WV Governor’s Cup Ski Race: The Bob and Anita Barton Award and the Legendary Ski History of Canaan Valley 

By Krisitin Winebrenner 

The WV Governor’s Cup Ski Race has played an important role in the cultural heritage of Tucker County. Impressively, it is also recognized for being the longest/oldest running race throughout the south east. This year, the Alpine Festival will be presenting its 64th ski race hosted by Timberline Mountain on March 9th-10th, 2024.  

Since the late 1980s, the Bob and Anita Barton Award has been presented at the end of the Governor’s Cup award ceremony. “That individual can be from any WV ski resort, not just from Tucker County,” says Jessica Waldo,  Executive Director of Tucker County Convention and Visitors Bureau and board member of the Alpine Festival.  “The award is given out at the end of the awards ceremony on Sunday, the last day of the event, and it’s always a surprise. We try to recognize someone in the ski industry who has been influential.”

In addition to this award, 1st-3rd place winners will receive a trophy and/or award; and 1st place winner names will be added to the Governor’s Cup Trophy, that includes 1st place winners of the event dating back to 1960. Cary Reed, another long time ski enthusiast and historian at the WV Snow Sports Museum shared his Bob and Anita Barton award that he received in 1999.  A native from Virginia, Bob and his wife, Anita were leaders in the local ski industry in Canaan Valley during the mid-century and had a huge impact on where we are today.  

According to John Lutz, at the WV Snow Sports Museum in Canaan Valley, the Governor’s Cup started with the Ski Club of Washington D.C.  It had its first year of skiing in the 1953-1954 season. The first race was on Cabin Mountain, which was the Ski Club of Washington D.C ski area.  This historic area is currently located at Canaan State Valley State Park. “If you turn into the access road to the Canaan Valley Ski Resort and look to your right, there is a ridge there. It was there. That area was all cleared. There were no trees and the wind drifted snow into there. It got 15-30 ft. deep in there at times. And that was where Cabin Mountain ski area was located. It’s directly across from the state park maintenance garage,” says Lutz.  Even to this day, there are ski runs at Canaan State Park named in its honor. 

Lutz also shared that the following season in 1954-1955 was the 1st annual Winter Carnival. It is said that in following European custom,  this was sometimes a costumed event. 

A New Standard

In the 1955-1956 season, they estimated that over 3000 people showed up for the Winter Carnival. “A lot of it was in Davis. Some of it was in Thomas and of course, the skiing in the Valley. They had polka dances and a crowned queen of the carnival. The crowned queen was a practice that went into the early 80s. They had ice skating races, skiing events. I mean it was a true winter carnival.” 

“In 1956, that same year,  Governor Marlin was here to present an award. So that’s that I’ve known of a Governor being here for the races. But 3000 is a lot of people in Davis! Alot of local people came just to watch, but the real core came from Washington, D.C. through the Ski Club of Washington D.C.”  In 1958, WV Governor Cecil Underwood proclaimed Ski Week in WV and he was the governor that was here to give the awards during the Winter Carnival. “In Winter of 1961-1962, it was the last year that the Ski Club of Washington D.C. held races and they ceased to operate at Cabin Mountain. “The reason that went under, they had two rope tows there during that 10 year time span when skiing really started to grow, there areas starting up closer to D.C. that had lifts and people wanted skiing in places like that rather than ski areas with rope tow. So it had to do with progress pretty much,”says Lutz. 

There have been 5 ski areas in Canaan Valley over the years.  
1. Cabin Mountain (established 1951 until it ended in 1962) 
2. Weiss Knob: located where the meadows are ( this can be seen where on the map?)  
3. Weiss 2: in 1959, it moved from its old location to where White Grass is now  
4. Canaan State Park Ski Area (1971) 
5. White Grass (1979) 

Bob Barton started the 2 commercial ski areas. First, Weiss Knob was first and then he opened Weiss 2 in 1959. In conjunction with the Governor’s Cup Event, during the season of 1963-1964, U.S. paratroopers from the U.S.military raced on Weiss Knob 2. They were timed from the moment they jumped from the plane until they finished their ski race. 

This year’s 64th WV Governors Cup Ski Race will be held on March 9-10th, 2024 at Timberline Mountain. Due to enormous support from this year’s sponsors, impressive prizes such as skis and gear will be awarded. Online registration will be available until March 8, 2024.   To register and learn more information, visit runsignup.com.