By Mari Kiyota | Photos Courtesy of Wintergreen Resort
New River Valley residents can exchange slush for snow as they head to ski areas in an hour or two or three to schuss, spin, snowboard, fall down, get up and try again and otherwise have a bundle of fun outside this winter.
Situated on some 11,000 acres on the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Wintergreen Resort is a four-season mountain retreat less than two and half hours from the New River Valley. Winter activities include skiing, snow tubing, ice-skating and zip lining. For skiers and snowboarders, lift tickets are available in four and eight hour segments from time of purchase. The mountain has 25 trails and five lifts, two of which are high speed. Cliffhanger ski run is aptly named for its double black diamond rating. That means it’s for super duper experts. According to Radford University student Kent Weidlich, “Wintergreen has the best snow making system on the east coast so there are always amazing conditions.”
The ice skating rink (skate rentals available) is right outside the Mountain Inn (the main lodge), and Wintergreen has a snowboard terrain park. Restaurants at the top (where the lodge is) overlook the slopes, and skiers can pop into the mid-slope Checkerberry Cabin for hot chocolate, barbecue and pretzel snacks. Like all modern ski areas, snowmaking supplements natural snowfall, and night skiing here features more than 10 ski runs open.
Accommodations booked through Wintergreen Resort allow access to the aquatics and fitness center, 24-hour front desk service, complimentary parking, housekeeping services, Internet and cable service and more. The nearby Spa at Wintergreen offers massages, facials and body treatments. www.wintergreenresort.com
Winterplace Ski Resort
Less than an hour west and two minutes off Interstate 77 in Flat Top, W.Va., you’ll find Winterplace Ski Resort. With more than a dozen ski runs in black, blue and green (expert, intermediate and beginner) serviced by double chair lifts, the mountain offers the perfect winter outing. They can outfit you completely in the rental shop with bibbed snow pants, helmets, skis, boots, poles and snowboards. While you can bring your own equipment for the slopes, only the on-site rental tubes can be used on their manicured snow tubing slopes. The Winterplace staff keeps all the rental ski gear up to date and in top condition.
The Mountain House is a fun, ski-in eatery, which also hosts groups for overnight stay packages. The fireplace is going all winter long, and it’s the perfect stop slopeside when your stomach rumbles. Down at the lodge, a cafeteria-style restaurant offers generous portions for a good value meal. Ski lessons last about an hour, but if you forget something or are simply not getting the hang of it right away, instructors will continue working with you, even if you return after a few tries on the slopes.
Bring the whole family ~ there are day care services and a kids play area (call ahead for both). Lifts open at 8 a.m. and there’s night skiing to boot. As long it’s cold, there’s snow. If Mother Nature isn’t dropping some flakes, Winterplace’s snowmaking equipment is in action.
If a day trip isn’t enough, the Resort at Glade Springs, less than 10 minutes away by shuttle offers ski packages, along with its own 10-lane bowling alley, arcade, cinema, spa and heated indoor pool. www.winterplace.com
Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort
Only 151 miles northwest of the New River Valley is a charming mountaintop village, three ski areas, 251 acres of skiable terrain and an array of shopping, dining and lodging options. Equipment rentals are available, along with lessons in a fun, fearless environment with sculpted snow features. This new terrain-based learning system is perfect for getting the feel for the lumps and bumps which are inherent in ski runs.
There is an abundance of dining and lodging options at Snowshoe Resort, which received the 2013 Certificate of Excellence by TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel website. Adjacent to the slopes in the heart of the village is Allegheny Springs, which has its own outdoor pool, hot tub and ski storage locker facility. A wide variety of guest rooms, condos and townhomes are available for rent. This is the kind of place that once you get here, you’re inclined to want to stay several days.
Dining and shopping options include names like Cheat Mountain Pizza, Foxfire Grille and Old Spruce Café & Tavern. If you need new ski clothes and accessories, look no further than the store 4848’, which carries popular outerwear brands such as Roxy, Quiksilver and Hurley. There is also the Mountain Adventure Center, which carries the newest lines of HEAD skis and Burton snowboards. A full ski tech shop is available along with WV Market, one of many places in the state which feature an array of goods handcrafted by West Virginia artisans. www.snowshoemtn.com
Sugar Mountain Resort and Beech Mountain Resort are both near Boone, less than three hours away. Sugar Mountain’s seven lifts can transport more than 8,500 people an hour, and a state-of-the-art snowmaking system covers 100 percent of their 115 skiable acres. The ski runs include about 40 percent beginner slopes, 40 percent intermediate, 20 percent expert. Add in some ice skating and tubing park, and you’ve got a comprehensive winter sports spot. www.skisugar.com
Beech Mountain Resort boasts the highest skiing in Eastern North America at 5,506 feet above sea level and the only high-speed, quad lift in North Carolina with a panoramic view. The views are as beautiful riding up as skiing down. Open since 1967, the area offers an Alpine Village with ice skating, game room, coffee shop, retail store, ski repair and rental shop and a snack bar. Ski runs are located on the back and front side of the mountain. A newly constructed “sky bar”, aptly named 5506’, provides food and beverage at the top of the mountain with spectacular views all around. www.beechmountainresort.com