Steve Arenaz

This week our employee of the week should be a contender for the world’s most fascinating man! Steve Arenaz, in his own words, “bleeds blue and yellow”, the colors of ACE and has fallen in love with the company. Luckily for him, the love is mutual. After being disappointed with past business endeavors, Steve took an adventurous shot in the dark in 2009 and decided to move to WV to train as a raft guide with ACE. He is a New and Gauley River guide, a zip line guide and mud obstacle guide. Steve loves to see and adventure the world and share that passion with others.

Steve has spent 6 wonderful seasons with ACE, only taking one season off for chemo treatments. Coming back from something like that, has left him with a deeper zeal and appreciation for life. He calls himself a ”child of the world” as he has moved around and traveled much of the world. Places that Steve has left his footprint include: Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Turkey, Italy, Austria, Croatia, the Netherlands, China, Mexico, Canada, Britain and of course all over the United States. His passion for the river and seeing those smiling faces in his raft is what keeps him coming back to West Virginia summer after summer. By day he is found guiding a raft, by evening cooking a meal of culinary-genius proportions for many of the other employees, and by night serenading ACE with his banjo melodies. It’s great employees like Steve that help make ACE as awesome as we are and we are glad to have him along for the adventure!

Steve Arenaz

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In May of 2014, ACE was proud to show some high school students from Boone Career & Technical Center around our property and highlight what it’s like to work in WV’s Tourism and Outdoor Recreation industry. Because we are cool, we offered them a contest = best blog about their day at ACE wins a pass for 4 people at our Adventure Park & Lake. Below are the four entries we received from the 8 participants.

Because these cats are as cool as we are, we decided to give all four entries a pass for one free zip line tour (in addition to the grand prize winner). We look forward to having the next generation of outdoor professionals back at ACE Adventure Resort. Thanks guys for the awesome blogs!

tourism industry in WV

Boone Career & Technical Center Participants with Ms. Roberts

THE BIG WINNER = Tyler Elkins-
Thank You ACE for letting my school and I come to your resort! I had a blast doing all the things we did; rafting, zip lining, staying in a cabin, paintball, playing in the lake, and running around with Jim on security! Out of all the fun I had, there was one thing that I enjoyed doing the most and that was zip lining. Our instructor’s name was Ryan and he was awesome. He made my zip lining experience fun and exciting! As much as I loved zip lining, I also loved the lake. My friends and I had a blast on the blob, launching people in the air. We jumped on the water trampolines, did the lake zip line, and played on the jungle gyms. I know this blog was supposed to be about my favorite thing, but I honestly loved everything about ACE. I had the best time rafting down the upper New River. My River Guide/Teacher Ms. Roberts taught me a lot about rafting and reading where the river water is going; she also taught us how to hit a rapid the correct way to where we wouldn’t flip.

When I first got to ACE, it looked like nothing but fun to me, and it was. The morning I got there I didn’t know what to expect. Ms. Roberts took me up to the bus garage, which is where I met Jim the security guard. He took another student and I all around the 1500 acre resort on a side by side four-wheeler. He took us to the top of the resort and showed us an amazing overlook of the historical town of Thermond and explained to us how it used to be a booming town with 450 people living there. There are now currently 5 people living in Thermond, West Virginia.

My experiences at ACE were amazing and I can’t wait to come back with my family and friends to play in the lake and paintball. I’m sure they’ll love it just as much as I did. Besides, my family has been wanting to go to ACE for a very long time anyway! Thank you for the wonderful expierence I had while I was at ACE, I can’t wait to come back soon!

The most action packed plACE in West Virginia- Garrett Napier 
Why travel outside the state of West Virginia looking for adventure when right in our own back yard there is a 1500 acre adrenaline farm. ACE adventure resort is fun and daring for all ages.  When we arrived at ace we were all filled with excitement, and couldn’t wait to get the day started. Ace has friendly, enthusiastic employees. You could tell everyone there was passionate about their job. Throughout the day we did some crazy and exciting activities including  getting launched into the lake by the blob and doing some extreme mountain bike trails with spectacular views of the New River Gorge. In the evening we harnessed up and were soon zipping from platform to platform, gaining speeds up to forty miles per hour. I definitely recommend the evening zips because you don’t want to miss the sun setting on the New River. Zip lining is an awesome addiction and I will definitely do it again. As the morning sun arose, so did we, gathering our things for a day of whitewater rafting on the upper New River. With our Gopros rolling we hit the rapids without fear, following behind our experienced guides. This was two of the most action packed and unforgettable days I  have experienced. I recommend this trip for all thrill seekers in search of an adrenaline high!

