DCSki Sponsor: Canaan Valley Resort
Firsthand Report: Massanutten Weekend 2
Author thumbnail By Matthew Graham, DCSki Columnist

Located near Harrisonburg, VA, Massanutten Resort is often considered a day trip destination for skiers near the I-66 corridor of Virginia. However, this “local” hill has been expanding over the last decade and has added a water park, condos galore, a new spa, and is now a four season resort that rivals any other in the mid-Atlantic. And this year they have an extra bonus, something the southern ski areas haven’t had in a few years - SNOW!!!!! And with all of the natural white stuff from Snowmageddon, Snowpocalypse and Snowverkill, my wife, Karen, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to head south for a weekend of on and off-piste fun.

Karen glides to a stop after a tubing run. Photo provided by Matthew Graham.

We arrived on Saturday afternoon in time for the 1-3 pm tubing hill session. The weekend sessions sell out early. So book a day or two ahead to secure passes. I’ve always heard rave reviews about the 900’ long tubing hill at this Virgina resort. It has eight lanes and two whoop-de-whoops - drop offs where you can sometimes catch some air. The hill is serviced by a magic carpet, conveyor-style lift. Despite being booked, there wasn’t any lift line. At top, however, it looked like a zoo with long lines waiting at each lane. The lines moved fairly quickly because nearly everyone was linking tubes. A lot of tubing hills forbid linking. Not Massanutten! There were chains of two, three, four and even a couple of chains of nearly a dozen tubes. Everyone was having a blast.

Weekend tubing sessions at Massanutten regularly sell out. Photo provided by Karen Carra.

Karen and I linked together to do what I call the “boomerang” where I yank her tube into mine to create a ricochet effect causing bursts of acceleration. After about a half dozen runs, we split up for a couple of individual glides down the hill. The warm afternoon sun slowed things down. So to maximize speed we returned to the boomerang. Before we knew it the two hour session was over and it was onto the next adventure: the water park.

Water comes in many forms at Massanutten: snow on the slopes, or liquid in the water park. Photo provided by Karen Carra.

The 42,000 square foot, three story high indoor water park is a bit of summer even on the coldest days. After switching from our skiing clothes to our swimming suits, we floated atop powder blue, inner tubes through the Blue Ridge Rapids. More tubing!!!! The continuous current “river” propels riders along a circular path while water jets shoot from the sides and curtains of water splash down unexpectedly from above. It’s just plain stupid FUN! To continue the tubing trend, we grabbed a double inner tube and climbed the three flights to the launching area for the slides. There are three tube-slides and two long and serpentine body slides. The lines were short and we made at least a dozen slides (doubles and singles), taking a couple of breaks to sit in one of the hot tubs. And like the snow tubing, doubling up provided more speed and more thrills. Karen screamed like a little girl as we whooshed around the turns and dropped over the fall into the splash pool at the bottom.

Matthew describes Massanutten’s indoor water park as “plain stupid fun!” Photo provided by Karen Carra.

I also wanted to try boogie boarding on the Pipeline, a FlowRider wave ride. Thousands of galloons of water continuously shoot upwards along a wide, gently curved wall while would-be surfers try to carve the wave back and forth down through the torrent. However, the wait in line appeared to be at least a half an hour. And I’m not good with waiting.

A condo at Massanutten. Photo provided by Karen Carra.

We donned our clothes and checked into a condo for the night. The one bedroom unit looked brand spanking new and had a whirlpool tub in the bedroom and a gas fireplace in the large living room. For dinner we tried Fareway’s Restaurant for dinner. Great food and reasonably priced - but what made the night special was the entertainment - a guitar player/singer named Jimmy-O. HE WAS AWESOME!! He played and sang non-stop from the time we arrived till we left - over two hours. You gotta hear this guy!

Jimmy-O provides entertainment at the Fareway’s Restaurant. Photo provided by Karen Carra.

We awoke early the next morning and arrived slope-side at 8:30 am. Karen’s friend Catherine and her boyfriend Jessie, coming up from Charlottesville, VA, met us by the ticket office. Karen and I hopped onto the slopes while our friends queued up at the rental area. We agreed to meet again at the lodge at 9:30 am. The slopes don’t open until 9 am. However, we slid onto the lift at 8:45 - a new Doppelmayr quad CTEC high speed quad. It has a loading conveyor belt that carries the skiers and riders as the chair comes around from behind. I like it much better than the detachables - no shuffling along on your skis - just ride the belt and wait for the chair.

Empty slopes at Massanutten. Photo provided by Karen Carra.

The lift serves the Easy Street terrain park, the beginner Geronimo trail and the connector Nutten-To-It, which we took over to the old double lift number 5. We made a few runs down the blues Mass Transit and Showtime (formerly Rebel Yell) and then made our way to the expert terrain. Advanced slope Diamond Jim was closed for a junior race. So we hit ParaDice twice before having to return to meet with Catherine and Jessie. One side of ParaDice was left in moguls. I decide to wait till they softened up from the sunshine before giving the bumps a go.

Catherine hadn’t skied since high school - basically she’s a beginner all over again. The rental office gave her these teeny-tiney 130s. And she didn’t have any gloves - so she borrowed her boyfriend’s giant man-hand gloves. She looked like a little kid and I laughed and laughed.

