Beat the chill: 5 parkland exercises for winter

Looking for winter exercise inspiration? You’re not alone. Join Active Southern WV and the National Park Service for free guided exercises in the New River Gorge!

Burn off those calories with:

1. Tai Chi
Feb. 17

Graceful and meditative, this ancient discipline once had military uses. It’s now popular as a gentle exercise. Over time, the slow, low-impact motions pay off with improved balance and muscle tone.

Tai chi is also relaxing. It’s a contemplative form of exercise, so you learn how to meditate and breathe deeply while stretching. Now that’s a two-for-one deal!

If you’re interested, the Sandstone Visitor Center in Sandstone will have tai chi classes throughout winter. Contact them for more details.

2. Winter Hike
Jan. 13

Go on a refreshing ramble through the woods! This year’s Winter Hike will be on Long Point Trail, one of the New River Gorge’s most breathtaking paths. Much of the 3.2-mile (total) walk goes through hardwood forests. Then comes the grand finale: a jaw-dropping overlook of the canyon, New River Gorge Bridge, and surrounding mountains.

Long Point Trail is mostly flat. However, it gets somewhat tricky towards the end— hence the “moderate” rating. You’ll have to step over boulders and climb some steep sections. The dramatic ending is worth the effort, though!

3. Hike for Health
Jan. 27

Feeling ambitious? Try the Hike for Health, a 10.5-mile outing through the New River Gorge. Everybody starts at the Park Loop Trailhead in Fayetteville. From there, you’ll cover Town Loop Trail, Craig Branch, and Kaymoor before heading back to town.
It’s a lot of ground to cover, but imagine the satisfaction afterwards! Reservations required.

4. Yoga Chi
Jan. 27 and Feb. 9

The name pretty much says it all! Combine yoga with tai chi, and you get an exercise that maximizes both disciplines. Just about anybody can do it.

The Sandstone Visitor Center will have lessons in late winter. Contact them if you have any questions.

5. Community Hike
Feb. 10

Here’s a worthy goal for 2018: hiking Endless Wall Trail. Named by USA Today readers as America’s top trail in 2015, it’s a national and local favorite. Seemingly endless sandstone ridgelines stretch towards the horizon— a showstopper nobody should miss!

The Community Hike is your chance to try this wonder for yourself. Expect moderate difficulty and 2.4 miles of walking. Reservations are required.

Let the calories burn! Which activity are you going to try?

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Ever ridden a bike through snow? Here’s how.

Why hibernate when you can play outdoors instead? This winter, give “fat bikes” a spin!

Reinventing the wheel

As you might have guessed, not every bicycle can handle snow. You’ll need a fat bike.

Don’t let the name fool you. Goofy monniker aside, these beasts are pretty tough. They resemble mountain bikes in every way, with the exception of the tires. Wide and textured, “fatties” are hard to miss. Some are twice the size of a typical mountain bike tire. Their eccentric looks aren’t just for show, though. Fat bikes have lots of perks.

Traction is their biggest benefit. They have superior grip— just what you need for snow, slush, and ice. What’s more, wide tires don’t “sink” as much as narrow ones. You’ll feel like you’re floating above the terrain instead.

Fat bikes are also versatile. Snow aside, you can take them over sand, rocks, and mud. If speed isn’t a priority, you might be tempted to keep these machines going all year!

Oh what fun it is to ride

Snow and bikes? The combination seems unlikely. But in the past few years, winter riding has gained lots of traction.

For one thing, snow makes old paths seem new. Favorite summer trails transform into magical winter wonderlands, seemingly overnight. There’s nothing like pulling over and savoring the silence of a frosted meadow or forest.

For another, low-pressure fat tires make riding fun. They’re bouncy and floaty— and much more entertaining than cycling at the gym. If you’re looking for a refreshing alternative, this is a great option.

Saddle up

You can easily write a book about riding techniques. However, if you’ve never ridden in snow before, these rules of thumb will help.

