Stay in shape for the holidays, the fun and scenic way!

Do you feel stuffed from too much Thanksgiving stuffing? Wondering how to prepare for Christmas feasts and upcoming holiday celebrations? Here’s what you can do to burn off those extra treats.

Hikes

Let’s face it: neighborhood walks get pretty boring. But in the mountains, there’s always something to explore. Changing seasons and terrain make exercise engaging, too. Intrigued? You won’t go wrong with New River Gorge’s nationally acclaimed trails.

Top favorites include:

Nuttallburg Trails

  • Keeney’s Creek Rail Trail (easy): a 3-mile venture that combines manmade intrigue with natural beauty. Look forward to historic trestle bridges, picturesque forests, and streams.
  • Headhouse Trail (moderate): this hike’s claim to fame is a historic coal conveyor, which stretches more than 1,000 feet long. Expect steep terrain and a total distance of 1.25 miles.
  • Conveyor Trail (hard): twisting paths, uneven terrain, and steep sections make this path a workout. But the 0.8 mile trail rewards you with lovely views of the gorge and mine.

New River Gorge Trails

  • Fayetteville Health Trail (easy): accessible from downtown Fayetteville, this 1.1-mile path loops through a local park and tranquil forest.
  • Hawks Nest Rail Trail (easy): located at the state park in Ansted, this scenic 1.8-mile path traces along Mill Creek. Waterfalls and mining remnants line the route.
  • Oak Hill Rail Trail (easy): this flat 7.8-mile path takes you through quiet forests and occasional neighborhoods. It’s popular with bike riders, too.
  • Endless Wall Trail (moderate): winner of multiple national awards— including USA Today’s “Best National Park Hike” for 2015— this 2.4 mile-long trail is famous for its breathtaking vistas. The clifftop ridgelines and river views are sublime.
  • Kaymoor Miners’ Trail (hard): this mile-long path has vigorous twists and turns. Hang in there for fascinating mining remnants, including old signs and stone foundations. If you need to burn off extra calories, descend 821 steps deeper into the gorge, where you’ll discover coke ovens and a coal processing plant.

Bike trails

  • Arrowhead Trails: this award-winning stacked-loop system has paths for all types of riders. There are scenic workouts for beginners and twisty turns for experts.
  • Craig Branch Trail (easy): glimpse outstanding views of the gorge along this 2.4-mile (one way) path. Add the Kaymoor Trail if you want to explore a historic mine!
  • Kaymoor Trail (moderate): this 8.6-mile path keeps you motivated with exhibit signs, mining artifacts, and lovely woods. It also connects to other trails.

Winter sports

Winterplace, WV

Skiing at Winterplace

True fact: you burn more calories when it’s cold outside. That’s because your body needs lots of fuel to keep warm. And at Winterplace Ski Resort in Ghent, it’s easy to stay outdoors all day. Mountain slopes, terrain parks, and snowtubing lanes entertain you from dawn to dusk. Who knew “exercise” could be so much fun?

Here’s what you can do:

  • Skiing: with a top elevation of 3,600 feet, Winterplace has lots of wild, wonderful room to roam. There are 27 trails for beginners and experts alike. You can even ski at night!
  • Snowboarding: Winterplace boasts 2 terrain parks with obstacles. You’re also free to glide down the trails.
  • Snowtubing: don’t want to ski? Try West Virginia’s largest snowtubing park— all 18 lanes of it! No experience required. For extra winter magic, play at night.

Winterplace makes snow, too. That way, you can play even when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate. Other perks include equipment rentals, lessons, restaurants, and lodging.

The resort is open from December through March, weather permitting.

How do you like to stay trim during the holidays? Share your ideas!

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Fred Fugen and Vince Reffet – A Door in the Sky

Two wingsuit flyers just BASE jumped into a plane in mid-air

soul-flyers

French wingsuit flyers recently completed an unbelievable stunt following a B.A.S.E. jump from the top of the Jungfrau mountain in Switzerland. Fred Fugen and Vince Reffet, known as the Soul Flyers, caught up with and flew into a plane in mid-air.

