Last Updated on February 24, 2020 by Maggie McKneely
Massanutten Resort is one of the best ski resorts near DC! It’s beginner-friendly and is chock-full of other winter activities to do when you’re done with the slopes!
Winter at Massanutten Resort
For over 40 years, Massanutten Resort has been the go-to place for DC-area families to ski, snowboard, and indulge themselves in a smorgasbord of other winter activities. Located just 3 hours from Washington, DC, Massanutten Resort has earned its reputation as one of the area’s premier winter sports destinations.
But as someone who decidedly did not ski, snowboard, or do anything that involved strapping wood to my feet and hurtling down a mountain, that didn’t mean anything to me. While my mom and I recently discovered that Massanutten Resort is an amazing fall destination, we still had never been in the winter and experienced all that made the resort is actually well-known for.
In the hope of maybe, finally, getting over my fear of skiing with Massanutten’s ski lessons and the tantalizing lure of all of Massanutten’s other winter offerings (like nighttime snow-tubing!!), it was time to fix that and find out for ourselves why Massanutten is one of the best ski resorts near DC.
It’s Always Snowy, Even If It’s Not Cold
One big reason that Massanutten is one of the best ski resorts in near DC is that they have snow-making down to a fine art. As a southern resort, Massanutten can’t rely on natural snow levels if it wants to provide snow sports. Virginia’s weather is fickle: sometimes the state gets a lot of snow in the winter, sometimes it gets almost none. Christmas Day can be either 80 degrees or 20. Fortunately, the resort has found a way to work around unpredictable Mother Nature.
The resort has over 200 snowmaker guns, which each convert 40 gallons of water per minute into fine, white powder. Though the resort makes snow most days when the temperatures are below freezing, once there’s a solid base of snow, the slopes can stay open for a while, even during long periods of warm weather.
At most ski resorts, you have to bundle up in multiple layers to stay warm on the slopes. At Massanutten, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to go skiing or snowboarding on warm, sunny days. The best of both worlds!
Learn to Ski at Massanutten
Massanutten is also able to teach every type of beginner to enjoy skiing, from little kids, elderly, and people in between who just had not had good, prior skiing experiences. Like me.
Sometimes the best way to learn something is “baptism by fire,” as the saying goes. But other times, it’s the fastest way to make sure you never try something ever again. At least that’s what happened with me and skiing. Instead of fire, my first time involved “friends” taking me to the top of a 12,000ft mountain in Colorado in the middle of a snow squall and saying “you can do this! See you at the bottom!” Lord knows how many minutes later filled with sitting, sliding, rolling, and crawling, crying, and praying my way down that mountain, I sat in front of my steaming mug of hot chocolate and adamantly decided I did NOT like skiing.
However, your first time doesn’t have to be like mine! It turns out that if you learn to ski before you try coming down from the top of a Rocky Mountain, it can actually be an enjoyable experience! And Massanutten is the perfect place to learn before tackling any giant mountain slopes.
And after 40 years of experience, Massanutten has figured out the most effective ways to teach new skiers and snowboarders. The resort’s snowsports experts have created an all-terrain program designed to teach beginners how to navigate different types of snow-covered landscapes. Instead of putting you on top of a mountain and saying “you got this, good luck!”, Massanutten’s instructors take learners step-by-step through a series of stations and obstacles until they’re ready to go skiing on their own.
My mom and I got to test this out for ourselves with a private lesson with ski instructor extraordinaire, Brian. As mentioned, my other skiing experiences had been less than ideal, and my mom hadn’t been skiing in decades. We were the perfect pupils to see whether or not Massanutten’s program actually works.
Brian started at the VERY beginning with us, with making sure our helmets were properly fitted, showing us how to strap on our ski boots, and how to attach (and detach) the skis from our feet. Then he took us out on the slopes – er, the not-quite-flat-but-almost training turf. From learning how to start and stop, successfully make a “pizza,” make gentle turns, to using a lift, each time we successfully conquered a new technique, Brian would take us to a new part of the training area, each one successively more difficult than the previous.
By the time we actually started going down hills, small as they were, both my mom and I felt like we actually knew what we were doing and not just hoping for the best! At the end of the day, both us were talking about how we need to go back and practice and ski some more before we forgot everything we learned. A much different ending than my time skiing in Colorado!
Massanutten offers private lessons, like the one we did, but they also offer a full-day kids program and packages that combine lessons and time on your own on the slopes. For the full details on the various lesson options, go here.
Other Winter Activities at Massanutten
Something else that makes Massanutten an epic winter destination is that the resort doesn’t offer JUST skiing and snowboarding. If those aren’t your thing, or you need a break from time spent on the slopes, Massanutten offers a variety of other winter activities!
- Snow-tubing is something the entire family can enjoy, no lessons required! Grab an innertube, take the lift up to the top, and then fly back down the mountain. It’s basically sledding, but 100x more exciting – there are 16 lanes and a 120ft vertical drop back to the bottom. And Massanutten ups the ante even more by offering “Northern Lights” snow-tubing. You can tube all day long, but once the sun goes down, Massanutten puts on a multi-colored light that makes tubers think they’re suddenly in Alaska, playing under the real Aurora Borealis.
- Monday-Friday: $25
- Saturday, Sunday, Holidays: $32
- For the Northern Lights tubing, you must make reservations in advance here.
- In the winter, Massanutten converts its basketball courts into a 4900 square ft. ice-rink. Because what’s a proper winter vacation without ice-skating?
- General Admission: $10 per 2-hour session. Go here for discounted ticket prices.
For a full list of Massanutten’s activities, check out this article on Massanutten Resort.
Where to Eat
Done playing in the snow and ready to warm up and grab a bite to eat? Massanutten has several delicious options!
Base Camp Bar and Grill
Base Camp is located right next to the main chairlift and is my favorite place to hang out at Massanutten. On cold days, you can stay warm by sitting in the glass-enclosed bar area while watching people come racing down the slopes. Or you can relax by one of the large firepits on the deck. The food is casual but delicious – if you’re there on the weekends, be sure to order the smoked prime rib!
Open only during ski season, Encounters Lodge is located in, as the name suggests, the ski lodge at the base of the main ski slopes. It has a fully stocked bar and light table fare, as well as multiple TVs for those looking to catch up on their favorite sports games while taking a break from the outdoors. Every Friday and Saturday night, you can use your slope-use ticket for free admission to Live at the Lodge, the perfect way for those 21 and over to end the day!
Ski Lodge Cafeteria
Located in the same building as Encounters Lodge, the Ski Lodge Cafeteria is perfect for the skier or snowboarder looking to grab a quick bite to eat. A quick service counter with a wide variety of both breakfast and lunch/dinner foods, it’s the right place for people who want to get back outside as soon as possible!
Lift Coffee Bar
If all you want is a caffeine-hit, warm cup of chai, or a creamy hot chocolate to keep you going, head to the Lift Coffee Bar. It’s conveniently located inside the General Store, attached to the ski lodge.
Whether you’re a beginner skier or snowboarder or just need your winter sports fix, Massanutten is an amazing destination. With their array of teaching programs, ever-present snow (despite the weather!), and plethora of winter activities, it’s certainly one of the best ski resorts near DC. What more could you ask for?!
*I was invited by Massanutten Resort to stay at the property; however, all opinions are my own.
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