Canaan Valley — a Winter Wonderland

I still remember how proud I was the moment I first let my daughter go, let her face the wonder of gravity and thrill of speed all by herself. I watched her slide smoothly down the slope, moving cautiously from one turn into another, her eyes filled with wonder and delight, and I knew then just how lucky we are to call Canaan Valley our home. I remember my first time skiing also; perhaps six years old visiting a tiny, now-defunct hill in south eastern Pennsylvania where I lost control and did a vicious split on my first run. I left in tears and swore off skiing for years to come. My father, a college ski racer himself, was no ski instructor — under his well-intentioned but ill-informed instruction it’s surprising I didn’t hang it up for good.

I didn’t move to Canaan Valley, an extremely wild, sparsely populated pocket of the central Appalachians to teach skiing or to raise a family. I moved here for the vast empty spaces, extreme whitewater, exceptionally rugged and beautiful mountains and the wild brook trout. I also moved here to feel winter; to experience real snowfall. With a base elevation of more than 3,000 feet and a tremendous amount of moisture moving in from the Great Lakes, Canaan Valley is coined the Snow Globe of the mid Atlantic. Visitors travelling from Washington D.C., less than three hours’ drive, are constantly blown away when they climb the ridge entering Canaan Valley. Leaving dreary rain and bleak weather in the lowlands, visitors enter a winter wonderland.

When I first moved to Canaan Valley, I had no idea what was in the cards for me. All I knew was from the time I was a child I wanted to live high in the mountains, far from traffic lights, strip malls and a 9:00 to 5:00. So I came to the mountains with an English degree and a kayak. What did I need next? A job. Working as a whitewater raft guide in the warmer months I didn’t need just any job, I needed seasonal winter employment. Lucky for me Canaan Valley has plenty of that.

I started teaching skiing the way most instructors do; working in the Children’s Program. I cut my teeth as a professional instructor teaching five to 12 year olds to ski for six hours a day while their parents had the freedom to take their own lessons, make their own runs or just relax for a while. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and I love vacation, but even vacation can feel like work without a little time for yourself. I also realized the true value of professional instruction; watching children improve and gain confidence in themselves while surrounded by a fun group of peers and a great learning environment. No crying children being dragged down the hill between their parents’ legs here: Canaan Cub Club and Mountain Adventure, our half- and full-day children’s programs promote independent, safe skiing through fun exercises, games and appropriate terrain.

As my knowledge and ability as an instructor grew, I began to explore adaptive ski instruction, working with deaf skiers, visually impaired skiers, skiers with degenerative diseases, autistic skiers, paraplegics and amputees. Children and adults, independent or guided, adaptive instructors and guides do everything possible to bring the joy of skiing to everyone. Working closely with groups like Challenged Athletes of West Virginia, the Gathering of Mountain Eagles and Warfighter Sports, Canaan Valley Resort brings smiles to the faces of many Soldiers as well as their families. Skiing and snowboarding, along with many other park activities, giving Soldiers a great opportunity to enjoy the moment with their families and to set aside the difficulties faced when returning from duty.

Not everyone is lucky enough to call Canaan Valley their home, but families can come and experience our mountain environment, go skiing or snowboarding with our skilled team of instructors, or get out and see the area and communities we love so much. Introduce your family to winter sports and the mountains the right way. Come visit Canaan Valley Resort and build lasting winter memories the whole family can enjoy for years to come.

Warren Wik is a ski instructor for Canaan Valley Resort ski area. When he’s not trying to keep up with his daughter on the slopes, he is guiding class V whitewater rapids on the nearby Upper Youghiogheny River, paddling remote Appalachian rivers, or disappearing into the mountains with his backpack and his fly rod. Since hiking the 2,140 mile Appalachian Trail at the age of 18, Warren knew he would call the mountains his home.

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