December 15, 1984. Cyndi Lauper was the top new pop artist; “Purple Rain,” by Prince and The Revolution was top album; “City Heat” was the number one film; and the new ski resort, Silver Creek, opened in Pocahontas County.
The hair was big, the clothes were neon and the music was “totally rad.”
To celebrate the resort’s 30th winter season, members of the Silver Creek Homeowners Association – Dave Dragan, Lee Fuqua, Bruce James and Harriett James are planning a week-long celebration February 2 to 8.
As they met to make plans for events, they shared stories and pictures from the resort’s past.
Opening 10 years after Snowshoe Ski Resort, Silver Creek was initially opened to compete with the resort above it.
“The investors bought this property to compete with Snowshoe,” Dragan said. “They planned a whole entity – a village with shops, a golf course, tennis courts. There were supposed to be additional wings built. Quite frankly, this was long before Intrawest brought the ‘village’ concept here. Local developers had that vision of creating a village here at Silver Creek. Then they lost all their funding.”
Much like Snowshoe, Silver Creek changed hands several times. In 1993, Tokyo Tower Development Company purchased the resort at the time it was operating Snowshoe. While it was owned by the same business, Silver Creek was a separate resort until Intrawest bought both resorts in 1995, combining operations in 1999.
The lodge as it is now was phase one of several phases planned for the resort. While the building never received its wings, the resort did expand with construction of lifts and the tubing hill.
“Intrawest put in the tubing hill,” Dragan said. “The Ballhooter upgrade [at Snowshoe] is what resulted in Cub Run being built here and the quad that’s here now as the old Ballhooter lift.”
“Part of the development came through a friend of mine, John McBride, who was an astronaut back in those days,” Fuqua added. “He had a venture capital group and so they got funding to put the slopes at Bear Claw and Flying Eagle.”
Each homeowner came to Silver Creek for different reasons, but stayed for one – the love of the resort.
Fuqua was one of the first investors in the resort and was drawn to the area because his daughter was an avid racer.
“I grew up always skiing,” Fuqua said. “My daughter was about ten-years-old and she was a racer. I had a little place down at the bottom of the mountain. My wife and daughter said, ‘we don’t like it down there.’ I always took my daughter here after it opened. I brought her over here because I felt safer for her. That’s how I got interested in it and that’s when my wife got after me [to buy a condo]. That was in the 80s.”
Fuqua’s wife pushed him to buy a condo that overlooks where the tennis courts were to be built. Being a lover of tennis, she wanted to have the courts as part of her view. Unfortunately, the courts were never built – a fact that still makes him laugh to this day.
For Dragan, Silver Creek was a place to bond with family. He was raising his family in Roanoke, Virginia, and his three brothers were on the Winterplace ski team. They would meet at Silver Creek and get the whole family together for skiing and family fun.
“I would come over and ski with my brothers on weekends and it was bonding time with my daughters,” he said. “Then whenever there was a race around West Virginia, that’s where we’d go on the other weekends and we fell in love with Silver Creek.”
Dragan bought a condo to live in while he had a house built near Silver Creek. After moving into the house, the family decided to keep the condo because they enjoy Silver Creek so much and it’s handy when family visits.
The Jameses were late bloomers in the ski industry. They learned how to ski when they were 38 and started coming to Snowshoe and Silver Creek around 25 years ago.
“We used to ski up top and then we’d come down here and eat lunch in the Terrace Restaurant which is the Bear’s Den now, and then ski around in the afternoon down here because the crowds were all up top,” Harriet said.
Several years ago, the couple bought a condo and are now volunteer ski instructors at the resort.
As they reminisced, the four all agreed that they have enjoyed Silver Creek so much over the years because of the people who make the resort a home.
“I see old Silver Creek employees and it was like a team effort here,” Fuqua recalled. “Everybody worked together to get things done. You might be skiing one day and the next day you might be hauling dishes into the kitchen. Everybody worked together, and I think the team concept with the employees really meant a lot.”
Bruce said Sandy Arbogast, Housekeeping Manager, shared stories about years where employees worked together to push cars out of the parking lot or snow drifts when the weather was really bad.
“They really were Jacks of all trades,” he said. “They did a little bit of everything.”
Dragan added that the design of the slopes is also a real draw for him as a father and grandfather.
“Our slopes here are wider,” he said. “Here, no matter which slope you go down, no matter which lift you take back to the top, you ski to the lodge. I’m not afraid to let my grandkids go out there. They can ski the green, my daughter can ski a blue, I can ski a black and we can all meet at the same place.”
The way the slopes are designed, the easier runs – the green slopes – are closest to the lodge. The further you go from the lodge, the more experienced the slopes are, leading out to the very last slopes which are black diamonds.
“I think this is the best place on the mountain for beginners,” Bruce said. “The slopes are lined, they’re not crowded and they are well-tended. It should be the best learning experience on the mountain.”
While it never got its golf course, tennis court or lodge wings, the resort does have 18 trails – 12 of which open for night skiing – six lifts, five lane tube park, Kid’s World and three mountaineer parks.
It also has an adaptive sports program led by Dave Begg.
“It’s considered the finest on the east coast,” Dragan said. “When I’ve been out west and I mention I’m from Snowshoe, they know of Dave Begg and this adaptive center. It works with people with any disability. The Wounded Warriors have a couple different weekends that they come here.”
New additions to the resort include the stables which will be offering sleigh rides, and a branch of the Pocahontas County Artisans Co-op art gallery, featuring items made by artisans in the county and the state of West Virginia.
The weeklong celebration February 2-8 includes:
• Daily specials and nightly entertainment at Misty’s Sports Bar.
• A museum highlighting the early days of Silver Creek will be set up near Snowshooter Photography in the lobby. Images and documents from the beginning of Silver Creek and retro ski gear will be featured. Thursday through Sunday, at 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
• $30 lift ticket. Snowshoe will offer a Silver Creek Only lift ticket for $30 on Friday.
• Free parking at Silver Creek in the Red Spruce lot Friday.
• Arts and crafts displays and demonstrations provided by the Pocahontas County Artisans Co-op in the Silver Creek lobby from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
• DJ Judd music and games. DJ Judd will provide 80s music and games in the Silver Creek lobby from 4 to 8 p.m. on Saturday.