Cross Country Skiing at White Grass

whitegrassI somehow stumbled upon this (awesome!) place online several years ago. It has been in the back of my mind ever since.

Growing up in Massachusetts, my dad’s side of the family would rent a cabin in NH every year during February vacation. From there, we would spend our days (and sometimes evenings) cross-country skiing. My grandfather even took me on a few weekend trips to the mountains, where we’d sleep in a hostel and ski all day. I enjoyed the trips. At the time, I might have been more into making snow angels and drinking hot chocolate, but the seeds were sewn. He’d shared with me the peaceful beauty of a snow-covered world and shown me the magic of gliding through on a pair of skis. Decades may have gone by, but I have not forgotten.

I’d tried, on numerous occasions, and unsuccessfully, to get either Kurt or my sister to go with me. My friend Rebecca, I was pleasantly surprised to discover, was willing (dare I say eager?) to make the trip with me.

According to Yahoo driving directions, the trip from Charlottesville to White Grass should take just under three hours. With a stop at Starbucks and another at the Sheetz in Harrisonburg, we made it in just over three. There are a couple of steep, switch-backed mountain passes to cross. The one closest to Canaan Valley had a little bit of snow cover on it. After the turn off the main road, the roads went quickly from partially snow-covered to completely snow-covered. The parking lot was hard-packed snow. I naively figured they must throw some sand down for traction. We had no problem parking, but would later discover my naivety.

We walked up to the lodge, which was an old red barn-type building. Inside, it was warm and cozy (okay, a little cramped) with a stove in the middle of the room and tables all along the window and center of the room. On the other side, there was a window to pay and rent skis. We paid, and they asked for my license to hold until we returned the skis.

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I was watching our skis while Rebecca was in the restroom when I heard somebody say “JoAnne!”. I turned and found my neighbor Mark standing in front of me. He lives less than a quarter of a mile down the road and I hadn’t seen him for several months, but I’d driven three hours into the middle of nowhere in West Virginia, and now he was standing in front of me. I’ve never known much about him, but I’ve always thought he was pretty cool. I considered my suspicions confirmed as he told me about how much he loved the place, and came as often as he could. I told him I’d never been there before, and he launched right into telling me which trails we should take. I was grateful for his suggestions, because I had no idea where to start.

Following Mark’s directions, we set off on the Three Mile Trail, which began right in front of the lodge…IMG_20130105_112138_242

and lead into the woods…

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and then climbed steadily up the mountain.

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There were several of these little shelters along the way, which offered a nice place to stop for a rest and snack.

The trail was wide and well-groomed. We had to pass a few people, but it didn’t feel too terribly crowded. It took me a while to get the hang of skiing again, and it was hard to glide because we were mostly climbing. I was really enjoying being in the snow-filled woods. Before making the trip, I had read that this area gets almost as much annual snowfall as upstate New York, but I had a really hard time believing it. I was thrilled to find that it was true. A thick, natural blanket of snow covered the ground, and higher up, the trees as well.IMG_20130105_121619_262IMG_20130105_122400_334

We stopped for a snack at the little shelter at Round Top.

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The shelter was behind me when I took this picture.

My neighbor had told us that, as long as we were fairly confident in our snowplowing skills, we could take any of the many side trails (probably skipping the black ones) back down to the lodge. The Three Mile Trail we’d come up on was the least steep way to get back down the mountain, though, and I was confident that it would test my snowplowing skills plenty. So, after a few handfuls of trailmix, we started back down the way we’d come.

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This ski on the side of the trail served to show the depth of the snow. Almost 16″ when we were there.

The hill on the way back down was fairly moderate, but challenging and fast enough to supply a small dose of excitement. It was mostly just beautiful and a lot of fun.

When we got back down, Rebecca wanted to sit for a while and enjoy the sun. I was eager to explore more trails, so she told me to go. I took the Gandalf Glade trail for a while, then headed back to meet her for some lunch. There was a long line in the cafe, and very limited seating. Rebecca waited in the line to order our food while I scouted out a place for us to sit. I found one chair at a table full of people and figured somebody else would get up before Rebecca returned with our food. They were still there when she came over, but they saw that she needed a seat and were nice enough to get up so she could sit.

We shared a bowl of Mediterranean Chickpea soup, which was delicious. It came with two garlic bread sticks, that were also very good. We also split a hummus sandwich, a brownie and a molasses cookie. The food was all fresh and homemade and delicious. For the price, ($8.50) I thought they were a little skimpy with the hummus on the sandwich, and I would have preferred another choice for a side, in addition to the tortilla chips that came with it. Over-all, though, I was very happy with my healthy and tasty lunch. I would happily eat there again.

With full stomachs, we went back out to explore the trails through the meadows around the lodge.

IMG_20130105_144014_991IMG_20130105_144022_031 I wanted to ski as long as possible, but the sun was sinking low over the mountain, and I wanted to get back over the first mountain pass before the road had time to refreeze.

So, reluctantly, we returned our skis and headed back to the car. We quickly realized that we were stuck. I backed out fine, but as soon as I tried to head up the small incline leading out of the lot, my tires just spun and spun. We weren’t the only ones. Two other cars were stuck. Somebody had a tow rope, and offered to tow us all out. They towed the big SUV out, but there was nowhere to tie a rope to my tiny little car. Everybody worked together to push my car out. I was extremely appreciative. I still can’t believe the ski area didn’t put some gravel or something down. I guess they expect (probably rightfully so) their patrons to drive cars equipped to deal with snowy conditions.

We could not have asked for better weather, or a more perfect day of skiing. I can’t wait to go back. My next car might need to be a four wheel drive.

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About healthyincville

Nemophilist Trail runner Introvert Animal-loving vegetarian * My ideal city would be car-free. I love my cats.
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