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