SNOWSHOE -- Intermixed with the buzz of fast-paced mountain bikes swooshing down the steep sides of the Snowshoe Mountain resort, Pocahontas County residents and business owners are hearing another distinct sound.
It's the ka-ching of their cash registers as they happily welcome 2,100 participants to the "Toyota 24 Hours of Snowshoe" mountain bike relay race, which began noon Saturday and runs through noon today.
"This weekend's been busy," said Carole Daniels, owner of Elk Mountain Outfitters, a bike and outdoor shop just miles from the resort. Tire tubes, body padding and bike shoes have been leaving the store in a steady stream since the bikers first arrived at the beginning of this week.
A few feet away, the Big Springs convenience store has developed a special Gatorade and Powerbar clientele.
After nine years of being held at the Canaan Valley Resort in Tucker County, the world's premium 24-hour mountain bike race moved about 50 miles south to Snowshoe.
Mountain biking is expensive. Most competitive bikes cost between $1,000 to $5,000. And then there's the special shoes, "camel" water bottles, nighttime bike lights, matching team jerseys, shorts, helmets ... the list goes on.
Gene Wells, owner of Fat Tire Cycle in Buckhannon, estimates he's spending $4,000 just this weekend to support his three racing teams.
All 198 of the Silver Creek Condos at the resort's mountaintop have been full since February in anticipation of the event. A Silver Creek manager said although the resort does do summer business with outdoor recreationists, it's not as busy as it is right now.
Race participants and their estimated 20,000 spectators are flocking to Snowshoe from all over the world. Pierre Dufour and Luc Papillon traveled more than 200 miles from Quebec, Canada, to race with two other participants.
And after participating the past two years at Canaan, Antonio Serrano led two different teams all the way from Mexico City, Mexico to try his luck at Snowshoe. Although the majority of racers are from the Eastern United States, participants are indeed from everywhere.
And there's good reason. According to Serrano, there's nothing like a West Virginia mountain bike race.
"The place that you have here is heaven," Serrano said. "The mountains, the weather -- it's perfect."
Although Montana has long been deemed the "Mountain Mecca" by mountain bikers, Wells said West Virginia has far more to offer.
"Montana really has nothing on West Virginia," Wells said. West Virginia's mountain biker terrain is definitely more challenging, as race participants report an over-abundance of above-ground roots and other conditions that could place riders in a dangerous situation.
As 24-hour bike relays and West Virginian mountain biking grows, the state and Snowshoe may find itself in a very lucrative position.