- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 12, 2003

A major winter resort carved out of the highlands of West Virginia appears to be only talk and speculation at this point. And even if the talking proceeds to plans for development, skiers and snowboarders still would be years away from exploring a new resort.

Local newspaper articles and Internet reports suggested that Winterplace Ski Resort owner Bill Bright plans to develop a resort and vacation home community in the Laneville-Dry Fork area of Randolph County, which is in the northern part of the Monongahela National Forest. Winterplace is in Flat Top, W.Va.

The development, called Almost Heaven, has been an idea for a number of years and is now receiving increased attention because rumors have surfaced that the site for the resort would be below Mount Porte Crayon. Porte Crayon is the highest point in the Roaring Plains area of West Virginia, which is on top of the Allegheny Front between Dolly Sods and Haystack Knob. There are a few development projects at the base of the mountain, but the top is federal forest area.

“We are looking at three mountains in the northern part of the state,” said Winterplace president Terry Pfeiffer. “But any plans or ideas we have are so preliminary that it’s not possible to talk about them.”

In a note to reporters and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Bright wrote, “We are looking at three different mountains for a potential site for a ski area. At this time, there has been no decision on which, if any, of the three areas might be developed.”

The Conservancy became interested when the possibility arose that a resort would be built in the Mount Porte Crayon area.

“The Conservancy will not go on the record in opposition to a development,” said Helen McGinnis, chairwoman of a Conservancy committee that is monitoring the situation. “If [Bright] has options to buy 2,000 acres of private land and develop that, we can’t or won’t stop that. He can develop whatever he wants to on the 2,000 acres.

“But if he gets on top of the mountain, it’s hard for us to see how he could not encroach on public land. He would need special use permits and permission for things like power lines and access roads. Then there are water issues — wastewater and sewage, taking water [from streams and rivers]. That would be the time for public input.”

Bright has the rights to at least three of five tracts of land near Big Run of Red Creek. One of the tracts includes about a quarter-mile wide strip within a few hundred feet to the top of 4,770-foot Mount Porte Crayon. From the top of Porte Crayon to Red Creek is about a 2,500-foot drop, and from the top of the tract that Bright is considering to the creek is about 2,300 feet. But observers familiar with the site indicate only 1,000 to 1,400 feet of that vertical would be prime terrain for skiing.

Even from 2,300 feet, a ski area on that site would have vertical comparable to major ski mountains in New England such Stowe, Vt.; Loon, N.H.; or Sugarloaf, Maine. West Virginia’s largest resort, Snowshoe Mountain, has a 1,500-foot vertical.

Neither Pfeiffer nor Bright would identify the other two sites that are being considered. Speculation from sources following the situation say there could be as many as 10 abandoned, or ghost, ski area projects in West Virginia that would lend themselves to development far more efficiently than creating a new resort from wilderness. Topping the list is a ski area project known as Tory Mountain, near Harmon, that was abandoned in the mid-1980s.

In his note, Bright also wrote, “I do expect to issue a press release as soon as some decision has been made.” He and Pfieffer did not offer a time frame when such a decision would occur.

Snow Sports appears on Sundays in The Washington Times during the winter. Contact: bclapper@washingtontimes.com.