Family Ski Weekend at Massanutten Resort in Virginia
Moving back to the east coast wasn’t an easy decision for us. Leaving friends behind was naturally a factor, but really, it was the beautiful scenery and mountains we figured we would miss most of all. As we headed into winter in Maryland, my family was hesitant to hit the nearby slopes. How could it ever compare to the mountains of Whistler, BC or even the nearby Cascades just outside of Seattle. We would have to dive in at some point. Friends told us Massanutten Resort in Virginia would be the easiest spot to get our feet wet in the east coast skiing scene.
They weren’t wrong.
At 1750 feet base elevation (2925 feet peak elevation), Massanutten Resort is definitely an easy mountain to tackle. Their ski school makes the slopes accessible for young and old to pick up a new sport. This resort reminded us a lot of The Summit at Snoqualmie, a ski area about 45 minutes outside of Seattle. It was definitely a locals mountain and so is Massanutten. We saw more than one church group getting in line for the lifts. People were day tripping to the resort or spending a week or a weekend to get their snow fix.
The only problem with local mountains on the weekend is that the lines can get extremely long. The green runs could take you less than 5 minutes to swoosh down if you are moderately good at skiing or snowboarding. You had to stand in line for at least 20 minutes to get back on the lift. You need to ride two gondolas to get to the top of the blue and black runs. This could take you another 20 minutes to do thanks to the lines.
Massanutten Resort is small mountain, but we knew that going in. One way we found to combat the lines was to get there first thing in the morning. Alternately we could enjoy a little night skiing. Keep an eye on conditions if you ski at night though. That fluffy powder you experienced during the day can turn to ice, just like on any other mountain in winter. Ask the guys at the sales desk or the rental office. They always know how the snow is at any given moment.
Massanutten may draw in the crowds thanks to its easily accessible snow, but there is much more to this resort that just the ski hills. We had about 36 hours to dive into this resort and we found more than one reason to come back, even if we don’t want to take on the weekend lift lines.
Lodging at Massanutten Resort
One-and two-bedroom condos are the easiest lodging option at Massanutten Resort if you are bringing the family along. You get a full kitchen, bathroom(s) and a living room to stretch out in after the kids go to bed. Our two-bedroom condo (Unit 83U) boasted one room with two twin beds that was perfect for our boys. The second bedroom had a king bed for my husband and I plus an en suite bathroom.
Although we were excited to have a kitchen for our one night stay so the boys could have breakfast when they woke up at the crack of dawn, it was the giant Jacuzzi bathtub that won the family over. We couldn’t get to the pool our first night, but that was OK. I simply filled up the tub and let the boys dive in with their goggles on. My husband tucked our exhausted boys into bed, before snuggling up with me with some popcorn and a movie in front of the fire in the living room. We were comfy, warm and ready to collapse after a day on the mountain.
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Massanutten Resort Food
Great dining is a bit sparse at the resort. You’ll find good burgers at the Fareway Restaurant on the lunch menu, as well as a decently priced breakfast buffet, especially if you have kids under age 12 traveling in your group ($4.95 each, under 3 are free). The Woodside Deli and Pizzeria had good pizza, and even threw in a few extra slices of cheese when they messed up my pizza order (made a whole Greek pizza instead of half Greek/half cheese so the kids could eat too). The Hideaway Lounge at the Waterpark seemed to serve a lot of the same staples as Fareway. It was your basic waterpark food, but the burgers were tasty and I loved that they had small sliders for the kids.
The Massanutten Resort Slopes
Having only skied and snowboarded on the west coast, we really didn’t know what to expect at a mountain in Virginia. We knew that Massanutten would be smaller than say, Keystone, Colo., but we didn’t really mind. We wanted to get our oldest son back on the slopes so he wouldn’t forget all he had learned over the past 3 years he had been skiing in Seattle. My husband just wanted to get on his board again.
Although the base felt like it might be nothing but ice, my husband was able to do two great runs down the mountain in perfect powder. He was pleasantly surprised by the experience. The only problem was that it took him about 5 minutes to shred down the mountain, but then he had to wait in line for 20 minutes just to get back on the lift to do another run.
Night skiing (or first thing in the morning) is a great option if you want to avoid the crowds, but you need to be mindful of the ice that can develop as the sun goes down and the slopes get slicker. These are not conditions for newbies.
Massanutten Resort Ski lessons
We arrived in the afternoon. Unfortunately, we were not able to get Dek, my oldest, into ski school, but we were able to sign him up for a one-hour private lesson. His instructor Lauren was phenomenal. She knew just how to handle a curious and chatting 5-year-old boy.
Dek had never been on a ski lift before, but she deemed him ready after a few practice runs in the lesson area, which was packed with students, and decided to bring him up. He loved it! His confidence soared. She gave me excellent feedback when we picked Dek up after an hour and told me to remind him to keep his weight balanced.
I told her my husband and I were snowboarders, so she walked me through how I could help him practice on the slopes when he wasn’t in lessons. I would definitely book another lesson through the ski school again, and can’t wait until Ty (my 3 year old) gets on skis next year. This is the perfect place for new skiers to learn. Once the boys are 7 years old they will be learning how to snowboard too. We saw more than one kid trying to stay upright on a board during his or her lesson. Dek can’t wait. He already has his board picked out!