As part of their project A Door in the Sky, which they had spent several months training for by completing more than 100 test flights in Empuriabrava in Spain, the duo B.A.S.E jumped from the top of the Jungfrau, one of Europe’s highest mountains, and flew into a Pilatus Porter light aircraft in mid-air. Now that’s a different way to catch a flight.

How did this project come about?

They wanted to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Patrick de Gayardon’s achievement in 1997, when he jumped from an aircraft with a wingsuit and then flew back into the plane. He was a pioneer in our scene and we wanted to reproduce his stunt. At the beginning of the year, Vince woke up one day and said to Fred, “We have to do it but with a BASE jump from a cliff!”

How different was the training for this stunt?

“When we started to train, we thought it would be easier to be honest. Then we realised that it was quite a technical and mental challenge. We had to be focused. During the first training session in Spain, Fred managed to fly into the plane, but I failed and hurt my ribs. One month later, we came back for another session. We felt better and it worked out. We managed to make it five times.”

How does it feel to enter into a plane at high speed?

“It’s cool but also quite weird! We’re used to jumping from the plane, but here you have to enter into it. You’re falling down and all of a sudden there’s no air anymore. The feeling is quite strange. When you’re in the plane and you see your friend flying closer and closer, it’s incredible. It was very emotional for us because we worked hard to make it happen.”

A tribute to the father of Bridge Day

Saturday, October 21 marked another glorious Bridge Day. Hundreds of BASE jumpers and rappellers came from around the country, as did thousands of sightseers.

It was a poignant moment, too. Burton Ervin— the first man to parachute from the New River Gorge Bridge— died days before the festival.

Here is a tribute to this BASE jumping pioneer.

A leap of faith

On August 17, 1979, Burton Ervin made history. At the time, people thought he was a goner, too. But the Army veteran ignored their doubts. He knew it was possible to parachute from the New River Gorge Bridge. And the Webster County native wanted to be the first to do it.

BASE jumping during the 1970s was exotic. Most people had never heard of such a thing, much less contemplated it. The 876-foot-drop wasn’t just another stunt, either. Locals and parachutists alike thought the bridge was lethal. Height aside, Ervin would have to avoid turbulent rapids and angular boulders.

Nevertheless, he had faith in his calculations. Bolstered by that American “can-do” spirit, the mine foreman took the plunge at 10:20 p.m on August 17. The inky night engulfed him, obscuring the black river beneath his boots. Approximately 200 locals watched him from the shoreline. Some held spotlights. Most held their breath. To their amazement and relief, Ervin emerged from the darkness— intact and victorious.

How a festival was won

It wasn’t long before other daredevils wanted to leap from the New River Gorge Bridge, too. The height and exhilarating scenery made it irresistible.

That’s when Ervin thought about having a BASE jumping festival. As he saw it, the event would encourage legal parachuting. The local authorities must have been swayed. A year later, the Fayette Chamber of Commerce founded the first-ever Bridge Day. The 1980 ceremony began with 2 skydivers and ended with 5 BASE jumpers. Eccentric and thrilling, Bridge Day captured America’s attention.

Bridge Day today

Since then, BASE jumping has gone further than Ervin probably imagined. Roughly 400 parachutists glide from the bridge every year. Hundreds of rappellers tackle the immense bridge while tens of thousands of mesmerized spectators watch. Thanks to Ervin, Bridge Day has become West Virginia’s largest single-day festival— and one of America’s most unique events.
We only wish he could have celebrated with us this year. The 82-year-old veteran died 2 days short of the New River Gorge Bridge’s 40th anniversary.

Rest in peace, Erwin. May you continue to soar.

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7 memorable moments from Bridge Day 2017

What was the best part of Bridge Day? All of it! But you know what they say: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Check out these memorable moments:

1. First flight

Marcus Ellison was the first BASE jumper for this year’s event. He recorded his flight, which you can watch online.

