Pros: 2 runs with 1500 vertical, best early and late season skiing in Mid-Atlantic, Cheap Season Pass
Cons: Expensive food and lodging, crowded on the weekend, only 750 vertical in main area
When Snowshoe decided to offer a $200 unlimited pass deal for next season, with the addition of being able to use it for the rest of this season, I knew I'd be making a trip to Snowshoe. I've avoided Snowshoe in the past due to the length of time it takes to drive there, the cost of lodging and food, and the crowds that I've heard reported about by other skiers. However, once the skiing is practically free, the high cost for everything else and the long drive become bearable.
I was lucky to hit Snowshoe on a weekday when conditions were almost as ideal as they could be. Snow was firm, but not icy, the sky was blue for most of the day and all the runs except for a couple of glades were open. I do realize that I may not have had quite as much fun if conditions were not so ideal.
Snowshoe is an interesting ski area that it really feels like 3 separate ski areas on one mountain. In fact, it use to be two separate ski areas until Snowshoe bought out the other one many years ago. When you ski Snowshoe, you see that it is basically split into the main snow basin area, The Western Territory, which is across the main resort road from the main snow basin area and requires a short walk with your skis off to get to, and the Silvercreek area, which is a shuttle bus ride away from the main Snowshoe resort/snow basin area. I spent my one day skiing there in the main Snowshoe snow basin and Western Territory areas and didn't get a chance to sample what is offered at the Silvercreek portion of Snowshoe on my trip.
The main Snowshoe snow basin area gets the bulk of the skier traffic and is dominated with beginner and intermediate runs. There are some advanced runs on this portion of the resort, but the runs do not hold the challenge of some of the runs you'd find at a couple of other Mid Atlantic ski areas like Timberline or Blue Knob. However, the runs are still fun and enjoyable and having high speed lifts to take you back up to the top is a nice change from the other ski areas I mentioned. Beginners and solid intermediates will have a blast in the main snow basin area of the resort. In fact, I mentioned to my wife that it would be a good place for her once she starts learning skiing as they are a lot of nice, scenic, green trails that go all the way down the mountain for beginners to ski. Advanced skiers can find some fun on this part of the mountain too, especially to the far right of the area with Widowmaker and the other advanced trails served by the lift in that area. The only downside to these trails is the limited vertical so runs are only a few minutes long. While Snowshoe prominently advertises 1500 ft of vertical, the main snow basin and Silvercreek areas, which account for 90% of the runs only have 750 ft of vertical.
There is one area of Snowshoe that really does shine for high level intermediate and advanced skiers and that is the Western Territory. The Western Territory is a short walk across the main road from the main Snowshoe main basin area and it is here that you will find the 1500 ft of vertical that Snowshoe advertises on their site. While the Western Territory has only two runs, I'd say these two runs are probably the best runs of the ski area. First is Cupp Run, which was designed by Jean Claude Killy. While a solid intermediate skier can handle Cupp Run, it is really a high speed delight for advanced skiers, letting you feel like you are on a downhill race course. The second and newer trail in this area of Snowshoe is Shay's Revenge. Shay's Revenge starts off as a fairly mellow cruiser that any Intermediate skier can handle. The upper cruiser portion of the run ends in a fairly flat run out that will take away most of the speed you obtained by the time that you reach the real revenge part of the run, lower Shay's Revenge. While Upper Shay's Revenge is mellow, Lower Shay's Revenge is basically a steep headwall with over 400 vertical ft of sustained 21 degree drop. The run is certainly steep enough to challenge most advanced skiers and steeper than what you likely find at any other Mid Atlantic resort. Lower Shay's Revenge is also avoided by most skiers at Snowshoe, so often advanced skiers can have it for themselves. It's these two runs that really make skiing Snowshoe worth the trip.
It wouldn't be a review of Snowshoe without mentioning the overall resort as well. Snowshoe is owned by Intrawest and they done their best to give it the feel of a mini Western destination resort. It has a village area with shops and restaurants along with really nice (and expensive) condos for lodging. Some people hate the resort feel of Snowshoe and especially the high price for lodging and food that it brings. However, as someone who has a spouse who until recently didn't ski at all, and at most will likely ski for a couple of hours when she does, going to a place that has nice slope side lodging and things to do at the resort make the trip fun for both of us. I love Timberline and Blue Knob and could easily spend a weekend skiing at either, but there is nothing at those resorts to keep a non-skiing spouse occupied. A non-skiing spouse can be happy spending a couple of days at Snowshoe where they would likely get bored at most other Mid Atlantic ski areas. So for my wife and I, the resort part of Snowshoe is a plus as it helps us both enjoy the trip. If it was just me, I'd be unhappy at the higher cost the upscale resort feel brings. Overall, I'm glad that there is a place like Snowshoe in driving distance where my wife and I can spend some time together and I get some good skiing in as well.
While it would be nice to have some more challenging runs and it is on the expensive side, Snowshoe is a fun place to ski and worth a trip if you live in the Mid Atlantic area. Especially when it is the only place outside of driving to New York or New England where you can ski two runs that have 1500 ft of vertical.