Whitewater Rafting in the Mountain State

By: Abdulaziz Alfadhli

Whitewater rafting is one of the most famous tourist activities in West Virginia. There are many companies that make a living off this activity and the extras that come with it.

According to Whitewater Unlimited, this all started in 1968 when three brothers started their own rafting business with a small loan and a pick up truck. Jon, Tom, and Chris Dragan started by taking trips on their own to explore the rivers and determine what are the best routs and how to access them.

After their business started and became known to many people, other companies decided to enter the industry and whitewater rafting became a big industry in West Virginia. Today, hundred of thousands of customers come to West Virginia, every year, to experience whitewater rafting.

The industry kept growing in West Virginia, but once you’re at the top, you can only go down. By 2007, the whitewater rafting industry became less popular and the number of rafters kept declining. The whitewater rafting companies were threatened by this, and had to act to save their businesses.

In 2007, three companies, Mountain River Tours, Class-VI River Runners and the Rivermen decided to consolidate into one large resort, which is now known as the Adventures on the Gorge. This decision saved the companies and kept them in business. The Adventure on the Gorge is one of the largest resorts in West Virginia, in addition to the ACE Adventure Resort and other resorts.

Today, the whitewater rafting industry is working well and thousands of people come to West Virginia Every year to explore this adventure. I went on a rafting trip with the ACE two years ago and it was really great. There are also other activities in these resorts such as horseback riding, zip lines, kayaking, fishing, climbing and many other fun things to do.

I looked at several websites to get an estimate of the price range for a one-day rafting trip. The prices varied a lot and it depends on the size of the boat and the type of the trip. Just to give you an idea of the price range, it goes from $70-$150. Again, it depends on what you want to do and how long do you want to do it.

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Canaan Valley Renovations Boost Region Profits

Canaan Valley is a hidden gem for outdoor adventurers and with a new $34 million renovation to the main resort, business has soared.

Timberline Trail Map

Timberline Trail Map

Canaan Resort Trail Map

Canaan Resort Trail Map

 

The Valley is home to two of W.Va.’s most affordable, as in best bang for your buck, ski areas. Canaan Valley Resort State Park and Timberline Four Season Resort combine to offer over 80 slopes, including the 2 mile long Salamander. With its Northern location Canaan Valley is much more accessible to cities such as D.C. and pittsburgh. With the completion of Corridor H from D.C. drive times will be significantly cut down and provide the area with more high-profile business.

Corridor H

Corridor H

The renovations feature two new four-story towers with 80 rooms each. David Herscher, general manager of Canaan Valley Resort, commented on the need for a renovation, “The guest rooms were old and worn and tired and we needed new accommodations here. Just the new facilities will bring in a whole new clientele.” Improvements to the ski area including new snowmakers, tubing park, and better slopes saw a rise in visitors last year and those numbers stayed high this season (Canaan Resort wouldn’t release specific figures).

Once the the new corridor is completed only three turns will be needed onto different routes from Canaan to the D.C. area surely improving business to the entire Canaan Valley area.

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Global warming: Bad for the earth, good for ski resorts

Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort has recently taken advantage of global warming’s harsher winters and summers.  The 11,000 acres that make up Snowshoe in the Appalachian Mountains has extended its season to be the longest in a decade and is introducing new activities to attract people in the summer.

Image from the Charleston Daily Mail

Last Fall, Snowshoe announced that their new season will go from the day before Thanksgiving in November to Easter in April.  They also announced the future opening of a new luxury hotel.

The decision to extend the season came from Mother Nature… And the people that run the ski resort.  Early and heavy snowfall for the past two years has resulted in the entire 250 acres of ski-able area to be completely covered and for Snowshoe’s snowmakers to happily kick into full gear.

“Along with being important for snowmaking, the chilly temperatures also help us in the metro areas throughout the region as folks start thinking about skiing and snowboarding when the temperatures drop,” Joe Stevens, spokesman for the West Virginia Ski Areas Association, told WDBJ7 in November.

Steven also said the ski resort has an economic impact of over $250 million and creates 5,000 jobs around the mountain.

The ski resorts’ taking advantage of changing weather patterns has become an economically profitable resource for this area as Snowshoe works hard to make sure she’ll be comin’ ’round the mountain when she comes.

Photo from pic2fly.com

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Mountaineer Casino Resort Building Outdoor Patio to Comply with Ban

By: Lauren McMillen 

In an effort to comply with the countywide public smoking ban put into place in Hancock County, the Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack, and Resort  plans to build an outdoor smoking patio, equipped with gambling tables and slot machines.

