A ski resort with terrain for all levels and closeby lodging, lots of apres ski activities and a good ski school make for great vacations on snow.
The come-on from the state tourism department is “Virginia is for Lovers.” We won’t dispute that and we’ll expand it to include lovers of skiing and snowboarding at least at four easily reached ski resorts in Virginia from the major cities of Washington, D.C. and Richmond, Va.
Virginia’s skiing is relatively inexpensive when compared to other parts of the country. Being so close to the markets, combined with affordable lift ticket prices, means this is a perfect venue for family vacations.
It’s also an ideal set of resorts for learning to ski. Once your family is ready, it’s an easy step to graduate to other, larger resorts in the Central Atlantic and beyond.
One of the big benefits for skiing families is that all of the resorts go way beyond just skiing. Snow tubing is big here. There are lots of restauarants and plenty to do off the slopes.
Let’s take a tour of the four major resorts you’ll want to visit.
Wintergreen Ski Resort is a 90-minute drive from Richmond and, with 27 runs, there’s something for everyone in the whole family. The runs may be short, but with two, six-pack high- speed lifts and six others, you’re ready to do it all over again quickly. The snow conditions are generally good because Wintergreen has a seriously advanced snowmaking system in place, paced by more than 400 snowguns. That’s important because snowmakers are ready to pull the triggers the minute the weather is right.
The terrain park has more than 40 features, including all the expected jumps, rails, boxes and more. Even better, the terrain park has its own dedicated lift. Want to go tubing? This is Virginia's largest tubing park.
Here’s the best part of a weekend or short vacation at Massanutten, celebrating its 50th year: You can ski in the morning, head to the waterpark in the afternoon and then play in the tubing park under the lights. Now, that’s a long day of fun. The ski hill offers 13 runs, eight lifts, and two terrain parks. It’s really a multi-activity family destination.
A 16-lane tubing park will keep everyone having lots of fun, too. The tube runs are 900 feet long with a 120-foot drop. Head up and down on two conveyer surface lifts.
The base lodge windows are floor to ceiling and, when the weather is just right, head out to the equally big sun deck to catch those winter rays. But there’s more: a 5,000-foot ice rink.
You’ll find Bryce Resort located in the scenic foothills of the Allegheny Mountains, two hours west of Washington, D.C. This is a family-friendly atmosphere for all skier and rider levels. If the kids are interested in racing – or want to try it – Bryce has one of the largest ski teams in the region with more than 60 racers competing. Kids can start as young as five years old.
The skiing and riding here is spread over 25 acres of skiable terrain with a 500-foot vertical drop off a top elevation of 1,750 feet. There are eight trails serviced by five lifts with the longest run at 3,500 feet. Most of the mountain is rated easiest or more difficult so it’s ideal and closeby for families.
OK, it’s a big famous Southern resort and presidents stayed there. But, guess what? The skiing and riding is nothing to sneer at for the region. There are 45 skiable acres with a respectable 700-foot vertical drop. This is a perfect place to learn to ski. There’s the Rossignal Experience Center, a good-sized teaching area and lots of easy terrain off the main lift. Internediate skiers will have some fun on the Glades and Escape trails, and more advanced skiers can go for the Chute. There’s also ice skating and tubing in the winter at this magnificent resort with ski lodge right on site. Excellent snowmaking at Omni Homestead resort, too.
There are four resorts in Virgina including Wintergreen Resort, Bryce Resort, Massanutten Resort and Omni Homestead Resort. You could count Liberty Mountain Snowflex Center, as it does provide year-round “mountain fun” for the Liberty University community. But, Neverplast, of course, isn’t snow.
Wintergreen Resort is the largest ski resort in Virginia: 27 trails, terrain park, ice skating rink, tubing and fun park for kids. By the way, of the 27 slopes, 11 are rated black diamond, and one is a double black diamonds. Hey, we’re not saying this is the Eastern seaboard version of Jackson Hole, but there is some challenge here, too.
The Blue Ridge Mountains and Allegheny Mountains of Virginia are home to all four-season ski resorts: Wintergreen Resort, Bryce, Homestead and Massanutten. The rolling hills of Virginia are perfect for family skiing fun. Easily accessible from some relatively nearby big cities, these resorts make for perfect weekend getaways – or better yet - midweek. The resorts are set at lower altitudes than resorts to the west and north, which ensures that the days are generally pleasant.
Wintergreen is probably the best choice for several reasons. Start with more dining options with really good food offerings and even a decent nightlife scene. It also offers a whole lot of kid-friendly tubing. Massanutten has some nice night skiing, but there are 10 less trails to play on. They both offer excellent terrain parks with features changing regularly. Massanutten may be the best choice if your family are beginners, but Wintergreen gets the overall best nod.
The best time to ski in Virginia is from late December until mid-March. Resorts try their best to be open by Thanksgiving Day weekend in late November, but don’t hold your breath. The conditions get better throughout the season and usually are the very best in late January with the deepest snow on the runs. It’ll be a bit cooler, of course, but with the good comes the cool in skiing. Want longer ski days with sunnier skies and warmer temperatures? Plan a trip for mid-February into mid-March. The days warm up fast, and the snow becomes sugar soft, ideal for those “snow snakes” to upend your best turns. But, hey, it’s sunny and warm.
Skiing in Virginia is not expensive and that makes for a very nice family vacation. Try to visit during the week as room prices are higher on the weekends when big city crowds descend. The resorts are looking to fill rooms mid-week, so you’ll save a bunch of dollars and will have lots of room to spread your wings. Check out also Virginia lift ticket prices.
Virginia's weather has been described as a "Goldilocks Climate" – not too hot and not too cold – and is officially considered a humid, subtropical region due to winter frost. The winter season brings shorter days and cooler temperatures. January has the coldest nighttime temperatures with an average of 25.3 degrees. This is warmer than most U.S. states. Virginia's average annual snowfall of 13.8 inches and that indicates it is one of the least snowy states in the United States. Still, January is the snowiest month in Virginia with 4.6 inches of snow, and 4 months of the year have good degrees of snowfall.
Warm Springs is situated above natural hot springs at the Omni Homestead Resort. You can soak in the springs in the bathhouses known as the Jefferson Pools, aptly named for Thomas Jefferson who would come here to soak in the rich mineral waters said to improve health. A destination resort town in itself, there are multiple restaurants, shops, entertainment and activities, including kids' clubs.
Waynesboro, 20 miles north, is the closest city to Wintergreen Resort. The town’s Tree Streets District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, contains more than 450 buildings. The Waynesboro Heritage Foundation operates a heritage museum with displays on the city’s history and the Plumb House Museum, an early 19th-century home.
Staunton, 30 miles northwest of Wintergreen, is the “Queen City of the Shenandoah” Valley. The small city is home to the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum and the American Shakespeare Center which includes a working replica of the Blackfriars Playhouse, the indoor stage where Shakespeare’s plays were originally produced.
The Virginia ski areas are located in the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, a 1.5 to 4-hour drive from Washington, D.C. Distances are reasonable and scenery can be awesome. Best to drive as having your own car gives you a lot more flexibility. You also will get more time on the slopes once the day trippers head home.