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For the snow set, winter sports in the Blue Ridge Mountains once meant skiing and maybe some snowboarding, with a little bit of basic eating and sleeping between runs. However, the region’s mountain resorts now feature an incredible range of other possibilities that can keep visitors of all ages and inclinations busy for days. This is true for both skiers and snowboarders looking for something different this winter and also for those who have no desire whatsoever to go sliding down a mountain on one or two boards (and maybe their derriere).

“Areas in the region are evolving from ski areas to winter recreation destinations," says Steve Showalter, president of the Southeast Ski Areas Association and mountain manager at Virginia’s Massanutten Resort. There is now an outdoor winter pursuit for the entire family. With snowbikes, snowshoeing, and a host of other hybrids on the horizon, the future of our local areas is truly exciting.”

That said, skiing and snowboarding are still big business at the region's resorts. Thanks to some snowfall and lots of snowmaking, Blue Ridge skiing and snowboarding have developed into convenient and less-costly alternatives to catching a plane for New England, the Rockies, or the Alps. Fast and modern lifts, additional runs, more rental and purchase possibilities, expansion of lessons, and overall mountain amenities additions have made winter in the south positively sporty.

Along with snowboarding, tubing has given the region’s families yet another reason to head to the mountains. Both snowboarding and tubing are attracting younger crowds in record numbers, as new boarding and tubing parks are being built or expanded at virtually every Blue Ridge resort. Both parents and kids who have never skied or boarded before are now quite comfortable with vacationing in the Blue Ridge during winter.

In addition to snowboarding and tubing, the region’s resorts continue to add many other non-skiing options. The possibilities include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, large and luxurious spas and fitness centers, year-round pools, evening activities, children's programs, a wide range of restaurants and entertainment, a backcountry cabin, and even winter golf or sleigh rides. There’s never been a better time to head to the Blue Ridge Mountains than this winter, even if the closest you want to get to skis or a snowboard is watching ESPN.


The Old Dominion is anything but old when it comes to modern winter amenities. This winter, Wintergreen Resort is leading the way, with a continuation of expansion on and off the slopes. Highlights include: a huge new tubing park; winter golf; indoor tennis; the Wintergarden Spa & Fitness Center; nature hikes; the Outdoor Wilderness Leadership School (OWLS); Camp Wintergreen for kids; and much more, as Wintergreen heads to another level this winter.

To the north, Massanutten is following a record year with more snowmaking, a hugely successful (and long) tubing park, and a $149 special value season pass for Monday to Friday and any night (holiday periods excluded). Nearby, Bryce Resort, always popular with snowboarders, is offering more snowmaking and new rental skis and snowboards, after having an incredibly successful season of grass skiing and mountain boarding (try it next year when the snow melts!).

Thanks to new offerings and renovations galore, The Homestead epitomizes what you can do in the Blue Ridge Mountains during the winter (and all in the lap of historic luxury). With a ski and snowboarding mountain featuring more snowmaking and rentals, the greatly expanded winter options at The Homestead include: tubing; a touring center with snowshoeing and cross country skiing (with rentals, guided tours, and varied trails); an afternoon learn-to-snowboard program; ice skating; horse-drawn sleigh rides, snowmobile tours; winter hiking; lots of special event weekends; and a completely renovated world-class spa to soothe sore muscles after so many fun activities.


Snowshoe Mountain continues to enhance the region’s reputation (including national ranking in SKI Magazine), with more than $100 million spent by owner Intrawest in the past five years. Highlights include: yet another new luxury lodge, a new Aqua Center with complete water fun amenities for all, great new restaurant offerings, a very successful skiing program for challenged athletes, expanded snowmaking at Silver Creek, and Sunrise Backcountry Hut (a getaway cabin reached by snowmobile, hiking, or snowshoeing that is an ideal part of any Snowshoe visit).

Canaan Valley Resort State Park also has growth to report, with the popular destination spending more than $4 million in expansion and improvements. Visitors this year will see a new ski area base lodge with more retail, rental, and dining space, as well as other recent improvements that have included eight new rental cottages and winter activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, a year-round pool, tubing, an ice rink, evening activities, and children’s programs. Nearby, Timberline tops the list for skiers in search of something a bit different, with highlights like a second new terrain park, meandering Salamander (one of the region's longest runs), and the resort's ten miles of mapped and marked backcountry trails.

In southern West Virginia, Winterplace has lots of news: another lift for the huge tubing park; more snowmaking; an expanded dedicated teaching area; more rental equipment; Chef Robert Wong’s Mickey’s Mountain Cafe; and new accommodations at sister resort, Glade Springs Inn (lots of activities for non-skiers and skiers alike). Coolfont Resort in the Eastern Panhandle adds another unique West Virginia option to any tubing itinerary. After a day of tubing, guests can enjoy a host of Coolfont amenities, including varied accommodations options, dining, and a spa.


Wisp Four Seasons Resort is a Maryland winter wonderland. Set amidst the mountains of Garrett County and overlooking Deep Creek Lake, the mountain had more than $2 million worth of improvements for this winter, with a new tubing park, lift enhancements, a new run, new rentals, and more.


Ski Beech, the highest ski resort east of the Rockies, has been a popular choice since 1967. Nestled at the base of the slopes is an idyllic alpine village and its popular 7,000-square-foot ice skating rink. There’s a snowsports learning center and, for this year, new two lifts, increased snowmaking, a new group rental area.

Sugar Mountain Resort is another historically popular Tar Heel State spot, with guided snowshoe tours among the many resort offerings. Starting December 21st and running until the end of the season, the tours will be offered every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 3pm and every Saturday at 9am and 3pm (groups of 4-15 can book additional tour times).

The Tar Heel State is all white in the winter, with smaller family-oriented resorts like Cataloochee Ski Area, Appalachian Ski Mountain (just off the Blue Ridge Parkway), Hawksnest (now a very popular tubing park only), and Wolf Laurel Ski Resort (expanded snowmaking, lodge renovations, a new gift shop, a new intermediate slope, a renovated tubing run and rental building, and lots of new rentals) among many excellent state choices. The options at these four friendly resorts vary, but you’re sure to find lots of North Carolina mountain resort charm. For example, after adding a popular fixed grip quad and a ski and snowboard terrain park last season, Cataloochee is adding a new offsite tubing park called Tony’s Tube World for 2001-02.


Ober Gatlinburg is a huge draw for families interested in winter fun. Skiing begins in December and another of the month’s highlights is the popular (and free) “Christmas On Ice” December 7th and 8th (those unable to attend can go to dress rehearsals at 6pm December 3-6). Typically ending with a torch light parade on the ski slope, this sets the tone for a season of downhill fun, skating, a scenic chairlift, alpine slide, and aerial tramway (all actually open year-round).


Just two hours from Atlanta at the southern tip of the Great Smoky , Sky Valley Resort continues to offer the region's most southerly skiing at the southern tip of the Great Smoky Mountains. Peachy highlights this winter include Group Safari Tours by Land Rovers in the Blue Ridge Mountains, renovations of the lodge, Fireside Room restaurant, and Big Bear Tavern, and enhanced snowmaking.

From Virginia down to Georgia and on or off the slopes (and skis or snowboard), Blue Ridge winters are definitely better than ever. This season obviously offers much more than a quick downhill slide.