Landen Napier-
The best way to describe my adventure at ACE is pure adrenaline! The second you step out of your vehicle at the welcome center you know you are in for an awesome experience. Immediately your attention is drawn to the lake. The lake has a zip line, water slide, a blob, and many inflatable items including trampolines, slides, and rock walls. The lake is one of the coolest places at ACE, but we are just getting started.  ACE offers mountain biking courses. One amazing trail takes you on a breath taking ride as it brings you to the beautiful overlook above the once booming coal town of Thurmond. For all of the thrill seekers you can strap into a harness and go on the ride of your life as you zip from platform to platform along the rim of the new river gorge. After an adventuress day of zip lining you and your friends can go head to head in exciting matches of paintball. It’s up to you and your allies to defend your territory. If you are daring enough to put on your PFD and get into the raft, then you will have one of the best times of your life as you ride the rapids of the New River.  The overall best part about being at ACE is the staff. They help to make your trip enjoyable and unforgettable. ACE Adventure Resort is a perfect getaway location which will lead to a lifetime of fun filled adventures.

Jeffery Adkins-
The ACE Adventure Resort was one of the most amazing experiences of my life; I will definitely never forget this trip. From the time that I arrived there, to even after I returned home, it was just so much fun. All of the staff there were like best friends, it was basically one big family. Everyone had their job and knew how to do it very well. They all work diligently to keep the mountain that the resort is on cleaned up, free of trash beside the trails and the roads. This resort was enormous. It was like a huge maze of hiking trails and there is so much that it offers. From paintballing to zip line tours to white water rafting down one of the oldest rivers in the world. I want to, and plan on going back there this summer.

I was only there for about two days, and within those two days I had the time of my life. The first thing I did when I got there was an internship in which I worked in the company restaurant which was a lot of fun. The staff there is so friendly and we were friends in no time. Then I had a second internship that afternoon and I got to follow the security guard, Jim, around the resort. He basically drove me around and showed a majority of the place, it was too big to see it all within those two hours. The thing he did show me was probably one of the best views I have ever saw in my life. This was the overlook view from the top of the mountain that looked down on the New River and the town of Thurmond. The next thing I did was swim at the lake. The lake was so much fun with all the giant floats and also just swimming is fun in general to me. That evening I went on the zip line tour, which I would have to say is my favorite part of this trip. I am absolutely terrified of heights by the way, just to let you know. My zip line guide was Ryan. Ryan was a really cool and fun guy, and he knew exactly what he was doing. I was hesitant to do the first zip because of the height, but after that I loved it. The views during the line were breathtaking and just astonishing. The feeling and adrenaline rush I received was just great. After the zip line tour we went back to our cabins and made a fire then went to sleep for another day of adventure tomorrow. The next morning we went back to the restaurant to eat breakfast then I set out for my white water rafting tour. By the time we arrived to the sport we would begin the crew was already there and had our rafts and duckies ready to go. We went through the Upper New River so the rapids weren’t that bad and the biggest one was a class 3 rapid called surprise. That was the best part of it. At the end of the rafting tour they already had the truck there and ready to take our rafts. As we were putting our rafts on the truck on of the guides were cooking us lunch. After the rafting tour we started our hour and a half journey back home.

I only got to do a few things this wonderful place had to offer but I want to go back and explore the rest. This place has showed me how much I like to adventure and do fun things such as these. It has opened my eyes and has changed my views on several things. I have been greatly impacted by ACE and I might even see myself as a future employee possibly. I fell in love with ACE since I sat foot in it, I highly recommend this place to anyone and everyone.

*the blog entries are shown in their original form. Judging was based off content, writing style and grammar.

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Rapids on the New River

Zach S. running the middle section of the Kenney Brothers Rapid on the Lower New River.
Photo by Kathie Green

For some, kayaking comes more easily than for others; like my friend, in the photo above, running a Class V Rapid. For me, I am still proudly in the “others” category. While I’m still very early on in my kayaking career, boating has been a continuous struggle for me. However, as with most struggles, this one has come along with lessons.  Before we go any further though, let me give you some back-story.

I moved to West Virginia in the summer of 2013, with the intent of being a video boater on the New River. The fact that I had never kayaked before didn’t seem like much of an obstacle at the time. I’ve always been the kind of person to easily jump into whatever was in front of me. I didn’t see why this would be any different.  As you’ve probably assumed already, I was terribly wrong.

