White Grass Ski Touring Center takes great pride in being West Virginia’s “alternative” ski resort. “Lift” is a four-letter word in this establishment, and folk music, rather than rock, emanates from the lodge’s various speakers. If you sit too long in one of the sheepskin covered chairs in front of the pot bellied stove with a bowl of their singular veggie chili and a glass of red wine, you may forget that you are there to ski.
White Grass is sandwiched between two downhill ski resorts (Canaan Valley and Timberline) with a little over half of the trail system owned by the nearby Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The terrain makes it unique for a cross-country ski area. It’s a little bit on the rolly, hilly and, at places, even steep side.
Canaan Valley, a high-elevation basin (3,200 to 4,400 feet) in the Allegheny Mountains, is an anomaly for Mid-Atlantic Appalachia, having a climate more comparable to that of the boreal forests of Canada. Add in its unique geographic position, which draws down lake effect snows moving in from the northwest, and the sum is an average snowfall in excess of 150 inches annually.
With all of that terrain and snow, White Grass welcomes all types of skiers at all skill levels. Blissfully glide through open meadows and up and down wooded hillsides on favorite trails such as Fern Gully and Gandalf’s Glade. Those committed to huffing it up to the top of the mountain are rewarded with spectacular views courtesy of several balds and knobs, and a snow-encrusted spruce and hemlock forest. Hard-core telemark junkies can scream down Yitzhak Ravine, or practice tele-turns in Boutros-Boutros Gully. The White Grass trail system also provides access to adjacent Dolly Sods wilderness.
You seldom see a soul once you get a couple of kilometers beyond the lodge area. The extent of the resort’s terrain tends to disperse people effectively. The feeling of solitude you experience gliding through snow-covered woods is not something Alpine skiers can experience these days. Being alone in the mountains in the winter is a rare and wonderful treat indeed.
The only thing possible that could tempt you off the mountain is the promise of the White Grass cafe – in case you can’t get there this winter, here’s a favorite recipe for smoked trout dip only slightly modified from the original White Grass version. I like it best fresh off the trails with a glass of chilled dry white wine. Try it with first vine’s Cuvee des Templiers white ($10): light , crisp and refreshing .
Smoked Trout Dip, White Grass style
1 boneless smoked trout, (about 8 ounces)
1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon minced red onion
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
1/2 lemon, juiced
Discard the head, and skin and flake the trout fillets. Puree the cream cheese, sour cream, and horseradish in a mini food processor. Add the fish and pulse to a make a smooth dip. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the onion and parsley, and the lemon juice, to taste. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Serve with whole grain crackers (I like this with Stoned Wheat Thins).