By Josette Keelor
With long weeks of freezing weather and three quick, successive snowstorms early this season, winter sports lovers have had the perfect conditions to get out of the house and play.
Three area resorts and a handful of other localities hope to help them maximize their fun this season.
"We had a little bit of a late start," said Ryan Locher, mountain manager in charge of the ski area at Bryce Resort in Bayse. "Mother Nature wasn't cooperating with us." But by Christmas week, the resort was in full swing.
"We were very happy with our Christmas week, we did very well," Locher said. "We did better than the year prior. In that aspect, we were happy."
In spite of warmer weather that has hit the valley this weekend, Locher anticipates the cold to return again next week.
Named "most family friendly resort" in 2008 and 2010 by the website onthe-snow.com, Bryce has lived up to its reputation, General Manager Rob Schwartz said.
"We're small, but it's what we're known for," he said.
And Bryce is getting larger. This year, it doubled the capacity of its ski lift, adding in the Skytrac Quad, which took the place of its previous lift that dated to when the resort opened in 1965.
"The reality is, ... although we needed a new chair, chairs don't really have life spans, so long as you maintain them well," Schwartz said. The maintenance had begun to outweigh the chair lift's functioning ability, so it was time to upgrade, he said.
What Locher called "a much more modern lift," the Quad is the only lift added in Virginia this year.
"For us," Schwartz said, "it really represented the commitment level."
Massanutten Resort in McGaheysville also has added to its amenities this year, said General Manager Steve Showalter.
"This year, we have a zipline and canopy tour," he said. The Mega Zip, new this fall, offers a ride down the mountain 30 to 40 feet above the ground, he said.
Though not open during ski season, the zip line offers something extra for families and individuals who are looking to add a new adventure to their day at the resort, he said, "It gives them a little something extra to do."
Massanutten, which also offers a four-person chair lift, prides itself on being the first Virginia resort to offer a quad lift, as well as snowboarding, snow tubing, lights for night skiing on all 14 of its trails and a loading conveyor belt.
When asked what makes Massanutten stand out among the rest, Showalter said, "We think we have one of the better teaching programs for beginning skiers and families."
The resort's Pathway Program includes two one-hour lessons. The one lesson that many other resorts offer is not always enough to make new skiers or snowboarders comfortable on the snow, he said. At Massanutten, program participants can elect to continue on their own after the one hour or stay for a second hour, he said.
January is "bring your friends skiing month," Showalter said. Normally $79, four hours on the snow will be $59 instead.
For a more extreme experience, Wintergreen Resort, located about 20 miles south of Waynesboro, offers the largest tubing park in Virginia. What guests call the "scream machine," The Plunge is 10 stories high and incorporates a hill that's longer than three football fields, according to the website wintergreenresort.com.
But Wintergreen caters to children too. For a more family-friendly option to The Plunge, Ridgely's Fun Park offers skiing and snow activities for children age 3 and older.
Planning your trip:
Whatever you're looking to do outdoors this winter, the valley has it.
All three area resorts offer slope tickets in four- and eight-hour sessions.
At Bryce Resort, weekday eight-hour sessions are $40 for adults and $37 for children age 6 to 12, seniors and military. Four-hour sessions are $32 for adults and $25 for others. Night tickets, from 5 to 8:45 p.m. are $25 or $22. Tickets for the carpet lift are $29 and $23 during the day and $15 at night.
On weekends, eight-hour sessions are $62 for adults and $55 for children age 6 to 12, seniors and military. Four-hour sessions are $54 for adults and $44 for others. Tickets for the carpet lift are $34 and $27 during the day and $15 at night.
Equipment rental on weekdays is $29 for adults and $21 for children, seniors and military and on weekends is $32 for adults and $27 for others. Night rental rates are $21 and $17. An exchange rate is $10.
