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This West Virginia Ski Destination Has the East Coast's Longest Sled Run — and Costs a Fraction of the Mountains Out West

Here’s how to plan the perfect trip to Davis, Timberline Mountain, and Canaan Valley Resort.

<p>Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure</p>

Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure

As I pull into the snowy driveway of the cozy mountain cabin I've rented for my family in Davis, West Virginia, I pat myself on the back for springing on a rental car with all-wheel drive from Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., roughly 2.5 hours east.

When I told my travel group we were going skiing in the Allegheny Mountains in West Virginia this year instead of our usual trek out west to Colorado or Utah, I was met with some doubts: "Will there be enough snow?" "What about hot tubs?" West Virginia?"

Now, minutes after arriving in the gorgeous Canaan Valley of Tucker County, it’s positively dumping snow on a January afternoon. My young kids busy themselves making snow angels on the hot tub cover as I schlep our groceries inside and get some embers going in the wood-burning fireplace.

<p>Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure</p>

Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure

Living in Florida, we usually opt for Park City, Utah, or Vail, Colorado, when it comes to snowy getaways. But when your kids are young, as mine are, and still learning the ropes of skiing down blues and greens, they hardly need back bowls, powder stashes, and double black diamonds for a successful family ski vacation.

All we needed, I decided, were some fun runs for working on our pizzas and French fries, off-mountain activities like tubing and sledding, and cozy, affordable restaurants with character. We found all of that and more here on the East Coast — and for a fraction of the price compared to big-name mountains — at Timberline Mountain, Canaan Valley Resort, and the eclectic neighboring Appalachian towns of Davis and Thomas.

<p>Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure</p>

Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure

“This part of West Virginia, the Canaan Valley, is the perfect escape from the constant rush of a metropolis,” says Karen Steffel Kunc, who lives outside Washington, D.C. and has owned a second home at Timberline Mountain since 2014. “There’s nothing fancy about it — you aren’t coming to get your Starbucks or shop at Target.”

Rather, she says, the area is about the scenery, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, and some fun restaurants and après-ski spots, as well as “the nicest people who are proud of their slice of heaven.” She adds, “It feels like coming home.”

Whether you come to sled and ice skate or want to spend most of your time skiing and snowboarding, here's everything you need to know to make the most of your West Virginia winter vacation.

<p>Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure</p>

Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure

What We Like

Low Altitude

My sea level-dwelling family has been felled by the altitude blahs in the Rocky Mountains. But with the town of Davis at just 3,520 feet, Timberline Mountain maxing out at 4,268 feet, and Canaan Valley Resort just a touch higher at 4,280 feet at its summit, altitude sickness doesn't enter the equation for most visitors here. (For comparison, the summit at Deer Valley in Utah is almost double that, at 9,570 feet.) We felt great the entire time skiing in West Virginia, with no headaches or racing hearts.

Relaxed Attitude

Nobody is sporting their fancy furs here — come as you are when visiting West Virginia’s mountains and towns (and don’t be surprised if you see a few skiers in jeans riding lifts up the mountain).

Easy Access

It’s just a 2.5-hour drive west of Washington, D.C.’s Dulles International Airport and roughly the same from Pittsburgh’s airport to reach this region. Consider renting an all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive vehicle in the winter, as many vacation rentals are accessed via steep hills (chains aren’t a bad idea, either, if it’s really coming down).

Snow Bowl Effect

This part of West Virginia has a bowl-shaped geography that serves to make it snowier than its surroundings. The valley floor gets an average of 150 inches of snow per year, and animals like snowshoe hares live in tundra-like terrain in their southernmost ranges.

Best Time to Visit

Ski season at Timberline Mountain and Canaan Valley Resort typically run from mid-December through early March. However, dates can change depending on snowfall. During my mid-January visit, both mountains got fresh snow (somewhere between 15 and 20 inches) and we had epic conditions, though it was a bit windy at times.

The longest running ski race in the southeast takes place in and around Davis and Timberline Mountain every March during the West Virginia Governor’s Cup Ski Race, with family activities and competitive ski events.

<p>Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure</p>

Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure

Best Places to Stay

On-mountain Rentals

There are gorgeous ski-in, ski-out mountain cabins for rent along the slopes of Timberline Mountain in the coveted Winterset neighborhood and elsewhere. Browse the listings with full kitchens and options like wood fireplaces and outdoor hot tubs at MountainTop Realty & Rentals. The gated Northpoint Resort, located roughly between the town of Davis and the ski mountain, is where we rented our Airbnb cabin.

Cabins at Blackwater Falls State Park

The cabins just a mile from this gorgeous state park get snatched up in a hurry. But it’s a special thrill to stay inside Blackwater Falls State Park, home to waterfalls, hiking trails, and the longest sled run on the East Coast. Choose from 39 fully furnished cabins, including classic options, pet-friendly accommodations, and more modern four-bedroom cabins with amenities like washers and dryers and gas fireplaces.

The Billy Motel

The Billy Motel in Davis is a former roadside motel that has been updated into a sweet little 11-room boutique property with a fun, retro flair. A mid-century lounge serves craft cocktails and mocktails, and the property's on-site restaurant, Ish Kitchen, has a fusion menu that pulls influences from Persia, France, Spain, Jamaica, Brazil, and beyond.

Milo’s Guesthouse

For a right-in-town setting near the bars, restaurants, and shops of Davis’ main drag, look no further than Milo’s Guesthouse. Set inside a historic 19th-century house along the Appalachian Highway, the eight rooms here feature period-inspired furnishings and wallpaper. You can also walk downstairs to Milo’s Cafe for a local beer at the bar or the best breakfast in town.

