Snowcation

All we want this winter is a decent nearby getaway, a nearby getaway (read: no airline tickets necessary). That’s why we’ve put together some of the East Coast’s top four-and-a-half-hours-away-or-less spots for enjoying snowy outdoor excursions—think skiing, boarding and more.

By Lorin Drinkard

All we want this winter is a decent nearby getaway, a nearby getaway (read: no airline tickets necessary). That’s why we’ve put together some of the East Coast’s top four-and-a-half-hours-away-or-less spots for enjoying snowy outdoor excursions—think skiing, boarding and more.

 

DOWN THE HILL WE GO

Timberline Resort
Timberline Resort

Timberline Resort
Looking for snow country? Pack up the car and cruise on over to Davis, W.Va. With some of the longest trails in the mid-Atlantic and an average of 200 inches of snowfall each season, Timberline is worth the three-hour drive from Fairfax for great downhill skiing.

With 37 trails, there is plenty of fun for beginners and veteran skiers alike. The resort offers ski school lessons daily plus NASTAR racing, four chair lifts, snowboarding and over 100 skiable acres.

After making your way down Salamander, the South’s longest run, grab a juicy burger at Timbers Pub and Fireside Grill, in the lodge. Onsite après ski options include live entertainment, karaoke nights and more at the pub.

For lodging, the Timberline Slopeside offers ski-in/ski-out style housing.
Additional Features: ski schools, live entertainment at the pub, karaoke
Tip: Ask about multiple-night deals.

Timberline Four Season Resort, Davis, WV; 1-800-766-9464; www.timberlineresort.com; prices start at $149.

Liberty Mountain Resort
Liberty Mountain Resort

Liberty Mountain Resort
Sixteen trails, a 620-foot vertical drop, five quad lifts—all features of Carroll Valley, Pa.’s Liberty Mountain Resort. Just two hours away from Fairfax, Liberty also has night skiing daily.

Get your bearings on Dipsy Doodle, then take a ride down Upper Blue Streak, Liberty ski instructor Lucy Gruenther’s all-time favorite. She says, “It’s a great feeling … almost like flying.”

Learn how to ski or board at Liberty’s instructional school and receive all kinds of discounts with the Mountain Passport Card. Other activities at the resort include snow tubing, three terrain parks and a challenge course.

Eat a quick meal in between trail rides at the Alpine Market, with everything from pancakes to paninis. For a drink or two any time of the day, the place to be is McKee’s Tavern.

Additional Features: ski schools, three terrain parks
Tip: The First Class Learn to Ski or Board Package is great for first-timers.

Liberty Mountain Resort, 78 Country Club Trail, Carroll Valley, PA; 717-642-8282; www.skiliberty.com; prices start at $114.

 

‘XC’ MARKS THE SPOT

Wisp Resort
Wisp Resort

Wisp Resort
If you prefer ambiance over elevation and are looking for a change of pace, we’ve got it: cross-country skiing at Wisp Resort.

Nestled on Marsh Mountain in McHenry, Md., Wisp is the state’s only all-season golf and ski resort, with 50 km. of Nordic skiing trails. Its Outdoors Nordic Center will rent you skis and take you through the basics.

In addition to cross-country skiing, Wisp offers 32 trails and 12 lifts for skiers and snowboarders, plus a terrain park for all levels of boarders. Squirrel Cage and The Face, both black diamonds, and the resort’s longest run, Possum Trail, are three favorite trails. Wisp’s additional winter activities include: snowshoeing, ice skating, the year-round Mountain Coaster, snowmobiling and the newly added Flying Squirrel Canopy Tour.

Parents can enjoy dinner at one of the resort’s two restaurants while the kids have a fun event-packed evening at Kids Night Out, with a Mountain Coaster ride and tubing.

All of the resort’s 102 suites and 62 guest rooms are ski-in/ski-out and include fitness center access, a heated indoor pool and Jacuzzi.

Additional Features: snowshoeing, ice skating, snowmobiling, mountain coaster, zipline canopy tour
Tip: Take advantage of this peak season deal (Dec. 18 – March 13).