If you asked my boys, who are 3 and 5 years old, what their favorite part of the weekend was they would unanimously say the waterpark. They loved playing in the snow, sledding and skiing. Let’s get real though; this waterpark has every kid begging for more.
My youngest son Ty loved swimming in the pool, floating down the lazy river with me, warming up in the hot tub, and crawling around the baby pool (he can walk just fine, but he chose to crab walk his way through the foot of water). We went down a few of the smaller slides together. He was too small to go down the big waterslides in the play structure by himself. He was just fine with that though. As long as he could swim around with me he was happy.
My oldest son Dek declared that the waterslides both inside the play structure (there were three- green, blue and orange) and the tube runs that he could ride in tandem with his dad and I, were the coolest thing in the entire universe. He went on the smaller waterslides all by himself. Then he went with his dad or I going before him so we could help him out of the slide shoot. Dek probably could have gotten out on his own just fine, but this sped things up so we could go again.
We didn’t let Dek do the really big water slides that he would have to ride alone. His dad went down all of them (even the one in the dark!) and declared them spectacular. We were a little worried it would be too much for Dek. Plus the slides dumped you into a larger pool that he would have had to swim out of on his own. Without a life vest we didn’t feel like this was a great idea (you can’t wear a vest on the tube rides). Dek could go on the tube water slides though. The line up could get long (all the way to the bottom of the steps) but the staff kept things moving and if you really kept an eye on the line you could run through pretty quickly.
NOTE: The waterpark has free life vests for families to borrow and there were plenty to go around. Children cannot wear life vests on the waterslides, but they can and should wear them in the pools, especially if you won’t be in arms reach of them and they are not strong swimmers. Bravo to the resort for offering this family-friendly amenitiy. Not every resort with a waterpark or a pool for that matter has them.
The Spa at Massanutten Resort
The highlight of my trip to Massanutten Resort was the almost three hours I spent in the spa. I decided to indulge in a salt scrub and deep tissue massage with 15 minutes extra hand and feet work built into my experience. It was decadent. Luke, my massage therapist, was friendly and professional. Normally I prefer to have female therapists, but Luke put me right at ease. He was professional and continually maintained modesty throughout my sessions. We chatted about the microbrew culture exploding in the towns around the resort. At some point we also lamented on the lack of great coffee shops in the area. He even gave me some great suggestions for places to try out in DC.
Although our overall experience was excellent, there were a few downsides. The food was uninspiring. As food lovers who don’t get to experience many new restaurants except when we travel, this was a disappointment. Next time we may venture into the nearby town of Harrisonburg, VA where there are a few more food options.
The greatest hindrance to our trip was the fact that the resort doesn’t have a shuttle service. Families are forced to either bring two cars or do everything together all of the time. When I had a 5:45pm spa service, this meant my husband had to be back at the condo with the kids instead of enjoying the slopes for a little longer. This also meant we had to get take out from the pizza place so he could feed the kids before bed since I would be home after bedtime from the spa. If we had been traveling with more family or a few friends this wouldn’t have been an issue, but as a family traveling as a single unit, it was inconvenient.
What we missed
Massanutten has one of the best snow tubing runs in the state. Sadly, we were not able to try it out. I bought tickets the day before (it books up fast, so you want to buy tickets as soon as possible). When we arrived on Sunday morning for our tube time the tube runs had been shut down. It was snowing and raining ice. This made the tube runs much too slick and way too dangerous. I was very happy to see that Massanutten put safety first. They also refunded us our money since we would not be able to pop by later in the day to give it a go. However, Massanutten does have summer tubing, which we will definitely have to go back to check out. I’ve never heard of summer tubing, so it will be an experience for sure.
The Family Activities Center, where the snowtubing takes place, also has ziplining, which we did not get to check out. On Saturday when I bought our tubing tickets, there were several people giving it a go and having a great time. I’m still on the fence about ziplining, but I would give it a go again and I know the boys will want to do it once they are old enough. I might push for them to try ziplining for the first time in the summer months though. There is something about ziplining in the winter with all that freezing cold air hitting your face that just sounds way too cold to me. Then again, I hate being cold, so it is probably just me.
Ice skating was the last thing on our list to try that we just couldn’t squeeze in. The problem with a family-friendly resort is that there is usually too much to cram into a 24-48 hour period! Just another reason to go back I guess. The week before our visit Massanutten lost power. In a very kind and generous gesture they offered free ice-skating to all guests since the lifts were shut down. There wasn’t much else families could do. It was nice to hear that they recognized that families still needed to keep their kids busy, and may need a few ideas to get that accomplished.
Our first foray into east coast skiing was a success. The kids got to play in the snow together. My husband had a chance to ride his board for the first (and last) time this season. Dek continued his ski lessons. Best of all, we had fun together as a family… and I got a little quiet time in the spa. Bliss. Heavenly bliss.
Many thanks to Massanutten Resort for hosting us for one night for the purposes of this review. As always, my opinions are my own; when they aren’t you will be the first to know.