By William “Skip” Deegans
Compared to commercial eastern snow skiing that began near Woodstock, Vermont in 1934, West Virginia skiing is a much younger endeavor. The first ski areas in both states began on rural farms. In 1951, skiers from the Washington Ski Club came to West Virginia in search of snow. Legend has it that an airline pilot spotted a large area of snow in Canaan Valley while flying over West Virginia and passed that information on to the ski club. Two members of the club drove to West Virginia in search of an area suitable for skiing. Noticing a large drift of snow on the Heitz family farm in the Canaan Valley, the ski club’s scouts asked if they could ski. Encouraged, the club leased part of the farm. They bought a used rope-tow and powered it with an old truck engine. The slope was called the Cabin Mountain Ski Area (pictured above) and by the 1953-54 winter it was in full swing. The daily rate was $1.00 for members, $2.00 for non-members, and 50 cents for children. That was the humble beginning of what is now a $250 million industry that supports some 5,000 jobs.
Photo courtesy of the West Virginia University Regional History Center.
Sources: Skiing from Top to Bottom: The History of Skiing in Canaan Valley by John Lutz; The Early History of Skiing in Canaan Valley by Dave Lesher; Ski West Virginia.