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From the Chesapeake to the power brokers of the Beltway, the Mid-Atlantic Region has many assets, but world-class winter sports are not among them. The mountains of West Virginia may not be Aspen or Mammoth, but they’re the best available substitute. Located 4.5 hours from D.C., Snowshoe Mountain delivers everything you want in a ski getaway: 61 trails and a 1,500-foot vertical drop to carve by day, and a cozy village with all the apres-ski amenities, from steaming mugs of fireside cocoa to luxurious spas. If downhill skiing’s not your style, there’s also snowmobiling, tubing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. And in the summer, there’s mountain biking, golf, and canoeing on Shavers Lake. The surrounding Pocahontas County is a treasure trove of natural beauty when it comes to scenic drives and hiking trails — you can even eavesdrop on galaxies far, far away at the Green Bank Observatory.
It’s neither quick nor easy to get to Snowshoe, but with scenery like this, the journey is at least half the point. The closest airport is Greenbrier Valley Airport (LWB), in Lewisburg, about 90 minutes south of town. But you may also want to check flights into Yeager Airport (CRW), in Charleston, West Virginia, about a 3-hour drive west. Whichever you choose, be sure to rent a car and enjoy the view as you’re traveling to your ski rental. Consider a detour on the Highland Scenic Highway through the Monongahela National Forest to peep fall foliage, spring wildflowers, log cabins, and mountain streams.
As the name implies, winter in Snowshoe is all about the snow — of which it gets its fair share. Now, we’re not talking Rocky Mountains-level powder dumps, but you can expect a respectable 180 inches of snowfall at the summit over the course of the winter (December to March). Summers are warm and pleasant, with temperatures in the 70s Fahrenheit, and spring and fall call for jackets and scarves. Rain is always a possibility, so don’t forget an umbrella.
Twenty minutes east of Snowshoe, the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park is a throwback to the turn of the 20th century, when the railroad first came to town and steam engines carried lumber from Bald Knob, West Virginia’s highest peak. The 11-mile track and its century-old locomotive are still functional, but these days they’re used to ferry tourists, not spruce, through the mountains.
From mid-April to mid-October, you can take a cruise along the Highland Scenic Highway and wind up at the 750-acre Cranberry Glades Botanical Area, home to the largest concentration of cranberry bogs in the state and the strange carnivorous plants that grow in them. Visit the Nature Center to learn more about this fascinating ecosystem and arrange a guided tour of the bogs.
Up here in the mountains of West Virginia, scientists are listening. Using a massive radio telescope the size of two football fields, they try to detect signals so faint that all other frequencies across the vast 13,000-square-mile National Radio Quiet Zone must be silenced in order to hear them. Some nearby residents can’t even use wi-fi or own microwaves. This silence has allowed for the discovery of pulsars, neutron stars, and other space phenomena. Here on earth, visitors can take a self-guided walking tour and explore its network of bike trails.