Quickly, I discovered that kayaking did not come naturally to me. In fact, almost everything about it felt un-natural. Along with that struggle, I was completely new to the river. “Green tongues?” “Hydraulics?” “Undercuts?” It was a foreign language.  With each pull of my skirt and each long swim, I became more and more scared of my boat as well as the river.  Frantically, I would paddle away from any water that moved. To top it all off, I was alone. No one else at camp was learning how to kayak, no one I could relate to or vent to. Only experienced boaters that I kept comparing myself to. After about a month, I wanted to quit, to never sit down in a kayak again.

So here are where the lessons come in. I realized that I didn’t want to fail more than I wanted to quit.  So I reached out to those experienced boaters for help and guidance. With welcoming arms they showed me the ropes and taught be about the river. Slowly I became more comfortable on the river and in my boat. The joy of boating started to take ahold of me rather than the fear of boating.

Now, almost a year later, I am still in my boat. Does whitewater kayaking still scare me? Hell yes. Do I still struggle with kayaking? Absolutely. But I am still trying, still pushing to become a better boater. Because my whitewater lessons have been this: never give up, never compare myself to others, and to appreciate the life that I have. It’s crazy that something as simple as water moving downhill has taught me such vital life lessons, but there is no doubt that it has. So what lessons has whitewater taught you?

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Mountain Music Fest

Keller Williams & Larry Keel performing at the 2014 Mountain Music Festival

We are all wishing we could go back a couple weeks when we were having out first big booty-bumpin’ blast in the mountains at the Mountain Music Festival. Other than it being put simply as, “it’s a dang good time”, we want to spell out to you just WHY we at ACE like to Mountain Music FEST.

F- Friends. At the end of the day, ACE Adventure Resort is all about giving its guests a good time! It’s why we do what we do. We love to share our love of adventure, with other people. Sharing this sweet “tunage” with a mass amount of friends is no different. The music festival will only continue to get bigger and better. And we are so thankful for all the friends we continue to make the many adventures we offer and at the music festival.

E- Experience.  What an experience this was for employees, guests and the talent alike! Out in nature, amazing music, dancing, laughing, adventures… This is the kind of experience you want to relive again and again. We want to keep this experience on repeat guys, it’s just too good not to.

S- Surreal. Can you name another music festival you can go whitewater rafting or zip lining at? Seriously, think about it- at any other festival, you get music and camping. Which is great, but we want to give you the most surreal adventure possible. Here’s the recipe: whitewater, zip lines, lake toys, sweet camping, good vibes and some great bands = one heck of a festival! As the Wood Brothers called it, there was “frosting” everywhere.

T- Tunes. A wise man once said, “Go where the people dance”. He wasn’t wrong. If people are dancing, then people are happy! We’re music lovers – and bringing together the beautiful outdoors and jammin’ tunes we all love, just seems to make sense. We have a feeling you agree.

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Staff at ACE

Don Wargowsky is this weeks employee of the week! Don has been “in a relationship” with ACE for 4 great years. Originally from Cutler, Ohio, Don now resides with us in our home among the hills as both a climbing and raft guide. And boy is this guy awesome at what he does! His love of climbing brought him to ACE 4 years ago. He intended to only work one summer with us while he was finishing his master’s degree in education, but one summer was enough to get him hooked!

After being the district manager at a large sales company with over 100 employees under him, working for a Fortune 100 company, and pursuing teaching, nothing felt quite as right as doing what he truly loved, which was working in the great outdoors. He loves working outside with his family of guides and sharing his passion with guests. Climbing is Don’s main passion and because this guy has such an awesome rep for it, we thought we would share:
•    Significant climbs
•    Mt Rainier, Washington (14,410’) 3 attempts, 2 summits, 1 in winter
•    Mt Washington, New Hampshire, 4 winter ascents
•    Mt. Katahdin, Maine, 2 winter summits (35 miles round trip, skiing/climbing)
•    Grand Teton (13,770’), Wyoming, 2 summits
•     Mt Athabasca, Alberta Canada (11,453’) climbed the last 300’ with a broken hand from falling rocks (his longest day in the mountains so far, 26 hours of continuous climbing)
•    Mt McKinley, Alaska (20,322’) 21 days on the mountain, but did not summit due to incoming storm, experienced wind chill of minus 108 degrees F.
•    Climbing Consultant credits in Hollywood film A New York Heartbeat
•    He has multiple first ascents on rock and ice in Canada, most of which have not been repeated by any other climber.
•    Lead 2 expeditions to climb floating icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada (more people have been in outer space than have climbed icebergs. His girlfriend, Sarah (also a guide at ACE) is the only women in history to have ever do it)

Here’s a link to a short film about their trip to New Foundland that won a couple of international awards.

