Snowshoe is different, but only in a couple ways.

For example: The resort sits atop a U-shaped basin at the summit of Cheat Mountain, not at the base, as all properly designed ski areas are supposed to.

And the altitude of the mountain is 4,840 feet, higher than any ski area in New England.

But then Snowshoe isn’t in New England. It’s south of the Mason - Dixon Line in West (by God) Virginia, which explains why it’s probably far better known to Civil War buffs than to most skiers around the nation.

On the other hand, whether they’re aficionados of old battlegrounds or old ski resorts, those who take to the slopes at Snowshoe will discover that skiing in the Old South can be an unexpectedly pleasant and challenging experience.

From the summit down to the base of the 11 chairlifts, the resort has a very respectable vertical of 1,500 feet and is laced with 53 trails, including a few tough enough to challenge black-diamond hotshots. For the most part, the well-maintained runs range from green to advanced blue.

The phrase “southern skiing” may sound like an oxymoron in a land of sunshine and cotton, but there are a few resorts scattered across the region and, among them, Snowshoe is the snowiest. It has an average annual snowfall of almost 200 inches, and today covers 95 percent of its slopes with high-tech snowmaking. Its season normally runs from mid - November to as far into April as the snows last.

Although it has no special snowboard facilities, snowboarders are welcome. Maybe due to southern manners, they have a deserved reputation for being more polite and less grungy here than they are elsewhere. I should also note that there’s less shoving and more chivalry on the lift lines than at any resort I’ve ever skied.

Pleasantly remote from everywhere else - it’s 26 miles to the nearest small town, Marlinton - Snowshoe Village, at the top of the mountain, is a collection of lodges, condominiums, chalets, shops, restaurants, and bars.

Gourmet southern mountain cuisine and local wild game are the famed specialties of The Red Fox Restaurant. The Comedy Cellar, the loudest bar on the mountain, features the ski world’s only full-time resident comedian. When he’s not pelting apres skiers with humor, he cavorts during the day as the resort’s mascot, Snowshoe Hare.

Kids squeal with delight when they spot actual snowshoe rabbits bouncing across the runs.

There’s a full range of rentals, a ski shop, adult ski classes, and children’s facilities, including an excellent day-care center and the Brr Rabbit ski school.

For information, including advice on mountain road conditions, call the resort at (304) 572-1000, or write: Snowshoe Resort, Snowshoe, WV 26209. On the Internet: wvweh. com/www/snowshoe. html.

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