of hard work but the Heart of the Highlands Trail group recently completed a new trail map of Canaan Valley and its surroundings, and it’s a doozy!

The map detaiadmin-ajaxls all the important hiking, biking and skiing trails in the area, and gives valuable information about allowed uses, trail length and level of difficulty. The map brings together the many land agencies that control public access in the region. It includes the Dolly Sods and Otter Creek Wilderness Areas, the Little Canaan Wildlife Management Area (formerly CVI), the Canaan Mountain Backcountry, both Blackwater Falls and Canaan Valley State Parks, and the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

The map is detailed, waterproof and comprehensive. And at only $12.95 it’s a bargain, replacing an annoying handful of individual maps put out by the different agencies.

The map is now available at Blackwater Bikes, the Tucker Co. CVB, Bright Morning Inn, the Canaan Valley and Blackwater State Parks and the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Visitor’s Center.

 

28th Annual Leaf Peeper’s Festival 2016 this Weekend

September 21st, 2016

fall-window-boxWith days in the 70’s, nights in the 50’s, this weekend is shaping up to be spectacular for our town’s annual Leaf Peeper’s Festival.

Now in its 28th year, the festival includes a Fireman’s Parade Friday evening, Inflatable Rides all weekend, Food & Craft Fair Saturday and Sunday, a 5k/2k Run/Walk on Saturday, Oktoberfest and Live Music on Saturday, Car Show and Golf Tournament on Sunday and more.

At the Bright Morning Inn our cafe celebrates the weekend by serving Pumpkin Pancakes, arguably the best pancake of all. Fluffy and spicy and strewn with walnuts, they are covered in a warm maple butter sauce that’s…almost heaven. A fitting way to celebrate the beginning of fall in our beautiful West Virginia mountains!

For more information about the festival visit canaanvalley.org or click here to download a festival schedule.

Finding Your Way in Dolly Sods

September 13th, 2016
Rock cairns are common sites in West Virginia's Dolly Sods Wilderness

Rock cairns are common sites in West Virginia’s Dolly Sods Wilderness

Most of the trails within West Virginia’s Dolly Sods Wilderness are well worn and easily followed. For years the area has been popular with hikers and backpackers, and for good reason: it’s scenic, peaceful and amazingly wild considering it’s only a few hours from Washington, DC and other major cities.

But there are times when even well-marked trails there can be perplexing, and even experienced hikers can get turned around. Believe me, when hiking in Dolly Sods, being a little cautious isn’t a bad thing.

Seasoned hikers know how to mark their route so they can find their way back. A friend of mine used to leave little stick arrows along his route in case he needed to backtrack. And he was a woodsman who had lived in wild places all over the world.

Not everyone who visits the Sods these days is a seasoned hiker. The new road, Route 48 (Corridor H), is bringing more people to our area every year. Many of them are coming to explore the cultural attractions in nearby Davis and Thomas. Some are experiencing wilderness for the first time. These people need help any way they can get it.

Fortunately, throughout the Sods, thoughtful hikers have created stone cairns to guide you at decision points along the trail. It’s an old tradition. The little sandstone stacks are pleasantly sculptural, and when you are lost, they are beautiful sights indeed.

Not everyone likes the cairns. Some think that if you need to follow a cairn you have no business hiking in a wilderness area. Others hate seeing any sort of man-made thing in such a wild place and consider them graffiti of sorts. (Note to some cairn builders: these really aren’t sculptures, they’re built to give direction, not decorate — and in the wrong place they can cause confusion!)

I get what the critics say, but I still love the cairns. At their best, they are beacons left by someone who thought enough of others to mark the way ahead, simple kindnesses left for strangers. Who could argue with that?

Dolly Sods: It Really is For the Birds

September 3rd, 2016
It's a long lonely road to the bird banding station...but it's worth it

It’s a long lonely road to the bird banding station…but it’s worth it

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Fine mist nets strung along the Allegheny Front capture migrating birds

Every year in late summer during peak bird migration season the Allegheny Front Migration Observatory comes to life in the scenic Dolly Sods Wilderness. Staffed completely by volunteers, the AFMO is the longest continually operating bird banding station in the United States.

The Allegheny Front in West Virginia sits right in the middle of a major north/south “flyway” and is perfect for capturing birds harmlessly in mist nets, banding them, and sending them on there way. The birds counts are used by various wildlife agencies to track species and numbers of songbirds and raptors from Canada to South America.

Banding activity takes place every day from dawn until noon, though the most activity occurs in the early hours. This year the station closes in early October. To get to the station, take FS 19 to 75, about 8 miles up the lonely gravel road that runs through Dolly Sods. It is located across the road from the Red Creek Campground and the entrance to Blackbird Knob Trail.

If you’ve never been to the Dolly Sods before you may wonder if you’ll ever get to the end of the road. You will. It ends at Bear Rocks, a vast open heath with fantastic rock formations along the Allegheny Front. It’s an amazing site, one of the most photographed places in West Virginia. And a stop at the bird migration station will make the trip even more memorable.

Late Summer Wildflowers at Blackwater Falls

August 29th, 2016

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There is a wonderful plant that blooms this time of year throughout Canaan Valley and Blackwater Falls. It’s my favorite: the magnificent Closed bottle gentian or Gentiana andrewsii. It offers a rich true blue that contrasts beautifully with the blond grasses of late summer.

This photo was taken on the trail that leads from Blackwater Falls State Park to Davis, on the south side of the Blackwater River. About a mile long, the trail allows easy access from town to the park, either on bike or foot.

The trail boasts a few nice bogs complete with cranberries and cotton grass, a beautiful little bridge over a small run that feeds into the river, and lots of cool shade in summer. It’s a great little trail for dog walking on a hot day.

But for me the best part is the gentian. It shows up in late summer, our driest season, when days are warm and evenings turning cool. It signals summer is ending and, once again, we are marching toward winter.

Closed bottle gentian in Blackwater Falls State Park

Closed bottle gentian in Blackwater Falls State Park

Brew Skies Festival This Weekend

August 16th, 2016

If you’ve never experienced Canaan Valley’s gloriously cool summers, and you love brews and music, you’re in for a special treat this weekend. It’s the fourth Brew Skies Festival, and this year it’s being held at Timberline Resort .

Presented by Mountain State Brewing Co., the first annual Brew Skies Festival was held in 2012 as a celebration of live music, West Virginia craft beer and the great outdoors. This year’s family friendly, two-day event will showcase performances from 23 musical acts, local food & artisan vendors, a newly added homebrew competition and craft breweries from around the state of West Virginia.

The Bright Morning Inn is only 9 miles from Canaan Valley, or about 15 minutes away. So come on up. For the cool, the music and the wonderful selection of beers from the Mountain State.

 



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