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Enjoying adventure dining at Snowshoe Mountain ski resort in West Virginia

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 8, 2010

On a recent evening at Snowshoe Mountain, I found myself hesitating slightly as I signed a waiver warning me that the night's activities could result in injury or death. Pretty standard stuff, right?

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Still, it was an awful lot of legalese for a dinner.

There were 15 of us willing to risk life and limb for a rustic $75 dinner on Christmas Eve at the West Virginia ski resort; making the requisite small talk, we waited to be shuttled to an isolated cabin in the woods. The resort bills the three-hour experience as "adventure dining."

When the time came, we split into two groups. Most of the diners made a beeline for a novel-looking vehicle that we later learned was a 1950s-era ambulance, a la "M*A*S*H." My husband and I piled into a van with another family.

"Seat belts might be a good idea," our driver, Carol Doss, advised. "Just sayin'. "

I soon understood why. We exited a parking lot onto a narrow, snow-covered path, mainly keeping to the ruts created by the wheels of previous travelers. It was a bouncy ride, during which I found myself alternately awed and terrified by the steep drop-off to our left.

After a very long 15 minutes, we reached the Sunrise Backcountry Hut. It's an airy cabin filled with the fragrance of exposed wood, decorated with vintage snow-sports equipment and moose-patterned curtains. Amid the coos of admiration came an improbable statement that I was sure had been garbled as it rushed around the room like an elementary-school game of Telephone: Someone was stuck in the van.

This made absolutely no sense until I saw the rescuer stride back into the cabin with a sharp knife in hand. There was at least one seat belt we wouldn't be using on the return trip.

Adventure dining, indeed.

Thankfully, this Crocodile Dundee moment lent some levity to the evening. What had initially sounded like the start of a bad horror movie -- 15 strangers are hauled out to the middle of nowhere, to a place with no cellphone reception and only the wildlife to hear their cries -- turned into something out of a holiday special. A Jimmy Buffett Christmas CD provided the soundtrack while 11 of us joined in a competitive game of Apples to Apples.

And, of course, there was eating and drinking. We started with a baked artichoke and Parmesan dip with crackers, followed by a creamy potato and leek soup. And what some people may have regarded as the throwaway entree for vegetarians, the grilled Italian portobello mushroom, came out perfectly charred for my taste. (The other options were steak, duck, salmon and trout.) Dinner includes your choice of beer, wine or nonalcoholic beverage. But the highlight was the peach cobbler for dessert, which came from one employee's family recipe. I was momentarily worried, as it is well past the fruit's season. No matter, though. The crust was all buttery, sugary goodness, and the spiced whipped cream made an ideal topper.

After we had polished off dessert, a few of the guests became suspiciously antsy to leave. People started calling seats in the van -- the same people who had been so eager to take the ambulance on the way to dinner. It didn't take long to figure out what was going on, but my husband and I let the others rush to the van unchallenged.

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