CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Cross-county skiers in Davis have been hitting the trails for a while now, but downhill skiers and snowboarders are gearing up for the start of their season Wednesday.Snowshoe Mountain will kick things off with the opening of two top to bottom runs and three lifts at the Snowshoe area and one top to bottom run and one lift at Silver Creek.Superstorm Sandy helped dump more than 50 inches of snow at Snowshoe, and spokesman Dave Dekema said temperatures at the highest elevations have been cold enough to support snowmaking operations as well. After a late start last season, he said employees are excited to open early this fall.Snow from Sandy allowed one resort, White Grass Touring Center in Davis, to open its cross-country skiing trails in October. But Canaan Valley, Oglebay, Winterplace and Timberline plan to start their seasons in early December.West Virginia resorts draw more than 800,000 skier visits a year, typically luring visitors from Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio and Florida. Last year, though, the numbers were off by about 15 percent because of late openings and an unusually warm winter."It's great to open on time," said Terry Pfeiffer, president of the West Virginia Ski Areas Association.
West Virginia's season typically runs from Thanksgiving through early April and has an economic impact of about $250 million. It also supports some 5,000 jobs.The Charleston Daily Mail says Snowshoe, Canaan Valley, Winterplace and Timberline have all made improvements, but the biggest are at Canaan Valley. It's undergoing a multimillion-dollar expansion that includes a new tubing park expected to open Dec. 21.It will feature the longest tube run in the mid-Atlantic region, with 16 lanes and a 1,200-foot run, said Bradley Leslie, assistant chief of the state parks section in the Division of Natural Resources.Sandy created some construction delays, but Leslie said a new tube park lodge will feature restrooms, a fireplace, a lounge and a viewing area, as well as an outdoor plaza with fire ring.Renovations to the main park lodge and new guest rooms should be finished next summer, but Leslie says the lodge and 150 guest rooms are still available this winter.