  • Keep your hips slightly behind the saddle and your heels down. That way, it’s harder to tumble forward if the front wheel slips.
  • Extra weight over the back wheel improves traction. When possible, try to remain in the saddle.
  • When approaching a curve, keep your knees loose. Doing so improves reaction time if your bike loses traction.

Handy gear

Old Man Winter is cold. You know that. Still, riding through snow can be miserable if you’re not prepared.

Here are some tips to get started:

  • Wear layers
  • Get wind-blocking gloves and foot covers
  • Stock up on air-activated warmers for hands and feet
  • Prevent snow glare with a pair of sunglasses
  • Replace metal pedals with plastic; it’s harder for ice and snow to accumulate on them

For long backcountry rides, bring a friend and emergency equipment. A pocket knife, lighter, and space blanket are essential. Of course, these suggestions are just starting points. Do all the research you can before hitting the trail.

Ask the experts

Now for the fun part: shopping! The New River Gorge, renowned for its spectacular trails and outdoor recreation, has lots of resources. Check out Marathon Bicycle Company and Arrowhead Bike Farm in Fayetteville; both have everything you need to get riding. Once you’re outfitted, hit the Arrowhead Trails for a fun-filled ride!

Good luck and have fun!

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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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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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The New River Gorge Bridge’s 40th birthday party – and you’re invited!

Every Bridge Day festival seems to be better than the last. But this year, the New River Gorge Bridge’s 40th anniversary celebration adds to the excitement. Find out what inspired the original event— and what’s going on for the party.

How it all began

On Oct. 22, 1977, the New River Gorge Bridge opened to traffic. It was an achievement by anyone’s standards. Graceful yet sturdy, the span broke engineering records. It’s the Western Hemisphere’s longest steel-arch bridge (3,030 feet) and America’s second highest (876 feet). But that’s just the beginning.

The New River Gorge Bridge isn’t on flat ground. Quite the opposite. It straddles a wild river valley that’s nearly 1,000 feet deep. Imagine tackling a project like that! What Ginger Rogers did for dancing (backwards and in high heels), the New River Gorge Bridge did for engineering.

Drivers had another reason to rejoice. Before 1977, the river valley forced people to take a 45-minute route. Winter made commutes even longer. The New River Gorge Bridge changed everything. Smooth and quick, it replaces mountain roads with a 60-second crossing.

Now that’s worth celebrating!

Bridge Day history

In fact, that’s what happened: a festival. The very first Bridge Day launched in 1980. Back then, it featured 2 skydivers, 5 BASE jumpers and commemorative certificates to anybody who crossed the span.

The event has grown ever since. BASE jumpers and rappellers number in the hundreds, while sightseers tally by the thousands. It’s one of America’s most unique, dramatic festivals.

Here’s just a sampling of what’s happened over the years:

  • World’s longest bungee jump from a fixed position: Chris Allum tackled this feat in 1992 (although bungee jumping is no longer allowed).
  • World’s biggest simultaneous BASE jump: In 1998, a dozen parachutists (followed by 4 others) broke the standing record.
  • First high line from the bridge: Since 2002, anybody brave enough can zip line from the catwalk. Interested? High line tickets are available.

The 40th anniversary celebration promises to be a historic occasion, too!

40th anniversary celebration

This year’s Bridge Day— Oct. 21, 2017— marks a significant milestone for the New River Gorge. To celebrate, Governor Jim Justice will visit at 11 a.m. for a special presentation. His talk will be an addition to regular festival events.

What’s more, Sweet T’s Bake Shop from Fayetteville will serve 1,000 free cupcakes! You won’t want to miss these iced wonders. Tandy Dempsey and her crew have a loyal following for their homemade treats.

“We are very excited to share our goodies on the bridge’s birthday,” said Dempsey.

So now you have even more reasons to come for Bridge Day! What do you hope to see or do during the festival?

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