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New snow tube park being built at Canaan Valley

Chip Ellis
A new warming hut-food service building takes shape at the base of a new, 1,200-foot-long snow tubing park being built this summer and fall at Canaan Valley Resort State Park. Wooden building at right is part of a new wobble clay skeet range also being added at the Tucker County park.

CANAAN VALLEY, W.Va. -- Development of one of the region's biggest snow-tubing parks is part of $10 million in slope-side construction work now underway at Canaan Valley Resort State Park.

The new 1,200-foot long snow-tubing park, which will have up to 16 lanes, is taking shape across the main access road to Canaan Valley's ski area from the existing tube park. The new tube park is twice as long, and at least twice as wide, as the old five-lane park.

"Starting this winter, we'll have one of the biggest and longest tube runs in the East," said Stan Beafore, assistant superintendent at Canaan Valley State Park. While the old park was able to accommodate only about 100 tube riders at a time, the new park should be able to handle up to 250 riders per session.

"With the old tube run, there were times when sessions would sell out and people would have to wait," Beafore said. "That shouldn't be a problem now."

Instead of hopping on their tubes and riding a rope tow to the top of the run, snow tube riders at Canaan will stand atop the resort's new Magic Carpet surface lift, which resembles the escalator-like people-mover conveyances found in larger airports.

The new tube park is designed to accommodate up to 16 lanes of tubing, but it hasn't yet been determined how many lanes will be available at the start of the 2012-2013 snow season. Current plans call for at least 10 lanes to be open this winter.

A warming hut equipped with a fireplace, food service, hot beverages and beer and wine  service, is taking shape at the base of the new tubing park. A patio and outdoor fire ring are being built adjacent to the hut.

Also under construction at the base of the new tubing hill is a wobble clay skeet range, designed to draw people to the slope long after the snow melts.  A similar range was recently built at Cacapon State Park.

A wobble clay range provides shotgun shooters with targets that move along a more extreme trajectory, with more up-and-down and side-to-side oscillation, than a standard trap shooting range. Wobble clay shooting is considered by many shooters to be more challenging than standard trap shooting, offering better and more realistic preparation for bird hunting.

Elsewhere on the slopes at Canaan Valley Resort State Park, construction crews are replacing all pipes supplying water to snowmaking gear, and will soon be installing several new snow guns. A new pipeline connects the snowmaking supply ponds at the ski area with the irrigation pond at Canaan Valley's golf course, making additional water available for snowmaking. Another pipeline connects the golf course pond with the Blackwater River, providing a backup source of water during extreme dry periods.

During warmer months, the ski area ponds can be used to augment golf course irrigation, Beafore said.

With the new pipes, hydrants, snow guns and water capacity, "I think people will be surprised with the dramatic improvements they'll see on the ski slopes this season," said Brad Leslie, chief engineer for West Virginia State Parks.

The two lodge buildings used to accommodate skiers when the park opened its ski slopes in 1972 are undergoing major renovations, including new roofs, decks, windows, furniture and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. A new patio will connect the two buildings, now used to house a pub and a ticket sales area, and will contain another outdoor fire ring.

"It's going to be a nice facelift for these buildings," said Deborah Demyan, project engineer for the state parks system.

Another Magic Carpet lift is being installed to serve a new ski school area adjacent to the ski area lodges.  The new bunny slope was needed to separate novice skiers from skiers and snowboarders completing their runs, often at high speed, on the park's more challenging runs.

The $10 million project also includes some slope work at Blackwater Falls State Park, where a third Magic Carpet lift is being installed at the park's 800-foot sledding run to replace the old rope tow system -- now powered by the wheels of a retired state park truck.

"Hopefully, in the spring, we'll be able to start installing some snowmaking over there, too," Leslie said.

The $10 million in slope-side improvements is part of a $36 construction project for Canaan Valley Resort State Park funded through a bond issue. Most of the money is being used to pay for construction of the park's main lodge building, located across W.Va. 32 from the ski area.

The new four-story lodge wings taking shape adjacent to the existing lobby-restaurant building are now under roof, allowing work to continue through the winter.  Work on the new 162-room lodge, which will provide guests with sweeping views of Canaan Valley, is on schedule and is expected to be ready for occupancy by the end of next August.

The new rooms will come in a variety of sizes and configurations, including suites with fireplaces and balconies.

A large central lodge building was initially envisioned for Canaan Valley in the early '70s, but when funding for the structure did not fall into place, a decision was made to erect the current facility -- a cluster of five 50-room modular units.

"The current lodge wasn't designed to be used for as long as it has been," said Beafore. "The new lodge is long overdue."

While the resort's total number of lodge rooms will drop from 250 to 162, marketing studies have indicated that the lower number of rooms is the most economical to maintain, according to Beafore.

Lelsie said it's possible one of the 50-room modular sections of the old lodge could be retained for use by scout, church or other groups.

When Appalachian Corridor H reaches nearby Davis -- now projected for the fall of 2014 -- "this place will explode with visitors," Beafore said. "This work will help us be ready for them."

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.

 


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