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Bike Rides

Mountain Biking at ACE

Why Bike Ride at ACE?

I want to ride my bicycle- I want to ride my bike. I want to ride my bicycle. I want to ride wherever I like. That “Where ever” meaning the scenic homeland that is ACE grounds. Not only was that a nice spin on a great Queen song, but also an idea for the next time you visit ACE Adventure Resort for vacation.

Bike rides were the glory of our childhood. Many kids spend their summer on bikes. It’s the first real “wheels” they ever got. And with those wheels, we gained freedom.  To turn off your mind and take in the world at what feels like a high rate of speed, or even a slow pace, whatever you desire, is to feel energized, refreshed and free of care. As kids we knew this, but as adults we seem to forget. We become obsessed with schedules, even on vacation, that make it still seem a bit like work.

When you’re at ACE, you can’t help but notice the beauty around you in nature. No matter the activity you partake in, you are also partaking in a tour of nature at its finest. It really only makes sense to bring back a love from your childhood that is both healthy and happy, while experience the wild and wonder West Virginia. Perhaps you aren’t from the area and don’t know the terrain. Maybe you don’t even have a bike at all.

ACE is so bike friendly that you can rent a mountain bike, AND/ OR have a guide take you on an enjoyable, scenic ride. You are in control of how challenging or easy going your bike path will be. Also, the perk of having a guide along is not only the unique tour of the trail they will give you, but also having some security while you’re on your ride. Allow life to hit cruise as you peddle away your worries. This can be family fun, or individual fun. Either way, it is the epitome of classic fun that we loved as kids. Pay homage to the child in you while on vacation at ACE this summer, you owe it to yourself.

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World's largest raft

We are no strangers to capturing Guiness Book of World Records titles. We still hold the title for ‘most people down a zip wire in an hour’. You can check out that action here.

We love love love this picture from Lake Placid-based photographer Nancie Battaglia. This aerial image is of the record-setting 1,925 canoes and kayaks, the canoes and kayaks competed for the Guinness Book of World Records title as “World’s Largest Floating Raft.”

We admire the vision and the logistical planning that it takes to establish a record like this. It sure makes us enjoy the peace and quiet here at home on the New River, cause that sure looks like a busy day on the water.

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Rivers West Virginia

Mattie P. and Brian H. stand above one of many drops at Kanawha Falls in West Virginia. Scouting the waterfall for a runnable line in a whitewater raft. Photo by Kathie Green.

Standing cliff-side, watching mass amounts of water pour over a waterfall isn’t something that most people would find appealing. For a select few however, that vertically falling water holds something magical. It is the catalyst for adventure; it is experiencing the unknown.

This magic is not limited to waterfalls though. We individuals who seek out the next big whitewater mania, climb just a little bit higher for that hold, or push just a little bit harder toward the unfamiliar to know this magic well. We are addicted to it, always wanting more.

Most of society finds us as having a few screws loose in our minds. Maybe that’s why we gather together in these camps, vans and campers, living happily by riverside and fire light, away from the lights of the city. It is true after all that birds of a feather flock together.

So call us crazy adrenaline junkies, dirt bags or hippies. We’ve come to have affection for those terms. We will always continue searching for the magic that is the unknown.

-Written by Kathie Green-

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West Virignina Adventure Racing

West Virginia Adventure Racing Adventure Racing has gained popularity in recent years as athletes seek greater challenges in the outdoors. Adventure Races combine multiple outdoor disciplines that challenge not only strength and endurance, but team work and mental tenacity.

Adventure races vary in length from a sprint style, lasting just a few hours to an expedition which can last as long as 10 days. Once the clock starts, racers navigate the course, as long as individuals or teams meet checkpoints before cut off times they decide when and how long to rest. Racers carry their own gear and can resupply at transition areas. Often the teamwork required to navigate a course together can be the toughest challenge of Adventure Racing. Navigating team dynamics can make navigating the terrain seem simple. Some teams will simply meet at the transitions and relay, with each team member completing a section of the race. Other times teams are expected to stay together and complete the course as a team.

