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The mountains of Virginia may not be the highest, but for beginner families, the State offers all you could want in a skiing resort. But which out of the two is the best?
It’s a difficult choice but Massanutten Ski Resort wins by a whisker. The resort is fully geared up for dealing with beginners, it’s in a beautiful setting and there is plenty of accommodation in the resort, to relieve some of the stress.
Our Top Picks
2. Bryce Resort
Bryce Resort is a year-round tourist destination for winter sports months where more than 60 ski racers practice on the mountain. During the summer the activities change over to mountain biking, hiking, zip-lining, and golf.
First opened in 1965, Bryce Resort is in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, close to the West Virginia border. The resort now extends to 400 acres and is member-owned.
Bryce Resort is in the foothills of the beautiful Allegheny Mountains, which are about 115 miles due west of Washington DC.
What’s the Skiing like?
The skiing at Bryce Resort is on one face of the mountain, where there are two chair lifts, one a quad and one a double, as well as a couple of conveyors, lifts lower down in the beginner area.
The terrain is ideally suited to beginners, partly because it’s not that demanding but maybe more importantly more experienced (and faster!) skiers will most likely pick another resort more in line with their ability. This should mean beginners will have a calmer environment to practice in.
The beginner area is just in front of the Shenandoah Center at the base of the resort. There are two shorter green runs for beginners, Little Nip and Bunny, where you can practice away from other skiers.
From there you can move on to the Double Chairlift which delivers you to the top of the longer Redeye green run, which takes you back down to the base. Once you feel confident on that run you can graduate to the next lift, the Revenuer’s Run which gives you access to the selection of blue runs from the summit.
Learning to Ski
There are first-time lesson packages for skiing and snowboarding for eight-year-olds and older. These can be on a private basis, or you can add members of friends and family to create a pod. This is a cost-effective and fun way for a beginner family to learn as a group.
There are also two Kinder School classes for skiing and snowboarding which take ages 4.5 to 7 and 6 to 7 respectively. Private lessons are available for all ages as well. The price of the day lift ticket and equipment rental is included in the lesson price.
The resort has extensive snowmaking, and all trails are lit for night skiing, except White Lightning and Hangover. At the base of the ski runs, there is an 800-foot-long (244 m) snow tubing run and a nearby ice-skating rink.
The snow tubing run has three dedicated lanes and there is a conveyor lift to take you back to the top of the hill. A snow tubing ticket lasts for 90 minutes and has to be reserved online beforehand.
Snow tubers can also pay a small premium to gain access to the ice-skating rink or you can buy admission separately. A ticket gives you access to the rink for one hour, which excludes the time taken for lacing your boots.
For lunch and après ski at Bryce Resort skiers often head to the Copper Kettle restaurant, where you can choose from sandwiches, burgers, salads, and pizzas. Alternatively, roll up for a beer at the end of the day and relax with the sounds of a live band.
If you don’t want to waste time off the runs during the day, then the Shenandoah Center is probably a better bet. The slope-side indoor grill keeps breakfast and lunch dishes coming throughout the skiing day.
Off the Slopes
There is no on-resort accommodation at Bryce Resort but there are several rental companies listed on the website that can offer a range of accommodation nearby.
Properties include chalets, cottages, and condos for all configurations of friends and family. Many properties are fully equipped with fireplaces or wood stoves, and a full kitchen. Some are also pet friendly, for that home-from-home experience.
While others have the luxury of features like hot tubs, jacuzzis, saunas, and steam showers.
What we love about Bryce Resort
- Great terrain for beginners and a calm environment
- Extensive snowmaking and night skiing across the resort
- Introductory ski packages for first-time youngsters
- Snow tubing and ice skating for family fun
Bryce Resort Stats
|Summit Elevation:||1750 ft / 533.4 metres|
|Skiable terrain:||25 acres|
1. Massanutten Ski Resort
Massnutten Resort is located 10 miles from Harrisonburg the closest town and approximately 120 miles from Washington DC and 100 miles from Richmond. It’s in a picturesque part of the Shenandoah Valley.
From the top of the hill, you can get long-distance views across the valley and even across the Blue Ridge Mountains.
What’s the Skiing like?
The skiable terrain extends over 70 acres of mostly lightly wooded terrain on one face of the hillside.
Beginners will be able to locate the easiest slopes as they are just in front of the Lodge and Snow Sports School. Here you’ll find three conveyor lifts and plenty of wide-open space, where you can find your feet.
When you need more of a challenge you can try the nearby Easy Rider quad chair and come back down on the Easy Street green run.
From there it is only a few steps to take the Creek Side chair, which will bring you down on the last of the green runs, Southern Comfort. This whole region has been designated as a slow area, so you can be confident you won’t feel intimidated by faster skiers.
Once you have all the green runs under your belt it’s time to take a small leap of faith and try out some of the blue runs higher up on either side. All the trails at Massanutten Resort are now lit with LED lighting to extend the skiing day on cloudy afternoons and into darker evenings.
Learning to Ski
The website at Massanutten Resort has some useful information for beginners including videos, FAQ’s, and feedback from beginners who still come regularly.
Private lessons are available for all ages although youngsters under six years need their own dedicated instructor. The resort’s instructors use the Terrain Based Learning system, where specially shaped snow features help students to control speed and body position. This builds confidence and removes the traditional fears and anxieties
There are plans underway to expand the beginner terrain and make the snowmaking facilities more extensive to ensure better coverage during the season from December to March. The resort is a year-round business with golf and other activities during the summer.
Massanutten also has three terrain parks and a snow tubing park.
Off the Slopes
You can grab a bite if you head over to Base Camp, where you can choose between sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, pasta, and salads.
The restaurant recommends diners check for seating availability via Yelp or the resort app, as the restaurant is very busy at peak times.
Alternatively, the Campfire Grill can offer you hand-crafted pizza, camp-stove chili, chicken dumplings, steakhouse burgers, and skillets among others.
There is plenty of choice for accommodation at Massanutten Resort both on and off the mountain.
At the resort, you can choose between the hotel rooms of Massanutten Resort Hotel or a selection of townhouse condos with all the amenities you’d expect. Alternatively, there is Woodstone Meadows with its selection of larger four-bedroom condos which are off the mountain but still nearby.
What we love about Massanutten Resort
- Within easy reach from Washington DC and Richmond
- The Ski School is skilled at keeping beginners on their feet
- Accommodation is available on and off the mountain
- Family fun at the snow tubing park
Massanutten Resort Stats
|Summit Elevation:||2925 ft / 891.54 metres|
|Skiable terrain:||70 acres|
Why Choose Virginia for Skiing?
The two resorts we have highlighted are similar in many ways, with smaller ski areas and a good proportion of green and blue runs for beginners.
This makes them ideal for beginner families, where the limited range of the terrain enables parents to safely give their kids a bit more freedom and freedom for themselves at the same time.
More experienced skiers and snowboarders will tend to choose alternative resorts, which reflect their abilities. This means Bryce and Massanutten Ski resorts will tend to be quieter enabling beginners to concentrate on improving.
While the Rockies may have a lot more grandeur, the hills around the Allegheny Mountains have a beauty of their own.
Best Ski Resorts for Families In Virginia
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