On weekdays at Massanutten, an eight-hour session costs $46 for adults and $40 for children age 6 to 12, seniors age 62 to 69 and the military. Four-hour sessions and night sessions, from 4 p.m. to close, cost $34 for adults and $26 for others. On weekends and holidays, prices increase by $20 to $26. Late season rates, starting March 4, vary. Children 5 and younger, with a ticketed adult, and seniors 70 and older get in free. Upgrade a session for $14. Multi-day passes are available for discounted rates.
Ski and snowboard rental is available, from $19 to $35, and a $10 equipment rental upgrade. Helmet rental is $8 per session. For more information, visit www.massresort.com.
Massanutten is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, Saturday, on holidays and on Sunday through March 4.
At Wintergreen, on weekdays, a consecutive eight hours cost $50 for adults and $40 for youths age 6 to 12 and seniors 65 and older; half sessions are $40 for adults and $30 for others, with extended and night sessions available until close. Prices increase by $22 on holidays and weekends, except for night sessions. Children 5 and younger are free when accompanied by a ticketed adult.
Ski and snowboard rental is available, with varying rates on weekdays and weekends. For more information, visit www.wintergreenresort.com/rentals. Helmet rental is $10 a day. Lockers and storage are available.
Wintergreen is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and on Sunday, and from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Holiday hours vary.
Bryce offers snow tubing for all ages along 800-foot tubing lanes. Sessions run for 45 minutes, from 6 to 7:45 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and at staggered times from 10:30 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. Saturday and 10:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Sunday. Holiday hours vary. Prices are $20 Tuesday through Friday and $24 on weekends and holidays.
Snow tubing at Massanutten takes place at the Peaked Mountain Express Tube Park, which features a 900-foot long hill. Sessions run for two hours, at overlapping times, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday through Sunday and the week after Christmas only.
The Plunge Tubing Park at Wintergreen is open for two-hour sessions, and tickets are available online for $20 on weekdays and $28 for weekends and during holiday periods.
Wintergreen Resort's Shamokin Ice rink and Massanutten's rink at LeClub Recreation Center offer ice skating for all ages.
Shamokin offers an outdoor 45-foot by 90-foot rink with various skating times. Tickets for 90-minute sessions are $11. Skate and helmet rental is $3. Hours are Monday and Wednesday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and 6:45 to 8:15 p.m.; Friday with sessions between 5 and 10 p.m., Saturday between 1:30 and 10 p.m. and Sunday between 1:30 and 8:15 p.m. Holiday hours vary.
At Massanutten, offers ice skating at the 4,250 square-foot facility at LeClub Recreation Center for $10 per session or $5 for children 5 and younger. Skate rental is $3 and helmet rental is $2. The ice rink is open from 1:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday and Monday, from 3:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Holiday hours vary.
The Zip at Wintergreen is 900 feet long with speeds approaching 40 mph, the website says. Rates are $10 per ride, or $15 for two rides for one person. Hours are from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and select holidays, weather permitting. The minimum weight of participants is 75 pounds and maximum weight is 250 pounds. Participants must be 8 or older.
The Zip Line and Canopy Tour and the Kids Zip at Massanutten are not open during ski season. During the regular season, its hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., weather permitting, and the weight range of participants is 70 to 250 pounds. For more information, call 289-4042 or visit www.massresort.com
Just because it's winter, that doesn't rule out the option of swimming. At Massanutten, the resort's indoor water park is open year round and includes surfing, a stream of rapids, waterslides, cannons and waterfalls, pools and a hot tub. The indoor water park is open five days a week.
The WaterPark will close early for maintenance at 4 p.m. on Feb. 11. Hours for each pool and water feature vary, so call the resort or visit the website for more information. Day passes are $38 for the general public, or $28 from 5 p.m. to close. Three-day passes are available for $90 and five-day passes for $110. Tickets for those under the height of 42 inches are $26 or $19 after 5 p.m. Three-day passes are $75 and five-day passes $110.
Contact Bryce Resort at 856-2121 or www.bryceresort.com, Massanutten Resort at 289-9441 or www.massresort.com, or Wintergreen Resort at 855-699-1858 or at www.wintergreenresort.com.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org