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State's ski resorts prepare for open of new season

by Jennifer Biller

STAFF WRITER

DAVIS -- When skiers reach the bottom of the mountain at Canaan Valley this year, they may think they've skied into a shopping mall.

A new, $2 million ski lodge now stands at the base of the hill. The two-story, 21,000 square-foot lodge will house ticketing operations, retailers, ski rentals, warming areas and five new eateries.

The top floor of the lodge is home to an open, airy food court that seats 450 people. The facility is planned to open during the first week of December.

"We're excited. This will be great for our guests," said spokesperson Bryan Brown. "We have expanded the amenities and increased the amount of space visitors have to take a break. We hope they will be happy with all the changes."

In the past, skiers had to go to different buildings for ski rentals, food and to purchase tickets. They also had to fight for seats in the often crowded snackbar. No more. The new lodge will house everything in one building and have ample space.

Skiers will now be able to purchase lift tickets outside at a convenient window, without having to strip off heavy gear and go indoors. Overall, it will help get skiers on the slopes quicker.

Canaan is a family resort that also offers alternatives to downhill skiing. Tubing, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and skating at the ice rink are popular activities, Brown said.

Approximately 90,000 people visited the ski area last year, Brown said.

Let it snow

Area resorts started making snow this week, as part of their preparations for the winter ski season. The warm weather in November caused a delay in snowmaking.

"Like other resorts, we had to push back our opening this year, because the weather has not been very cooperative," Brown said.

On Tuesday, it dropped to 22 degrees on Snowshoe Mountain, which helped snowmakers convert about 1 million gallons of water into 27,500 tons of snow, said Joe Stevens, director of communications for Snowshoe Mountain Resort.

At Timberline Four Seasons Resort, new improvements to the snowmaking and grooming equipment are helping get slopes in top condition this season, said Tom Blanzy, general manager.

"Anytime the weather is suitable, we make snow," Blanzy said. "We can make about 20,000 tons of snow a day, and we use about 100 million gallons of water a year."

Other additions this year at Timberline include new rental skis and other new equipment. Ski season at Timberline is tentatively scheduled to open the second week of December.

About 90,000 visitors skied Timberline last year, Blanzy said.

At Snowshoe Mountain Resort, visitors will have access to a new aqua center called Split Rock Pools this season. The center will have water slides, a wading pool, a water geyser, hot tubs, a sauna and more.

Other noticeable changes will be cosmetic, Stevens said.

"We've spiffed the place up," he said. "We've made a lot of changes with carpet and paint."

Snowshoe also offers winter activities in addition to skiing. Horse-drawn sleigh rides, snowmobile riding and tubing are some of the attractions.

"The new aqua center is just adding to the overall experience," Stevens said. "People are looking for more to do than just ski when they get to a resort."

Last year, 473,000 visitors came to Snowshoe Mountain, Stevens said. The ski season is set to open there the first week of December.

Staff writer Jennifer Biller can be reached at 626-1449 or by e-mail at jbiller@exponent-telegram.com.

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