CHARLESTON, W.Va. - When Superstorm Sandy dumped snow on the higher elevations of West Virginia last month, it raised hopes for a great ski season.
The White Grass Touring Center in Canaan Valley, one of two cross-country ski areas in the state, has been offering cross-country skiing and snowshoeing since shortly after the big storm hit.
The season moves into high gear on Wednesday with the opening of Snowshoe Mountain, the state's largest alpine ski resort. The start matches Snowshoe's earliest opening day in the last 15 years.
All of the state's alpine ski resorts - Snowshoe, Canaan Valley Resort & Conference Center, Winterplace and Timberline Four Seasons Resort and Conference Center - have made improvements to their facilities.
But the biggest changes are at Canaan Valley Resort, which is undergoing a multi-million-dollar upgrade and expansion.
Canaan's renovated ski area and new Tubing Park are expected to open Dec. 21.
The Tubing Park will have a Magic Carpet-brand surface conveyor.
"Tubers will stand on the carpet with their tube to access the top as they ride the 800-foot-long conveyor," said Bradley Leslie, assistant chief of the state parks section of the state Division of Natural Resources.
"The tube slope will have space for up to 16 lanes and tubers will slide 1,200 feet down the slope."
The tube run will be the longest in the mid-Atlantic.
Superstorm Sandy caused delays in the construction of a Tubing Park lodge, although it will be in useable condition when the park opens, Leslie said. The lodge will contain rest rooms, a fireplace, a lounge and viewing area, and an outside plaza with a fire ring.
A new beginners ski area will have its own Magic Carpet surface conveyor to move skiers to the top of the ski school slope.
Numerous renovations have been made to the two original buildings at the base of the ski slopes. In one building the bar in the pub and the restrooms have been completely overhauled. In the other building the skiers' lounge has been renovated. Both buildings have new furnishings, new windows and doors, fresh paint and trim, Leslie said.
Renovations to the Main Park Lodge and new guest rooms aren't expected to be finished until next August, but the lodge and 150 guest rooms are available this winter.
At Snowshoe, President and Chief Operating Officer Frank DeBerry credited more than two feet of natural snow and excellent snowmaking conditions for the resort's early opening.
Snowshoe is monitoring temperature and weather patterns to determine when it will open all of its terrain.
Although the nearby Silver Creek ski areas typically don't open until mid-December, the mix of fresh snow and snowmaking capabilities may allow Silver Creek to open earlier than ever, DeBerry said.
Meanwhile, Snowshoe said its new winter zip line would open on Wednesday.