Adventure Races are held in some of the wildest and most rugged places on the planet, so it should come as no surprise that many are held in West Virginia. The entire state of West Virginia is located within the Appalachian Mountains, the terrain is steep and rugged. The state also boasts the highest stream densities of any region in North America, with over 40,000 water miles or 1.65 miles of water per 1 square mile, now you know why we love it here so much. Add in the sandstone cliffs and hardwood forests and thick foliage and you’ve found natures most challenging and beautiful adventure race course.

This year there are 2 amazing and tough adventure races right here in our backyard; the Wild Wonderful 24HR Adventure Race and The New River Gorge Challenge. We are excited and proud to support the 24HR Race by offering gear and guides for the whitewater section of the Wild and Wonderful 24HR race. Once the paddles hit the water, our guides go from leisure mode to full-on competition mode. The guides lend support and well, guidance through the Class II-V whitewater of the Lower New River after racers have completed the cross country run, navigation and mountain bike sections. The Wild and Wonderful 24HR race is May17.

Just down the road in Fayetteville, the New River Gorge Challenge takes racers all through the gorge on foot, wheel and watercraft. Racers run from Fayetteville to Cunard and paddle the Lower New and then mountain bike from Fayette Station through the Gorge back to Fayetteville. The New River Challenge is August 2.

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ATV tours in WVWhen you make your living guiding people in the outdoors on epic and exciting adventures, you realize that having partners is not only makes life more fun and interesting it’s essential. Whether choosing a partner in life or ATV adventures, there are many traits you want your partner to have: availability, integrity, responsibility, healthy self-esteem and a positive attitude. ACE recently partnered with Burning Rock Adventure Park, Southern West Virginias’ premier Outdoor Adventure Park and we have to admit, we are smitten. We couldn’t be happier or more excited by our choice. Burning Rock Outdoor Adventure Park has all the traits you want in an adventure partner and more, about 10,000 Acres and 100 miles more of ATV trails.

In their own words Burning Rock Outdoor Adventure Park is; ‘a family-fueled, mom-approved, razz-your-buddies, go-big-or-go-home, beginners-always-welcome way to have good time on a West Virginia vacation in the New River Gorge region. ATVs, SxSs and MX are the main focus here at Burning Rock with over 100 miles of well kept trails for every skill level on 10,000 acres and 1.25 mile professionally designed MX track!’ How’s that for healthy self-esteem and a positive attitude?

We sat down with Katie Sweeney, Director Of External Operations and asked her to give us the full scoop on all the ways you can have fun at Burning Rock. With a full offering of progressive guided tours, they literally offer something for everyone. If you a total newbie to rolling through the woods on an ATV, your guide is going to start out with a full introduction to the machine; the brakes, the throttle and gears. Then they teach you basic riding technique and let you practice on the trail and small features. As you start your tour and warm up to riding and get comfortable you’ll have the option to ride bumps and hills. Guides are knowledgeable and answer questions and tailor tours to your comfort level. Folks can bring their own machines or rent one as they have top of the line Polaris machines for you to ride. If you bring your own machines there is a loading ramp and a wash station available for you to use.

Just like at ACE, safety is important and you’ll be outfitted with a helmet and given a safety talk. Katie does recommend that you wear sneakers or hiking boots and bring a complete change of clothes, just in case. The wow factor is different for every one; so don’t be surprised if you come back to base covered in mud or with bugs in your teeth. Some people like to ride long distances while others enjoy tackling technical obstacles like steep drops, mud puddles or rutted trails. The fear factor is typically not knowing how the machine is going to react, and as you could be riding steep trails with rocks and mud, that is a very realistic fear. But all riders go at their pace and only ride terrain they are comfortable with. Like most sports, riding ATV’s is an experiential experience, you have to try it and learn it for yourself. Guides are there to teach you techniques and give you tips to make you a better rider. Families enjoy riding together and often parents have as much or more fun than the kids. The biggest smiles Katie sees are when parents see their kids gaining skills and confidence while having a great time. All of the trips are customized so you can have a fun zooming through the woods with the girls, the guys or have a chill family activity.

Riding through the park really gives you a historical perspective on coal mining and the rich heritage of West Virginia. You’ll ride through old coal fields, abandoned towns, your guides know the history and will entertain you with stories of days gone by.

So when you are planning your next vacation to ACE, add a day and check out Burning Rock Adventure Park, you’ll be as excited as we are to ATV with them.

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