Wisp Resort, 296 Marsh Hill Road, McHenry, MD; 301-387-4911; www.wispresort.com; packages start at $169.

Canaan Valley Resort
Canaan Valley Resort

Canaan Valley Resort
Voted by On the Snow as the 2011 Visitors Choice for Favorite Resort in the Mid-Atlantic, it’s no surprise that Canaan Valley Resort is also our pick for a snowcation full of cross-country skiing, too. With wide, ungroomed trails spread over 30 km., it’s every XC skier’s ideal setting. Plenty of room to roam, no particular place to go.

This Allegheny Mountain four-season retreat has 39 trail options, three lifts, a vertical drop of 850 feet and two terrain parks. As the highest mountain valley on the East Coast, Canaan Valley maintains its well-known reputation by offering guests a lot more than just skiing. That includes airboarding, ice skating and tons of family-friendly indoor amenities.

When hunger calls, head over to the Bear Paw Food Court for hearty fare. Or explore the pub-style Valley View Grill, with all items $10 or under.

Accomodations include free high-speed Internet access, individual climate control and more.

Additional Features: ski lessons, ice skating, airboarding, two terrain parks, heated pool
Places to Eat: Bear Paw Food Court, Valley View Grill

Canaan Valley Resort, 230 Main Lodge Road, Davis, WV; 1-800-622-4121; www.canaanresort.com; prices start at $69.

 

BOARD UP

Seven Springs Mountain Resort
In the mood to grab a board and hit the half-pipe? Pennsylvania is where it’s at. “The best closest resort in terrain and size is Seven Springs,” Luke Kairys, longtime boarder and store manager of Willi’s Ski and Snowboard Shop in Fairfax, tells us.

In less than a four-hour drive from Fairfax you’ll be face-to-face with six terrain parks, which were top-ranked on the East Coast for 2010-2011 (No. 1 Pipe and No. 1 Park).

Whether you’re brand new or have been boarding for a while, Seven Springs has a park for everybody. Newbies can learn basics from lessons at Gravity Park School and then head over to Arctic Blast, a place to practice bank turns in a freestyle terrain, while intermediate to advanced boarders hit up the Foggy Bowl for an afternoon full of jumps, jibs and rails.

Not to worry, skiers, there are plenty of trails for you, too: 32 in all, plus 11 lifts. With over 100 inches of snowfall per year, Pennsylvania’s largest ski and four-season resort offers snowmobile tours, sleigh rides and 12 chutes for snow tubing.

Activities inside the hotel are just as numerous. “It’s got a full-service hotel. Right on the slopes,” says Kairys. “They’ve got a bowling alley, arcade room for kids, an indoor pool.”

The hotel’s 416 rooms and suites feature pillow-top mattresses and flat-screen TVs.

Stop by any of the 11 restaurants at the resort for some yummy grub—whether it’s cheesy pizza at Pizza Place or organic Amish chicken at Helen’s, there’s a variety of dining options to make every tummy happy.

Additional Features: ski lessons, snow mobile tours, sleigh rides, bowling alley, indoor pool
Tip: In January, snag the two-night lodging, three-day skiing Winter Family Memories Package; children ages 11 and under stay for free.

Seven Springs Mountain Resort, 777 Waterwheel Drive, Seven Springs, PA; 1-800-452-2223; www.7springs.com; packages start at $298.

Massanutten Resort
Massanutten Resort

Massanutten Resort
With 1,100 feet of vertical drop on the mountain, Massanutten Resort stands taller than any resort in the tri-state area. To keep the accolades rolling, Massanutten also holds several records for being the first in Virginia. Example: Massanutten was the first resort in Virginia to offer snowboarding, and they remain a top destination for snowboarders today.

With the CMB Terrain Park and Easy Street Terrain Park, they provide a combined total of 1,800 square feet of freestyle fun. Both parks are groomed daily and, therefore, shift and change as time goes on. CMB Terrain Park operates with its own lift and allows skiers to access; however, any Massanutten rentals are prohibited in the terrain. Easy Street is an easier day in the park, a great place for boarders to practice tricks and get their bearings. Fourteen trails cover 70 acres of skiable land, including Yee Ha, a 300-foot more difficult trail, and ParaDice, an extremely challenging 4,100-foot black diamond. The level of difficulty among the runs is split evenly among skill levels, meaning something for everyone on the slopes.

