Firsthand Report: Massanutten, Feb. 17, 2007 5
Author thumbnail By Connie Lawn, DCSki Columnist

As an adopted Virginian, I love skiing on trails named “Southern Comfort, Rebel Yell, Dixie Dare, and Yee Ha.”

Massanutten may be the seventh wonder of Virginia (don’t ask me about the other 6). It is a terrific ski area, located near the Shenandoah River Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains, near Harrisonburg and Elkton, Virginia. It is about a two and a half hour drive from Washington, and is well worth the trip. It is especially wonderful if you can spend the night at a condominium in the 7,500 acre resort. In addition to superb skiing, boarding, and tubing, Massanutten has a new 33 acre water park which is about the most exciting complex I have seen outside of Walt Disney World. Some of those slides, tubes, and wave rides are really thrilling, and are too much for me. They appeal to the brave souls who do their jumps and flips in Terrain Parks in the snow. But, there are also gentler sections of the park.

View of the Shenandoah River Valley from the Paradice trail at Massanutten. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

It is amazing to go from winter slopes and cold to this complex with a huge winding swimming pool, enormous slide towers, wave rides, wave pools, and a sumptuous buffet. Guests shed their snow clothes, put on bathing suits, and splash and “sunbathe” in view of the snow covered slopes. In the summer, the area opens up to outdoor slides and pools. Massanutten even has off season snowtubing down slides without snow, but with an artificial surface. There is a buffet area in the water park building which offers an impressive variety of American fare at very reasonable prices every day for lunch and dinner with a gorgeous view of the mountains.

These innovations make for smart business, especially in times when the snow was scarce as it was at the start of the season. It also keeps the resort functioning all year, but there are the other traditional pastimes of golf, horse riding, fishing, hiking, and biking. For those who combine business with pleasure (as most of us do), the entire complex is becoming a wireless hot spot, so you can take your cell phones and computers, and put them to work, from the mountains to the water park. If you are silly enough to take them in the water, it is your fault!

Lack of snow was not a problem when we were there. The slopes were well-covered, and beautifully groomed. My husband Charles and I wondered how they managed to keep powder on the mountain - an ice storm and wind had hit the area a few days before (as it did much of the country). It was the most crowded weekend of the season, but the waits on the lifts were only on the bottom, for the beginner and intermediate areas. Once you got to the top, the two lifts to the diamond areas ran fast and smooth, and there was no wait. We made a quick series of runs on Paradice and Diamond Jim until our legs gave out. A snow storm was moving in and the light was growing flat. It was sad to say farewell to the Blue Ridge mountains in the distance. Hawks were soaring close overhead and seemed stationary; I’ve never seen large birds that close since the kia parrots at Treble Cone in New Zealand! They seemed to mock us for being tired and leaving their mountain realm.

While on the mountains, we enjoyed all the runs. The most popular diamonds were Paradice and Diamond Jim. My favorite was Upper Dixie Dare, which had gentle moguls and was narrow enough to force me into just the right amount of turns.

Crowd control was good, with plenty of patrol on both the slopes and in the parking lots. We were impressed with the ski patrollers standing by signs at the end of the runs. The signs read: “Slow - space not speed.” The patrollers enforced that rule, and everyone appeared to be controlled and well behaved.

Mark Andrews, head of Therapeutic Adventures and adaptive snowsports at Massanutten. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

While at Massanutten, we had visits with two excellent leaders. One was longtime general manager, Steve Showalter, who has been there for 30 years. He is a high energy, hands-on executive (that seems to be a common trait among managers) and is justifiably proud of his resort. He said about 3,800 skiers and boarders were expected during the day we were there, and 1,200 tubers. They handled it well, and the full mountain was open from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. The other man we met was Mark Andrews, head of adaptive skiing programs and therapeutic adventures. He had a group of brave skiers with him that day - some were young children, one girl was blind, and others were disabled service veterans. The next day he had more veterans, children, and a man recovering from a stroke. He said Massanutten has been running its adaptive programs for 28 years, and he has been a guiding force behind it. Mark says discounts and scholarships are available for all participants, and no one is turned away for lack of funds. Like all the adaptive programs, they count on fundraising and volunteer efforts. He would like those who want to learn more to look at their website at therapeuticadventures.org.

We had a great day at Massanutten, and we cannot wait to return again, in any season. As we drove away, I thought to myself, “Virginia is for all lovers - outdoor and indoor ones.”

