Toddlers danced in front of the stage to the tune of fiddles and steel guitars. After a day of skiing, the soup du jour, impressive beer selection and live music at The Purple Fiddle in Thomas, W.Va., are a welcome respite. The décor is warm and inviting, with hardwood everywhere and walls lined with knickknacks and photos.
Drinking from a mason jar and sporting a sweater that looked like it could have come off of the sheep that morning, John Bright looked every bit like the owner of a restaurant in the heart of West Virginia’s ski country should look.
You might not guess that he lived in the city of Morgantown, W.Va., 12 years ago. To anyone who asks, he candidly cites a desire to get away from high-value targets for terrorists as his reasons for moving to the sleepy Canaan Valley. That, and he and his then-girlfriend were having a baby together.
Averaging about five shows a week every week, John’s restaurant The Purple Fiddle is a center of activity for the town, with many of the town’s residence crowding in every night to see the latest band John found. Tonight, that band would be New Country Rehab, a country-rock band from Canada. It would be their first time playing here, and John said he looks forward to when they get so popular that he can’t afford them anymore.
“I want a band to outgrow me,” he remarked paternally, glancing at the rows and rows of bands hanging on the wall that have come through and “outgrown” him.
The Purple Fiddle is a regular sanctuary for those in Canaan Valley resting after skiing and snowboarding at the nearby Timberline Four Seasons Resort on Herz Mountain, remarkable for its winding trails on a 4268 foot summit, under tree canopies and two manmade ski tunnels, and featuring the highest average vertical south of Vermont.
Though, Timberline is just one of the many ski resorts in the area. White Grass Ski Touring Center is a one-of-a-kind heaven for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, with over 60 km of trails. Cross-country skiing is a Nordic sport very different from downhill skiing, with unique equipment and techniques. White Grass features beautiful, sprawling courses ideal for first-time cross-country skiers, as well as a laid-back and neighborly atmosphere that makes the lodge a pleasure to rest and dine in. During the day, the lodge is packed with skiers and hikers pouring cups of complimentary hot tea and water, hanging their snow-soaked gloves to dry over the stove, and playing card games.
In the evening, the atmosphere changes noticeably. Tables are rearranged, the lights are pulled low, and a live band tucked away somewhere begins playing. The café begins to serve a limited, ever-changing selection of homemade meals of a classy affair completely different in feel than the simple soup and sandwiches of the daytime. The perfect relief to the grunge and wetness that comes from a day enjoying the trails.
There are a number of hotels in the area, but Blackwater Falls State Park Cabins offer hugely comfortable accommodations, with full kitchens, living area and bedrooms. The cabins are also a short commute from the glimmering waters of Blackwater Falls. Winter nights at the Falls showcase the full beauty of the area, as the absence of city light allow the stars to dazzle from behind the ice.
Canaan Valley is a charming, exciting, and often stunning retreat. A full range of activities are offered, and it is no exaggeration to say that there’s something for everyone. There are winter sports for both the novice and the expert, food for the traditionalist and the adventurist, views for the old and the young. Go and capture Canaan for yourself.