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Winter resorts invite skiers to bring beginner friends

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- While temperatures across West Virginia have you shivering in your boots, cranking up the heat and dressing in so many layers that you can barely move, there is one thing in this state that's not cold at all: the ski industry.

The West Virginia ski industry is hot, hot, hot, say resort leaders and industry experts alike -- and full of moneysaving deals within easy driving distance of the Charleston area.

"Mother Nature must have known it was Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, because she has provided," said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin during a news conference held last week to officially proclaim the title for the Mountain State.

Learn to Ski is part of a national campaign designed to get thousands of first-time skiers and snowboarders on the slopes with enticing deals and special rates, including the Bring A Friend challenge, which offers special rates for beginner lessons and ski packages, and prizes through March 14.

"We want to introduce new people to the sports of skiing and snowboarding, and we want to convert them," said Joe Stevens, communications director of the West Virginia Ski Areas Association.

Terry Pfeiffer, WVSAA president, agreed, but said every cold-weather month is a great month to learn to ski, not just January.

"All the resorts [in West Virginia] have great packages to get beginners on the slopes," said Pfeiffer, who is also the president of Winterplace Resort.

"Midweek you can get a beginner lift ticket for the entire day, equipment rental and a 90-minute lesson for $34.95 -- and we guarantee you learn to ski," he added.

Ski resorts are eager to draw in a new base of customers -- but across West Virginia, many resorts said the cold weather this year is a bonus, even if the snow is not all falling from the skies.

"Last year we didn't get to open until after Christmas, but this year, most if not all of the resorts in the state were open the second week of December," said David Herscher, general manager of Canaan Valley Resort near Davis.

The longer season is primarily due to upgraded snowmaking equipment that can crank out the equivalent of 20 football fields covered with a foot of snow every hour.

"We call it 'white gold.' It couldn't be any better," said Pfeiffer. "West Virginia has some of the best training terrain around."

More details on the Learn to Ski campaign, special rates at West Virginia resorts and the Bring A Friend challenge are available at www.bringafriend.org and www.goskiwv.com.

Reach Maria Young at maria.young@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5115.


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