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The Clean Air Act goes into effect on July 1. The casino claimed that this was going to hurt their business, out of fear that tourists would travel to establishments that allow smoking indoors.

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Photo Courtesy: Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort

The ban, adopted by the Hancock County Board of Health, includes everything from restaurants, bars, gaming facilities, hotels, public parks and concert venues. Just last week,  the Board of Health granted the approval to the casino for the outdoor patio.

According to the Weirton Daily Times, Joseph L. Billhimer, Chief Operating Officer of Eldorado Gaming Inc., unveiled plans for the smoking patio to the health board on Tuesday.  The board approved the proposal set forth. Eldorado is Mountaineer’s parent company.

In an interview with Metronews, Chris Kern, general manager of the Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, said there were concerns on both sides of the issue.

“Obviously we want to be a good citizen of the county and the state. We want our employees and the community to be healthy, but we also want that revenue that most of which we get out of state,” said Kern.

mountaineer-casino-racetrack

Photo Courtesy: Trip Advisor

However, a majority of customers that visit the casino are from Ohio, where some casino’s have already taken advantage of small patios to comply with smoke-free bans.

“With as many games as we plan on having, it should allow us to take care of those customers that want to take part in smoking as well,” he said.

Kern said the area is currently enclosed, but they plan to do some remodeling to make sure they fit with Clean Air Act requirements. The new patio space will be located in a gaming area that is not currently being used.

“We’re going to have possibly 200 slot machines and six table games in this space,” he said.

To make sure the area is ready for all conditions, the space will include radiant heaters, large ceiling fans, and wind shears.

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Photo Courtesy: Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort

However, the community as a whole could take a toll. Kern said the ban is going to reduce annual revenues, especially with the casino being Hancock County’s largest employer.

“Every other state that’s done this is experiencing anywhere from 15 to a 30 percent decline in revenue,” he said, “The West Virginia Lottery’s projection came in at basically right at 18 percent, which was their estimation of what the impact would mean for us.”

Kern said new patio should be open by July 1, which is the same day that the Clean Air Act goes into effect.

So do you think this ban will hurt the casino? Would this keep you away? Or is this a good move to lookout for the health of customers and employees? Share your thoughts!

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The Greenbrier: West Virginia’s Shining Diamond

Elaborate decoration, exquisite meals, upscale shopping and lavish entertainment. No, we’re not at the Ritz Carlton, a Rocky Mountain ski resort or even a high rise in Dubai. We’re in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia at The Greenbrier Resort.

Front entrance, GreenbrierThe Greenbrier has opened its doors to guests since 1778. Today, the property offers 710 rooms, including 33 suites and 96 guest and estate houses. The Greenbrier has 10 lobbies, 40+ meeting rooms and a complete conference center facility.

In 2009, though, the Greenbrier found itself in financial shambles. In swooped energy and agriculture billionaire, Jim Justice II. Justice, a bold businessman and nearby-Lewisburg local, made assessments of what to keep, like the bold decor, and what to add, like attractions for children and world class golf courses.

Justice stepped in and offered $15 million in cash. Ultimately, he spent approximately $43 million for the hotel, spa, golf courses, sporting club, future casino, a break-up fee to Marriott, and 500 home lots.

The Greenbriar Casino Springhouse. Photo via WVtravelgroup

The Greenbriar Casino Springhouse. Photo via WVtravelgroup

Why go to the bother of saving it? That’s probably a silly question. It’s historic! It’s impressive! It’s one of a kind! Most importantly, though, its economically important to the area, specifically Greenbrier County!

The resort is the largest employer in the area and a deciding factor in the surrounding area’s economy and morale.

John Manchester, Mayor of Lewisburg said in an interview with WVVA in June 2009, “When The Greenbrier is doing well, we do very, very well. We get a lot of spin off business, a lot of people that are interested in coming and seeing the whole area, including downtown Lewisburg.”

In 2011, Lewisburg was even named one of America’s Coolest Small Towns.

By 2013, the Greenbrier Resort was operating at nearly a constant full capacity and hosting world class events, like the Greenbrier Classic PGA golf tournament. It had continued to maintain the coveted AAA 5 diamond rating, one of only 125 resorts, and the only one in West Virginia.