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About Connie Lawn

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

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Reader Comments

SkiBumMSP
February 20, 2007
As many of the regular readers know, I am intimitly familier with Massanutten. It is not unusual for me to ski a good dozen or more days (many times, as many as twenty) there at Massanutten. After reading that article, it seems to be an apt discription what I just about consider a second home during the winter. I was wondering how the conditions were after that monster storm, as I was not there this past weekend (I was spending a weekend up at the Poconos for a change of scenery and to explore some areas that I've not skied before). They looked really good from those pictures you posted. That waterpark is sweet, isn't it? I've got to play in there myself and it is a blast. I just love that Flowrider thing they got there! I've also ate many a meal at the Blue Ridge Buffet. One thing I want to add that was not mentioned in the main article is that you DO NOT have to pay an admission to just go to the buffet. Anybody, even those that have no intention of actually going into the waterpark itself or the "wet level" as they call it, can still eat at the buffet. It is located on the upper-most level of the main waterpark building. On the middle level, there is an arcade and a bar/lounge area as well, which is also accessible without having to go into the actual waterpark and paying an admission. Also, nice mention (and a great picture) of Mark Andrews. He really is a great guy as well as a good friend of mine. That is a good and noble operation he has going with the adaptive skiing program. This just also proves that even with disabilities, there are ways to still get out and enjoy the slope. It does take some specialized equipment and training, but thankfully, there are wonderful guys like Mark Andrews that will provide it. And of course, the patrol there is definitly an A-class, 1 operation! (I'll let you figure out what the 'MSP' in my username means) :).
Connie Lawn
February 20, 2007
Thank you for your great input. Hope to meet you one day. Yours, Connie
Mark Andrews
February 21, 2007
Dear Connie,

It was a pleasure meeting you on the slopes on 2/17/07. I regret that we did not have time to show you all of what we are doing at Massanutten. During your next visit, it will be a pleasure to integrate you into our program so that you could get a better understanding of our unique philosophy and how we manage our services. Our short time together did not provide you with the scope of services that are a function of Therapeutic Adventures, Inc. In addition to - Adaptive Snow Sports, our largest program, we also provide Adaptive Water Sports and Adaptive Wilderness Sports. We have also developed Safety Standards & a Code of Ethics for Professional providing Adaptive Outdoor Programs - as a function of the Adaptive Outdoor Safety Council. As a function of Freedom Outdoors, we design and distribute adaptive outdoor equipment and other specialty products to help provide greater access to the outdoors for ALL persons.

Massanutten Adaptive Snow Sports is one of the largest and oldest programs in the Southeast. We have been serving persons of all ages (4-81 to date) with different abilities--Physical and Developmental Disabilities, Chronic Health Problems and other Special Health Needs for 26 years. In addition to working with many Rehabilitation Centers in the Mid-Atlantic, Massanutten Adaptive Snow Sports has been serving disabled veterans since 1981. As technology and instructional techniques have evolved, we have integrated with these improvements. Massanutten Adaptive Snow Sports has been a full-service program--providing sit-skiing/mono-skiing/bi-skiing services all 26 years. We have also provided guiding services for blind and visually impaired skiers, deaf and hearing impaired as well as 2-track, 3-track, 4-track and snowboard instruction. We also provide nordic programs and snowshoeing experiences.

Massanutten Adaptive Snow Sports has provided annual programs for McGuire Veterans Hospital in Richmond, VA. We have also served patients from Walter Reed Medical Center, and from the Veterans Hospital in Roanoke, VA. Therapeutic Adventures, Inc. continues it commitment to partner with and serve veterans hospitals. We have been honored and privileged to provide outdoor rehabilitation services for disabled veterans who have served in the Korean War, Vietnam, Bosnia, the Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq. We have also worked with those who are victims of war and oppressed societies such as Somalia, and some Eastern European countries. We could not do this without the support of Paralyzed Veterans Association (PVA) and the associated Veterans Hospitals. We also partner with Operation First Response -- Supporting Wounded Heroes and Their Families.

To effectively share with your readers all the work we are doing, I invite you to visit our website. Only then will you have an understanding of what differentiates this program from others. See our website: www.therapeuticadventures.org

On Sunday 2/25 we will be hosting our annual Celebration of Independence and Independence Cup - Adaptive Snow Sports Race. This event celebrates all the accomplishments of the individuals who participate in our programs. Check out the slide shows and articles in our website. In particular, you may wish to read about Josh Sundquist, one of our 3-track skiers who was a member of the US Paralympic Team that competed in Torino.


Mark

Mark A. Andrews
Founder/Director
Therapeutic Adventures, Inc.
P.O. Box 4668
Charlottesville, VA 22905
Ph (434) 295-3973 voice/fax (home/office)
(434) 981-5834 mobile
Web site: http://www.therapeuticadventures.org
e-mail: adaptive.guide@gmail.com
SkiBumMSP
February 22, 2007
That is indeed a wonderful and noble operation you have going. I knew you were doing it for a long time, but did not realize it was that long! It is good to know that there are folks like you that provides that type of training and equipment to allow people with disabilites to also enjoy skiing. I thought how cool it was a couple of years ago when I was at Breckenridge to see some dude come down through the glades and moguls on a sit-ski! I was just standing there watching and thinking, "SWEET!!" However, I just hope that I never have to personally need to use your services, but if I ever find anybody that shows an interest in skiing but thinks they can't do it because of a disability, I'll make sure to refer them to your website (and in fact, I think I just might know of someone that just might be interested).

Of course, did you see the forcast for this Sunday? Go figure.....

Well, looking forward to seeing you on the slopes this weekend and keep up the good work!

Steven Konopa
Connie Lawn
February 23, 2007
Thank you Mark and Steven. Mark, you deserve an Oscar, at the very least! Yours, Connie

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