Snow tubing, a 42,000-square-foot indoor water park, arts and crafts workshops, and workout classes are just several featured onsite activities.

Dining options at Massanutten include quick-service snacks and hot drinks at the Ski Lodge Cafeteria, and appetizers and sandwiches at Encounters Lodge while enjoying its rotating schedule of various musical stylings and themed dinners.

The resort itself is a private timeshare facility, and there are anywhere from one- up to four-bedroom condos, available for rent.

Additional Features: indoor water park, crafts workshops, workout classes, live entertainment
Tip: Season slope passes are $450 for an unlimited adult pass, $375 for student and $219 for special value pass (available non-holiday/off season).

Massanutten Resort, 1822 Resort Drive, McGaheysville, VA; 540-289-9441; www.massresort.com; prices start at $150.

 

IT’S TUBING TIME

Snowshoe Mountain Resort
Remember the days of grabbing an aluminum trash can lid or anything that was large and somewhat round to ride down a hill on a snow day? Today’s standards may have raised the bar just a bit, but the basic premise remains the same: Grab a tube, and a few friends, then let the sliding begin.

The town of Snowshoe, W.Va., features a resort by its namesake that not only has snow tubing; they have a six-level snow tubing park. For $17, guests can buy two hours of laughter, as they zip down the six-story tubing hill. A Handle Tow lift awaits at the bottom.

Snowshoe also offers skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, night skiing and a 15,000-square-foot après ski venue, with arcade, billiards, a climbing wall and more. Refuel after a long day with lasagna from Auntie Pasta’s Ristorante.

If staying overnight, we suggest Silver Creek Lodge for tubers, starting at $142.25 per night.

Additional Features: night skiing, snowshoeing, arcade, billiards, climbing wall
Tip: Never go hungry with the 16 eateries on location.

Snowshoe Mountain Resort, 10 Snowshoe Drive, Snowshoe, WV; 877-441-4386; www.snowshoemtn.com.

Bryce Resort
Bryce Resort

Bryce Resort
For more snow tubing bliss, consider checking out the tubing scene at Bryce Resort. It’s a place where anyone—including those not interested in skiing or boarding—can have a good time.

Bryce’s Ridge Runner’s Tubing Park has 800-foot-long tubing lanes that are just waiting for riders to grab their tube, hop on board and go for a ride. The resort’s carpet lift will continue to take you back to the top during your two-hour tubing pass. Bryce Resort also has eight onsite trails for skiing and boarding, plus a ski school for children and adults, and NASTAR racing.

When you’ve worked up an appetite, meander over to the Fireside Grill where comfort food reigns. Then stop by the Ski Boutique for some souvenirs.

Although Bryce Resort doesn’t have a hotel, nearby lodging options abound. Within one mile of the resort, a two-bedroom/two-bathroom condo is $130 per night (with a two-night minimum) through Bryce Hill Condominiums.

Additional Features: ski lessons, NASTAR Racing on weekends, holidays
Tip: Children under 4.5-years old and/or those who are shorter than 42” are prohibited from tubing.

Bryce Resort, 1982 Fairway Drive, Basye; 1-800-821-1444; www.bryceresort.com.

 


 

How to Avoid Looking Like a Newbie
“First day, huh?” isn’t something anyone wants to hear when starting out on the trails. To avoid this look-at-me-I’m-brand-new situation, we tracked down Ski Liberty instructor Lucy Gruenther for her top do’s and don’ts on the slopes.

