Where time is measured in amazing sunrises and sunsets!
You have heard me rave about Wintergreen many times, and this is no exception. Every time we visit, our breath is nearly swept away by the exquisite beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are layers after layers of them, stretching into the horizon. The sunrises and sunsets at Wintergreen are some of the best in the world! It is especially grand if you can stay in one of the sumptuous condos which sit on the ridges of the mountains. Then you can see everything, including the ski slopes below.
The trails were open until 10 at night when we were there, on March 7, 2009, and were well groomed and well lit. Many condos have all the most modern furnishings, including wide screen HDTV’s. Ours also had a wonderful selection of DVD’s. This time we were in The Highlands, but most condos are modern and clean. Prices vary, depending upon the season and the package you can arrange. But they are great for families, and can easily sleep four, or more. We were in a one bedroom condo. If anyone sleeps in the living room, they get the fireplace and the dramatic view.
Some major improvements have been made this season, including the addition of yellow-jacket mountain hosts, who are popular in many resorts. They help assist skiers and snowboarders, and enforce safety rules. They will take away tickets, if people are skiing or snowboarding recklessly. Of course, we all lose control at one time or another on the mountain, but they look for repeat hot heads who don’t care for others, or their own safety.
As for the slopes, we had a wonderful time! 25 were listed as open, with a base of 50 to 70 inches. Wintergreen can be quite steep in places, as can be seen from the top of the mountains. Highlands has a vertical drop of 1,003 feet. Wintergreen Resort is a huge area, and not to be taken for granted.
With 70 degree weather, we were really tempted to ski in bathing suits. There were many people on the slopes in shorts, or short sleeve shirts. Of course the snow got mushy. In some spots, you had to pick your way across icy water, or dodge bare spots. Lots of people joking about swimming on the slopes! In one case, on the top of the Big Acorn Quad, the big thermometer read 90 degrees in the morning! To be fair, it reflected the snow, and the sun was shining on it.
Still, we had magical runs, especially in the morning. We got out before 9 a.m., and it made a difference. I love the wide cruising runs of Big Acorn, Upper Sunrise, and Eagles Swoop, and took them several times on Saturday and Sunday. My husband Charles prefers the double diamonds on the Highlands Side - Cliffhanger, Wild Turkey, Turkey Chute, Devils Elbow, and Outer Limits, which we could see from our condo window. In fact, Charles was pleased he could walk down to it and get right onto the slopes. I prefer the free and efficient shuttle bus. You meet nice people and hear terrific country music as you take the 5 minute ride. In fact, country music is usually piped throughout Wintergreen, which is one aspect which makes it so special.
But this weekend, the music and the food were largely Cajun - the Adaptive Ski fund raising Mardi Gras celebration was the main reason for the trip at this time. We are very supportive of adaptive skiing and Wounded Warrior projects, as many of our readers know. Wintergreen Adaptive Skiing, or WAS, has one of the most developed and advanced programs in the mid Atlantic region. It is run by the creative and energetic Michael Zuckerman and scores of volunteers. Some are professionally staffed instructors; others are part time assistants. They all do a wonderful job!
It is very difficult to guide a blind skier down the mountain, and help tether a fast and strong skier in a sit ski. Some of the children have cerebral palsy, and WAS has constructed a special ski walker for them. One young blind skier did exceptionally well during the weekend, and won two medals. The best instructors are those who started in their teen aged years. Michael Zuckerman says, give teenagers responsibility, and they will rise to the occasion! He also talks about the extreme joy of being one big adaptive family, and helping those who are special and need extra care. Some wounded warriors now come to Wintergreen each week, especially those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
The families make a great effort to come to this program. Some drive 6 hours on the weekend, to visit from New Jersey. Others drive 4 or 5 hours from North Carolina. Wintergreen is usually about 2 hours from Richmond and 3 from the Washington metro area. But, it is definitely worth the visit, in summer as well as winter, and many in the Mid Atlantic region have bought condos in Wintergreen. There are active golf, swimming, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and other programs in the non-snow seasons.
Now, the fun part - the Mardi Gras. It takes the pain out of fund raising! All day Saturday, we saw people on the slopes with elaborate costumes and Mardi Gras beads. Many of the costumes come from thrift stores. At about 2:30 Saturday afternoon, they gathered on the top of Diamond Hill, and the competition began. This included the costumed Mardi Gras parade (which actually started at 11 a.m.), delicious gumbo and crowning of the King and Queen, a tubing competition, the costumed synchro ski/ride contest, and the all you could eat Cajun dinner at the Rockfish Valley Fire Department.
The skits for the parade were hysterical and very creative. They must have been very time consuming to construct. They included a special kayak race down the snow, white sheeted toga ski instructors (yes, there was a toga party on the slope!), a satirical take on Cinderella, and a Peter Pan skit. The Peter Pan group, who are actually the ski patrollers, won the competition, but the Cinderella group, sponsored by WAS, was a close second.
In our book, they are all winners! If you can take the time, visit Wintergreen, especially during Mardi Gras. But any season is great. I am still closing my eyes and visualizing the mountains, as I commute to work on the crowded Metro.
Video by Charles Sneiderman
When she wasn't skiing, Connie Lawn covered the White House as a reporter since 1968.