We all made a couple of runs down Geronimo - I worked on my backward skiing and flat spins. I used to be able to do easy flat spins on my old K2s. I keep getting stuck halfway around on my Dynastar Contact 11s. Karen decided to stay with Catherine while Jessie and I headed over to ParaDice. He has only been skiing for a year and was making it down the expert slope fairly well- not fast, but in good control. After only a short time Jessie wanted to check in on Catherine. Jessie’s girl had taken a tumble on one of her runs but was still in good spirits. I told her that we all fall - it’s just part of the learning process. Karen and I returned to the expert lift 6. Diamond Jim had re-opened and we cruised it at max speed. I timed it - lift up - 7 minutes 45 seconds - ski down - less than a minute. Blue skies, temps in the low 40s, great snow and no lift line - it doesn’t get much better!

On the fourth go around, we rode up with a guy from ski patrol. He was running the bumps and offered to give me some pointers. We worked on staying on the top third of each mogul, keeping my skis pointing down and avoiding the troughs. These are things I’ve been told before. It really helps, however, to ski with someone as you go through the process. I got into the groove by staying out of the groove! With a few successful bump runs under my belt, Karen and I raced back to the lodge to meet our friends for lunch at 12:45.

After some pub grub at Encounters Lounge - it was time for the real fun! I had signed up for a skiing terrain park lesson at 2 pm. Massanutten is the only place I know that offers terrain park lessons for adult skiers. My instructor, vibrant college student Kyle Houser, asked me what I wanted to work on. I mentioned that I had trouble with my flat spins and I really didn’t know what to do when going over a jump… other than staying forward on my skis. He told me that staying forward was 90 percent of it. We boarded the lift to the Easy Street terrain park. Karen joined us to take pictures. Kyle told me to take the first jump to see how I did. I tucked, hit the ramp, went flying into the air and landed on my butt. Kyle said that I really wasn’t forward, my tuck caused me to have my center of gravity too far back. He advised me to simply bring my knees to my chest. I went again, with a lot less speed, and pulled my knees up. I hardly got any air - but I landed successfully. “Next time try more speed,” Kyle said. Karen skied down to the jump to take a photo and I went again. I looked ahead as though I were just skiing, brought my knees up and landed as if I had never even jumped - no jolt to the legs - nothing. Well, that was weird, I said. Kyle said that’s how it’s always supposed to feel. We worked on my flat spins - apparently I’m not keeping my shoulder open as a spin - and we went for a couple of more jumps. Kyle told me to try to touch my skis as I get airborne. I didn’t quite touch my skis. Still, each jump was easier and easier. Soon the hour-long lesson was up. Kyle told me to go back to the moguls now that I’m used to letting my knees come up and see if the bumps are easier.

Matthew catches some air. Photo provided by Karen Carra.

Karen, however, mentioned that she didn’t get any good pictures because she was shooting into the sun. I agreed to jump again. “I’ll really go for it this time”, I told her. Well I went for it a little too much. I leaned too far forward, dropped one ski and made a face plant into the slope. Ouch! (My wife is trying to kill me!) My helmet pushed up where I impacted and I somehow cut my forehead. Otherwise, I felt okay. We skied down to the lodge and I went to the first aid office for a bandage. I didn’t feel like tackling the bumps at this point. So we finished the day with one more cruise down Diamond Jim.

At this point in the jump, Matthew begins to realize that something is amiss. Photo provided by Karen Carra.
Matthew demonstrates how to not land a jump Photo provided by Karen Carra.

Catherine and Jessie were also done for the day. I showed Catherine my cut - “see, everyone falls” I reminded her. I had had the foresight to think I might be a bit sore after the lesson. It was time to hit the Spa at Massanutten. The newly renovated, two thousand square foot spa offers a variety of massages and facials, including hot stone massage, a micro-dermal abrasion facial and deep tissue and sports massages. On the short drive over from the slopes to the spa I started to stiffen up. However, thanks to an hour of deep tissue work, I left Massanutten feeling as good as when I arrived… and in some ways a lot better!

Massanutten Resort (800-207-MASS or 540-289-4954) has 14 trails, two terrain parks a vertical drop of 1,110 feet and is open for night skiing. There’s still plenty of snow and more is on the way- we always get a snowstorm in March. In addition to skiing, tubing, the water park and the spa, the resort offers a wide array of activities - an arcade, golf, disc golf, hiking, horseback riding, exercise and arts and crafts classes, go-carts, mountain biking and more.

Matthew arrives at the bottom of the tubing hill. Photo provided by Karen Carra.
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About Matthew Graham

Matthew Graham is a skier as well as a hang glider and paraglider pilot, SCUBA diver, cavern diver, equestrian, polo player, sailor, hiker, biker, rock climber, paddler, and skater. He's also yoga teacher and certified personal trainer and has dabbled in just about every other sport, even stunt car driving and bull riding! He has written for the Washington Post, Washingtonian Magazine, USA Weekend Magazine, Hooked on the Outdoors, Richmond Magazine, Chesapeake Life Magazine, Metro Sports, American Fitness, Blue Ridge Outdoors, Recreation News and numerous other outdoor and travel publications.

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DCSki Sponsor: Canaan Valley Resort

Reader Comments

Connie Lawn
February 28, 2010
Terrific report and great photos! Connie and Charles
Meimei Ma
March 11, 2010
Nice report! I've been skiing at Massanutten for the last five years. No question that there has been steady improvement. Flex tickets, extending Geronimo, and the conveyor lift being the most obvious.

By the way, I'm pretty sure only owners and people staying on resort can get tubing tickets early. After 2pm, they can get tickets for a session the next day. The amount of linking depends on conditions. When it's too fast, only single tubes are allowed.

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