A change in that year’s rating scale, though, meant the loss of a diamond for the resort primarily due to the smaller size of bedrooms and bathrooms in about 10 percent of the resort’s 710 guest rooms.

Greenbrier president Jeff Kmiec told USA Today the Greenbrier made it clear to AAA that it was unwilling and unable to alter the rooms’ sizes.

“We simply cannot alter the footprint of the hotel in order to meet the new standard,” Kmiec said in a statement released Friday to The Associated Press. “We cannot destroy hundreds of years of legacy and history for larger bathrooms.”

To quote Jim Justice, “that’s like asking to change the face of Mount Rushmore; we won’t do it.”

So how do you feel about The Greenbrier? Have you ever been? Do you want to visit? And how small of a bathroom are you willing to tolerate to preserve history?

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The Autumn Harvest Festival and West Virginia Roadkill Cook-off

Thousands of meat lovers travel to the small city of Marlinton, WV to participate in the Roadkill Cookoff Festival. The Autumn Harvest Festival and West Virginia Roadkill Cook-off is held on september every year. This Year’s festival will take place on September 26, 2015.

The main event in the festival is cooking and tasting crazy road kill dishes. The meat that is used in the dishes should be something that you could hunt or hit it on the road. In case you are not sure what kind of meat you’ll eat, the festival’s website provides a brief delicious description of it: “If you’ve ever wanted to taste exotic dishes like squirrel gravy over biscuits, teriyaki-marinated bear or deer sausage, this is the place to be!”

According to the festival’s website, cooking starts at 9:00 a.m. and judging starts at noon. People who would like to attend the festival have to buy their tickets before 1:00 p.m.

I wanted to know how do participants feel about the festivals and since I do not know any one who went to the festival, I went to Yelp. Commenter Brian D., from Ranson, WV, wrote a long post about the festival. The post was mainly telling us what type of people who would enjoy the festival and who would not enjoy it. “Now for those impatient types who want to complain about waiting in lines for food, vendors running out of food, or – heaven forbid – having to wait a few minutes for a fresh batch of food to be prepared, perhaps the McDonalds drive through would be more to your liking,” wrote Brian D.

There are many activities in the festival other than tasting meat dishes. You can but local crafts, taste wine, listen to music and, off course, buy local meat to take it home with you.

The only cons that I found about the festivals was waiting in long lines and that the most items get sold out quickly. “By the time we were done spending several hours waiting in lines, much of the non-sample sized food (smoked pork, lamb, etc.) was completely sold out,” wrote Tamara Y. from Royal Oak, MI.

I do not see this as a con that could ruin the festival because you could simply come early and avoid the long lines. Don’t forget, go to Marlinton on September 26, 2015 and the food appreciators there will take care of you.

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The Barony of Blackstone Mountain Raids 2015

The Society for Creative Anachronism is, “An international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe.” The “Known-World” consists of 19 kingdoms with over 30,000 members. These members, dressed in clothing of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, attend events which feature tournaments, royal courts, feasts, dancing, various classes & workshops, and more.

Map of the Known World courtesy of sca.org

Map of the Known World courtesy of sca.org (click to enlarge)

Each year in a beautiful valley nestled between rolling hills of green, members of the kingdom of Æthelmearc heed the call to battle of the Barony of Blackstone Mountain, located within the southern part of the kingdom from modern Beckley to Parkersburg and encompassing the surrounding area. Soon members of Æthelmearc will clash with members of the Midrealm for control of the precious black stones(coal), from which the Barony takes its name, in the 24th annual Blackstone Raids.

A brief taste of the carnage

Located at Cedar Lakes in Ripley, W.Va., the Raids are a chance for local residents to experience what life was like during medieval and renaissance time period, and of course see some badass melee combat. Cedar Lakes is an integral part of the community and the revenue brought in by the Raid will be put to use in the maintenance and future events at Cedar Lakes. Families are encouraged to come out and see just what the event is all about.

Doyles Bays of Ripley, also known as Captain Morgan Steed of the Caribbean, has attended numerous times and says, “Overall there are usually 200 people in attendance with as many as 50 local residents coming out to support the Raid. Basically the main goal is to show people what life was like during the Elizabethan era, and to have a lot of fun.”

If you’re in the area stop by Cedar Lakes and take a step back in time. The Raid will be taking place today, April 23, through Sunday, April 26, for more information visit the Blackstone Raid website. Also, stay tuned for photos coming over the weekend!

Update: Very sorry but the weather lowered the attendance greatly and no photos were take.  

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