Timberline Hotel

Families like the easy access to Timberline Mountain’s two chairlifts, right out the door at Timberline Hotel. At the property, family suites include rooms with four bunk beds that sleep up to eight people.

Canaan Valley Resort State Park

Cabins, cottages, and rooms and suites paired with main lodge amenities like an indoor pool and arcade draw families to Canaan Valley Resort State Park, just a few miles from the eponymous ski mountain.

<p>Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure</p>

Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure

Best Places to Eat

Sirianni’s Cafe

This local favorite for pizza, pasta, and antipasti plates is located right along the main drag in Davis and decorated with Nepalese prayer flags and vintage West Virginia ski paraphernalia.

Canaan Valley BBQ

Grab a family meal to go and enjoy it back at your cabin or settle in for the sampler — pulled pork, brisket, ribs, chicken, and cornbread — at this Southern-style barbecue joint where everything is smoked with hardwoods on site.

White Grass Cafe

Settle in around the roaring fireplace at White Grass Cafe, which has major alpine vibes alongside the cross-country ski trails of the White Grass Ski Touring Center. The excellent menu usually includes sandwiches, burritos, salads, and homemade soup options that range from a Thai chicken variety to something vegetarian and Moroccan.

TipTop

The valley’s best espresso drinks await along the Blackwater River in the town of Thomas at TipTop, a stylish coffee house that would be just as at home in Portland, Oregon. Espresso machines churn out chai lattes and Chagacinnos, best enjoyed alongside one of the homemade pastries, which always include a few gluten-free options.

Elender’s

Hit tropical plant-filled Elender’s, also in Thomas, when you’re looking to share global fare like duck poutine, raclette sandwiches, crab rangoon nachos, and more.

<p>Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure</p>

Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure

Best Places to Après-ski

Stumptown Ales

After a day of shredding, head to Stumptown Ales right along the strip in Davis, where the IPA, blonde, and stout beers are all brewed in town.

Mountain State Brewing Co.

I loved Mountain State Brewing Co. in Thomas for its family-friendly ambience, with sawhorse seats you can sidle up to at the bar, a wood-burning fireplace you can relax around, and pizzas and pepperoni rolls (the latter are a West Virginia must) proffered from a takeout window inside a dining room outfitted with free games.

Hellbender Burritos

The local draft beers flow while the queso dip and massive specialty burritos sate the post-slope masses at the casual and fun Hellbender Burritos, located on the main drag in Davis. 

<p>Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure</p>

Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure

Best Off-mountain Activities

For a day off from skiing and snowboarding, head to Blackwater Falls State Park, where you can admire waterfalls plunging alongside hiking trails or try the East Coast's best (and longest, at more than quarter-mile) sled run, complete with a magic carpet to get you back up the hill with zero effort.

Even more adventure awaits at the 1,200-foot-long, multi-lane tubing park at Canaan Valley Resort, home to some of the longest runs in the Middle Atlantic. There are twin magic carpets on either side to get you up the mountain with ease, an outdoor fire pit at the base, and an indoor fireside nook where you can cozy up with a hot chocolate.

Those interested in cross-country skiing can rent all their gear at White Grass Ski Touring Center, a home base for exploring some 30 miles of trails lined with warming huts.

And for true Appalachian tunes, check the concert calendar at Purple Fiddle in Thomas, a live music venue and bar that draws some of the best indie bands and folk and bluegrass artists.

<p>Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure</p>

Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure

How to Ride

Rentals

You’ll find full ski and snowboard rentals in the shops at Timberline Mountain and Canaan Valley Resort. Rental rates start at around $50 per day. The lines can be long in the morning, so if you arrive the day before, it’s a good idea to head straight to the shops about 30 minutes before they close to rent gear for the next day. Timberline Mountain even rents items like snow pants and bibs.

Skiing and Snowboarding

The more modern Timberline Mountain has a quad and six-person chairlift, as well as a magic carpet for beginners and roughly 40 trails to ski and snowboard spread across 100 acres. There are two terrain parks, too. My family could have skied the Salamander — a green run that winds along for two miles — all day. I also loved that every single trail here led to the base of the mountain, so you never have to worry about getting lost. The mountain is almost completely evenly split between beginner, intermediate, and expert terrain, meaning all levels are equally served.

Canaan Valley Resort has 47 trails, but is less modern when it comes to getting up the mountain, with slower lifts in the form of one quad and two triple chairs in addition to the magic carpet for newbies. The terrain here skews more intermediate and advanced (36 percent and 44 percent, respectively), with just 20 percent reserved for beginners. Both mountains have restaurants at their bases, where you can refuel and warm up between all the fun.

Programming

I threw my kids straight into Mountain Sprouts, the 2.5-hour group children’s lessons (ages five to nine) on offer twice a day at Timberline Mountain. They still talk about their great ski instructor, Bruno. For anyone older, there are private, semi-private, and introductory group lessons for skiers and snowboarders. You’ll want to reserve everything in advance, particularly if you’re here over a weekend.

Canaan Valley Resort also offers a range of lessons for skiers and snowboarders, from private, semi-private, and group options to a Mountain Adventure program for skiers only (ages six to 12). Kids wear safety vests and have a dedicated room to retreat to for hot chocolate, a bathroom break, or simply to rest up before tackling the magic carpet again. I loved how the instructors provided a full breakdown of my kids' progress at the end of the session and used props for the tips of their skis, making it easier to get off the chairlift (always a struggle for new skiers).

And if you enjoy ice skating, head to the covered outdoor rink at Canaan Valley Resort State Park to turn figure-eights surrounding by beautiful Allegheny Mountain views.

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