The Long and Winding Road to Bryce Resort - Skiing with the Camp Fantastic/Special Love Children 3
Author thumbnail By Connie Lawn, DCSki Columnist

The drive from the Washington metro area to Bryce is picturesque, winding, and rural, once you get off Interstates 66 and 81. It shows both the bounties of the rolling Virginia countryside and illustrates the crises in the housing market. Beautiful, well-kept homes and farms contrasted with run down residencies with signs out front saying “for sale by owner.” Sad - there appear to be some excellent properties out there.

Our drive from Falls Church took about two and a half hours, with a stop. Charles took us from 66 to 81, and then state roads 42 to 263 to Basye, Virginia and the Bryce Resort. As we neared it, the houses were more modern and built for vacations. The developments are close to the slopes on one side, the golf course on the other, and near a beautiful lake, hiking, running, and biking trails. There is also a small airport and library which are neighbors. There were several small planes going in and out. I was sad the infamous New Zealand aircraft plane was no longer in evidence. It was a replica of the one Amelia Earhart attempted to fly around the Pacific, and its previous owner had plans to try to trace her route. Sadly, he died recently, but the plane still exists, somewhere. Bryce continues to have both a family and an international atmosphere. I was pleased to see the developers and owners, Horst and Manfred Locher, still fly flags from New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada, the US, and many other countries.

View from the top of the Bootlegger slope. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

Bryce is a wonderful family resort and is highly recommended as a teaching facility for beginner skiers and borders. In fact, I taught my own sons to ski there 25 years ago, and never forgot how helpful and friendly the staff were. They are still that way today. Despite the emphasis on beginner trails and lifts, there are some good, well cut advanced trails, and the better skiers and boarders were shooting straight down them, with no stops or turns. I do not recommend that, but most of us managed to stay out of their way!

The day we were there, the snowmakers and groomers had done an excellent job, and we had a fun few hours of skiing and assisting our friends from “Special Love.” We will talk about that in a few moments.

There were seven slopes and four lifts open at Bryce. There are eight total and three carpet lifts. Tubing, the terrain parks, and night skiing were also available. There were some lines at the lifts, but the slopes did not feel crowded. The runs we liked best were White Lightning and Locher Bowl. The base elevation is 1,250 feet, with the summit at 1,750. We took our students on Redeye, a beginner run which weaves around the outside of the area. The run is 3,500 feet long. Pleasant, but challenging for any beginner who could not stay in control.

Mike Taft of Camp Fantastic and Randy Schools of NIH. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

The wonderful weather added to the fine day for the Camp Fantastic children. Most of them are bravely recovering from cancer, leukemia, brain tumors, or other deadly diseases. Some are being treated at the National Institutes of Health. Randy Schools, head of NIH recreation, is heavily involved in all the “Special Love” programs, including the other annual ski weekend at Canaan Resort. The NIH Ski Club also provides coaching and volunteer assistance. David Smith was also with us. As Executive Director of “Special Love” in Winchester, Virginia, he organizes all these year-long events. All of these volunteers exemplify the best in compassion, professionalism, and dedication.

Stephanie at the summit. She is in remission from cancer, but is training to be a counselor at Camp Fantastic. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

Charles and I had the opportunity to take a first-time skier down the slopes. Stephanie had never skied before, but is a tremendous athlete. She skied all day, and apparently had no problems with control or balance. The 15-year old hopes to perfect her skills, and teach others in the future. Fortunately, her disease appears to be cured, but she, and all the others, went through some rough times, and many are still undergoing treatments. A few in the group of 70 were not allow to ski or tube because of their cancer treatments. But they enjoyed the company of their friends. About 53 did take to the slopes on that beautiful, sunny Saturday.

This was Stephanie’s first time on skis and according to Charles Sneiderman, right, she did not fall all day. Photo provided by Connie Lawn.

As we left Bryce resort, church bells were ringing Christmas carols from the side of the mountain. A beautiful church is located in a house right off the slopes. As we drove away from the resort, we encountered a hot air balloon which lifted off in the fields near us. It was so close, we could clearly see the flames propelling it. The dozens of thoroughbred horses in the pastures were not phased by it - they apparently see it often. But it was a treat for us, adding to the beauty and the drama of our day in Bryce, Virginia.

“Camp Fantastic” participants at Bryce Resort.
Related Links
About Connie Lawn

When she wasn't skiing, Connie Lawn covered the White House as a reporter since 1968.

Author thumbnail
DCSki Sponsor: Canaan Valley Resort

Reader Comments

Kate Brennan
January 13, 2008
Thank you for your beautiful and touching article about your visit to Bryce Resort with the "Camp Fantastic" children. If I weren't already a resident of Bryce I'd want to come here, based on your description. We do indeed have the only fly-in Public Library for miles around and a flying club as well.

Thanks again,

All the best,

connie lawn
January 15, 2008
Thank you Kate. Keep up the great work. Yours, Connie
M.Ethan Ross
January 18, 2008

I have always enjoyed your articles, and appreciate your expertise on skiing and related subjects. Thank you for this great article, and for highlighting the importance of this sport for all people. The courage displayed by these youngster is inspiration, and as a parent of a child with medical needs, skiing and other snowsports can be a great equalizer for many.

I agree with you completely that Bryce, and the majority of ski resorts, are compassionate and helpful when it comes to handling patrons that have illnesses/special needs, and they should be thanked for their dedication. Bryce is actually my favorite ski resort due to their patient and kind staff, and reasonable prices for lessons and lifts for families. Thanks for the great article.

M.Ethan Ross

Ski and Tell

Speak truth to powder.

Join the conversation by logging in.

Don't have an account? Create one here.

0.02 seconds