CHARLESTON -- In December 1971, skiers throughout the state and region got their first opportunity to enjoy West Virginia's first commercial ski area with the opening of Canaan Valley Resort.

This modern resort-style ski area built upon a rich heritage of ski recreation in the Canaan Valley area, established at various local ski spots throughout the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

From a modest opening with a few thousand skiers for that first ski season in 1971, a booming destination tourism business emerged for our state.

Recently, I was pleased to join representatives from the West Virginia Division of Tourism, West Virginia State Parks, the West Virginia Ski Areas Association at Canaan Valley Resort and State Park to celebrate Canaan's 35th Anniversary and help kick off West Virginia's winter ski season.

With five resort destinations today, the modern West Virginia ski industry was built upon the solid foundation established by Canaan Valley Resort. The state's ski destinations produce more than 800,000 skier visits each year from Mid-November to Early-April.

Canaan Valley Resort and State Park's growth over the years is a testament to the vision of past and current state government leaders and the responsible management practices of our private sector partners like the West Virginia Ski Areas Association and Guest Services, Inc., the company that manages the resort and State Park.

During the past 35 years, ski areas such as Oglebay Park and ski destinations such as Snowshoe, Timberline, Winterplace, and Canaan Valley Resort and State Park have attracted tens of millions of visitors to West Virginia and kept our economy vibrant and strong. The estimated economic impact of West Virginia's ski industry is in excess of $250 million each year. To the restaurant operators, hotel owners and small businesses around West Virginia's ski area, the winter blankets of snow create a tremendous economic impact through a peak seasonal employment of more than 3,000 people.

Whether you're a beginner or expert skier, West Virginia's challenging ski destinations have much to offer in the way of recreation. Even if you're not a skier, West Virginia ski resort areas are destinations that provide a wealth of amenities, beauty and recreational opportunities for every family to enjoy -– particularly during this holiday season. I encourage everyone to come out and experience the winter recreation we offer here in the Mountain State.

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