2. A Gorge-ous proposal

Bridge Day set the scene for this lucky— and creative— fiance. It looks like she said “yes!”

3. The scoop on cornbread

Reporter Kamrel Eppinger from TV 59 News was the celebrity cornbread judge for the Bridge Day Chili Cook-off. He gave the blue ribbon to The Station, Fayetteville’s new craft food restaurant.

4. And speaking of Bridge Day chili …

The talented Lesley Taylor won the Traditional Chili, Non-traditional Chili, and the People’s Choice awards. Brava!

5. Bridge Day 5k champs

Sign up for Active Southern West Virginia’s popular race, and you get to run across the New River Gorge Bridge. Not many courses are that unique. Glimpsing sunrise above the deep canyon makes Bridge Day 5k even better, too.

This year’s race attracted 241 racers from across the country. Wade Gerencser from Arizona won with a time of 18:49. Allison Meadows from Ohio earned second place at 20:02. Congrats!

6. Eyes in the sky

It’s hard to take a bad photo of the New River Gorge in autumn. Add bright parachutes to the mix, and you have a dramatic shot! But we have to admit, these stunning drone pictures by authorized pilot Tim Naylor are pretty spectacular.

7. Sustainable souvenirs

Did you manage to snag a Bridge Day memento? If not, good news! SustainU’s commemorative shirts are still available. These comfortable, striking shirts are made in America with recycled fabrics. SustainU also hails from West Virginia. You couldn’t ask for a better souvenir than that!

What was your favorite Bridge Day moment? We’d love to hear your story.

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Cool statistics from the world’s largest BASE jumping festival

For just 6 hours, once a year, Bridge Day becomes the focal point of extreme sports. Ever wanted to know exactly how many daredevils participated? The stats are in for 2017, so sit back and enjoy the numbers behind Bridge Day.

1. BASE jumping

No doubt about it: these parachuters steal the show. Witnessing someone soar from a 876-foot-high drop is an incredible experience. And since the New River Gorge Bridge is such an unusual launching point, hundreds of BASE jumpers arrive every year.

Here’s the lowdown:

  • Total number of BASE jumpers: 348
  • Number of states represented: 33
  • Age of youngest BASE jumper: 20
  • Grand total of jumps: 714

This year’s festival also brought back the launch for BASE jumpers— a crowd favorite. It was used 30 times.

2. Rappellers

Bridge Day isn’t a one-trick pony. Rappellers add another dynamic to the spectacle, making it even more unique. They use ropes and safety equipment to descend from the catwalk. Using those same methods, rappellers can also ascend from the gorge.

Check out these stats:

  • Total number of participants: 329
  • Number of rappels: 963
  • Number of climbs: 69

3. Daring spectators

Not everybody can be a BASE jumper or rappeller. Bravery aside, both sports require lots of experience prior to Bridge Day. Still, that doesn’t mean you’re limited to sightseeing. Provided you sign up in advance, it’s possible to do tandem BASE jumps with a pro. Another popular activity is the high line— a zip line attached to the catwalk.

See how many folks took the plunge:

  • Number of tandem BASE jumps: 18
  • High line rides: 98
  • Number of Bridge Walks: 164

Never heard of a Bridge Walk tour? These special outings on the catwalk are available all year. It’s a spectacular— and unforgettable— way to visit the New River Gorge.

4. Other noteworthy numbers

Like any event worth its salt, Bridge Day collects data that doesn’t fit into any particular category.

Take a look at this year’s haul:

  • Viewers from 12 different countries watched Bridge Day online.
  • The New River makes landings safe— another perk for BASE jumpers. This year, there were 95 water rescues.
  • The popular Bridge Day 5k attracted 241 runners. Racers ranged in age from 8-75 years old.

If you attended Bridge Day, feel free to share your favorite observation or bit of trivia!

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