By Harrison Shull
West Virginia’s Canaan Valley Resort and Conference Center sits 3,200 feet above sea level in a valley said to be the highest east of the Rockies. No matter the season, the view is spectacular from the Allegheny Mountain resort near Davis.
The view is about to get even better. For this is a building year at Canaan Valley, a 6,000-acre jewel in West Virginia’s impressive state park system.
The resort’s 35-year-old motel-style guest room units, with exterior hallways and views of the parking lot, are coming down. Two four-story wings with 168 guest rooms, interior hallways and panoramic valley views are going up.
The lodge’s lobby, now cozy but cramped, will be enlarged to take in the view. The expansion will also add pre-function space, a larger cafe and gift shop and indoor access to guest rooms.
“All this is projected to be done by next August,” said sales director Lisa Ratliff, whose staff gamely conducts “business as usual” while construction whirls around them.
Business can continue because the lodge’s eight meeting rooms, on two levels of the lodge, need no revamping.
Conference center sees the light
Three rooms on the first floor are located between what will be the new lobby on one side and the resort’s popular lounge and the dining room on the other side.
Chandeliers made from deer antlers supplement natural light from large windows. The 5,200-square-foot room can be broken into three smaller spaces.
Five meeting rooms next to the indoor pool and fitness center on the ground level include a 2,000-square-foot space, a boardroom and three rooms for 30 to 40 people.
Optimium size for meetings at Canaan Valley (it’s pronounced ka-NAIN) is 170 to 250 people.
Managed by Guest Services, Inc., of Fairfax, Va., the resort has a full catering service. Lawrence Walkup, the new food and beverage manager, hopes to serve regional fare such as arctic char farmed in cold water from abandoned coal mines, trout from local streams and locally brewed beer.
The great outdoors
What draws people to Canaan Valley is the great outdoors. That’s true in summer, when the temperature is 10 to 15 degrees cooler than in nearby cities; in the fall, when the when the hills are ablaze with color; in winter, when snow flies; and in spring, when water cascades through streams and plunges 65 feet over nearby Blackwater Falls, second only to the mighty Niagara as “most photographed falls.”
“The Canaan Valley is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, and I’ve traveled a lot,” said Scott Pauley, deputy director of the West Virginia Intelligence Fusion Center in Charleston.
Canaan Valley was the low bidder for his center’s recent 50-person training session. “We used several meeting rooms in the lodge and the staff was very accommodating.”
Some meeting planners opt for more secluded accommodations in the resort’s 15 rustic cabins, which have decks and fireplaces, or in eight newer four-bedroom cottages, which have television, two bathrooms and kitchens. Groups sometimes meet in the cabins, and bring in their own food or have meals catered.
Because it is in a massive state park, the resort has a wide variety of outdoor activities. Guests can mountain bike, play soccer or croquet or compete in cornhole toss tourneys. At the park’s Nature Center they can buy a kite or learn to make their own.
When the weather is nice, the lodge’s large pavilion is used for barbeques, chili cook-offs and a music and beer festival featuring local microbreweries. When the weather is cold, the pavilion becomes an ice skating rink with its own warming hut.