DO DON’T
“Make sure you have proper equipment and clothing,” says Gruenther. Even if you’re renting from a shop, take time to ensure everything fits and is in working condition.
Hit up the ski or snowboarding school. “We all take lessons,” advises Gruenther.
Take time to read over the trail map. “Get familiar with it,” she says.
Also, “Have fun—that’s the first rule.”
“Wear two pairs of socks,” suggests Gruenther. Unless you want sore feet, that is.
Lose control. “When skiing, it’s all about turning,” she says. “If you’re not turning, you’re not skiing.
Forget to raise the chair lift’s safety bar when you’ve reached the top. Gruenther warns,“You have to be paying attention.”

 

Mountain Maryland Kennels
For those animal lovers who are looking to try something a little more adventurous and unusual this winter, dog sledding is a unique way to spend some time in the great outdoors. Husky Power Dogsledding, of Mountain Maryland Kennels, offers the chance to mush with some of their top-bred Siberian huskies this season—whether there’s snowfall or not. When the conditions are right and the flakes have layered across the ground, owners Mike and Linda Herdering will have visitors on dog-pulling sleds across the wooded trails in Accident, Md. On the days when the snow is non-existent, they’ve got a brilliant alternative: a wheeled sled or Touri that functions without the need for white and fluffy stuff. Husky Power Dogsledding, 2008 Bunmble Bee Road, Accident, MD; 301-746-7200; www.huskypowersledding.com.

 

Best Warm-You-Ups in a Cup
When the temperature on the slopes is practically arctic and you wiggle your toes just to make sure they’re still there, it’s time to grab a hot beverage of sorts. Below are five lodge favorites, according to the resorts, that are bound to help you thaw in no time.

McKee’s Tavern, Ski Liberty
Ski Bunny (Ski Buck): Raspberry-flavored liquor mixed with creamy hot chocolate and topped with whipped cream.

Timbers Pub and Grill, Timberline
Hot Tub: Piping hot coffee combined with shots of Bailey’s Irish Cream, Frangelico and Kahlua, stirred to perfection.

Brandi’s, Snowshoe Resort
Mocha Snowplow: Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum, with some Disaronno and B&B, poured into coffee and hot chocolate and then mixed together.

DC’s Bar and Grill, Wisp Resort
Hot Tuaca Apple Pie: Apple cider combined with Tuaca and served with a cinnamon stick.

Encounters Lodge, Massanutten
Southern Cocoa: Southern Comfort blended with steaming hot chocolate and loaded with sweet marshmallows.

 

Bum Burners
Winter activities are not only fun; they’re also fantastic forms of exercise. Here’s the breakdown of calories burned per hour, or as we see it, our anti-gym workout results.

Downhill skiing 340-408
Cross-country skiing 477-545
Snowboarding 501
Snow tubing 477

Based upon calories burned by a 155-pound person per hour. Results from FindTheData.com.
Source:calories-burned.findthedata.org

 

titelio/Shutterstock.com (ski boot); Courtesy of nils (jane faux-fur jacket); courtesy of Columbia (yellow jacket); courtesy of White Spyder (woman’s circuit pant)

Get-It-Now-Gear
For some tips on everything to pack for your winter getaway—from apparel to accessories—Peter Porton, president of the Pentagon Ski Club, gives us pointers on looking stylish and staying safe this winter.

Boots
You have to have good boots,” says Porton. “One of the best? The ones that fit you. They can be very tight for people who want instantaneous results, for racers—they’re like Ferraris of the mountain. For those that want to go more slowly, like cruising in a Chevy, the fit can be looser.”

Jackets
“In the U.S., one of the big winter outfitters is Colombia,” says Porton. “It’s probably the best deal for your money. Not necessarily chi-chi Italian, fashionista clothing, but honestly, you can’t go wrong.”

What to look for in a jacket: It’s all about preference. “Big things to consider with jackets: how many pockets you want, what color you prefer,” says Porton. “NILS for women makes beautiful, beautiful clothing. Not just functional but also pretty,” he says.

Pants
When buying pants, how they fit is key. “Make sure they keep you warm and fit you well, so you can exercise in them,” says Porton. “Many people wear black pants, then add a colorful jacket.”

The same rule of thumb goes for gloves, too. From leather palms to Gortex-lined, there are many good options; it comes down to what works best for you.

 

(December 2011)

 

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