The Winter Olympics are upon us and with them come the amazing feats of alpine skiers, cross-country competitors, and snowboarders. This month, capture a bit of Olympic fever and take your family skiing to experience some of the thrills and chills first-hand.
Resorts in the Southeast rank high among winter sports lovers of every skill level. With advancements in snowmaking equipment, most area resorts maintain consistent, powdery bases throughout the ski season, so it’s not a given that your trip requires Mother Nature to lay down a blanet of white.
From Richmond, a ski adventure is as close as an hour and 45 minutes to Wintergreen Resort, near Charlottesville. Wintergreen receives accolades from visitors who love that you can walk out the door of your lodging spot and hit the slopes—the entrance to the ski area begins at the top of the mountain.
Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway and situated on 11,000 acres, Wintergreen Resort also gets high scores from patrons for its service, scenic beauty, and variety of experiences. What’s more, Wintergreen continues to invest in new snowmaking equipment that keeps its slopes well groomed and packed. If you’re not bringing your own equipment, here’s some exciting news: Your Head rentals at Wintergreen will be brand new this season.
Wintergreen’s activities for young children (ages 3 to 11) are centered at the Treehouse, where little ones enjoy a separate ski area, replete with a 90-foot conveyor. Parents can sign up to watch their child’s progress for an additional fee. For your Shaun White wannabes, a slightly older crowd perhaps, the half-pipe (a U-shaped ramp structure) takes winter fun seekers to an entirely new skill level. To promote skill advancement, Wintergreen provides a guaranteed learn-to-ski or ride card after you complete your first lesson. Private instruction is available with a PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) certified instructor. For patrons with mobility impairment, Wintergreen provides adaptive instruction, including sit down ski equipment through a non-profit organization called Wintergreen Adaptive Sports.
Massanutten Resort near Harrisonburg, less than three hours from Richmond, is another great option for adaptive ski adventure. The resort is a terrific place for families seeking good value and a variety of recreation options. With 70 skiable areas, seven ski lifts, two quad chair lifts, a 12-lane tube park, and snowboard and ski blade terrain park, families can enjoy a full slate of fun. The Slope Sliders Children’s Program provides ski instruction for children ages 4 -12 with snowboarding lessons for children starting at age 7. The lessons can range from beginner to advanced. The Slope Sliders fee includes lift ticket, rental equipment, lunch and supervised lessons from 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Reservations are required and lessons fill up fast, so book yours several weeks ahead of a ski trip. While you’re planning, check out the calendar for downhill racing events in January and February.
Bryce Resort, a 400-acre membership community open to the public in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley near West Virginia, offers skiing and snow tubing, a ski equipment repair shop, and best of all, three carpet lifts to whisk tubers and skiers back uphill effortlessly. Young skiers ages 4½ to 8 will benefit from signing up for the Ski Wee program on the gentle slopes. To take advantage of snow tubing children must be at least 4½ Years old and 42 inches tall. The Horst Locher School here takes skiers to more advanced levels.
Of course, if you’re new to skiing, you’ll want to sign up for lessons at any of the area establishments. The granddaddy of Southeastern ski schools is The Homestead, the elegant and refined historic landmark establishment built around natural hot, sulphur springs. The Sep Kober Ski School with its renowned $59 half-day beginner program is named for a native Austrian who established the South’s first ski school here. Undoubtedly the most elegant of all Virginia resorts, The Homestead offers a special “ski free” package beginning at $199 per night that includes hotel room and lift tickets for two, with the cost for additional adults and children over age 6 at $10 per person in the same room. Lift tickets for more than two guests must be purchased separately. As part of the lodging package, The Homestead offers complimentary use of the natural hot springs-fed pool (with temperatures regulated to about 85 degrees), fitness room and evening movies. To participate in any of the Myriad of activities available here, guests pay extra fees but the options seem endless – from ski and snowboarding lessons, to cross country skiing, snow tubing and ice skating. Other pursuits range from skeet shooting and sporting clays, bowling, horseback riding and area scenic history tours. During the winter months, guests enjoy an outdoor fireplace at a restaurant with a view of the ski slopes and a new ice skating rink close to the hotel.
In terms of terrain, snow conditions and family activities, surveys of Washington and Southeast area skiers rank Snowshoe Mountain Resort in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, as a favored destination. But it’s a five-hour drive from Richmond, so you may want to plan to stay a while. With 60 trails in three ski areas, the resort challenges family members at all levels of skiing. Like Wintergreen, Snowshoe is designed upside down with the ski areas on the mountaintops so the action starts immediately if you’re staying atop of the hills. Safety is foremost here and Snowshoe provides helmets free for all kids up to age 12 with the equipment rentals. Instructors and Terrain Park and Freestyle patrons are required to wear helmets. To help families economize in today’s market, the resort provides a book of discount coupons worth $1,000 for shopping, dining and recreational activities. Here’s an insider tip for a long weekend: Snowshoe offers a great three-night ski package beginning at $177 for the Martin Luther King holiday.
Nestled in the folds of the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, our region’s ski resorts make winter fun affordable on less than a tank of gas. Take the downhill plunge and experience the joy of achievement when you and your kids conquer the slopes. You’ll return hooked on a sport that can offer a lifetime of fun for the entire family.