Monday, February 22, 2010

Wintergreen Resort

When we got married, B and I decided to split the special occasion planning duties: B plans our anniversary (August) and I take care of Valentine's Day. This year, I wanted to plan a weekend getaway that wouldn't break the bank. I decided on a ski weekend but had no idea where to go since we had never skiied on the East Coast before. After a lot of internet searching and conferring with friends, I decided on Wintergreen Resort in Virginia.

Wintergreen is normally a 3 hour drive from DC (it took us 4 hours on the Friday after the Snowpocalypse). It is a pleasant trip without the scary, windy roads (I'm looking at you Snow Summit) that I'm used to facing on the way to a ski resort. Also, if you've never been to Monticello, it is worth a stop on the way to or from Wintergreen.

The accommodations at Wintergreen range from a hotel-style lodge to 7 bedroom homes for rent. I chose a one bedroom condo with ski slope access for less than $150 per night on a holiday weekend. It featured a fireplace and a full sized kitchen, and best yet, was about 100 yards from a ski run.

The check-in and ski rental process were efficiently run and we didn't wait in lines (even on a Friday night of a holiday weekend). We were glad to be able to rent the equipment the night we arrived so that we could hit the slopes early in the morning from our condo. Parking was also hassle-free and they offer a shuttle service in case you don't want to drive around the resort.

Prior to the trip, I booked dinner reservations at the Copper Mine Bistro, and they were helpful and very accommodating when I wanted to change the reservation day and time. We were seated next to a roaring fireplace and enjoyed a reasonably-priced prime rib dinner on Valentine's eve.
The highlight of the trip was definitely The Plunge tubing park (pictured above). Tubing at 40+mph with no walk to the top of the hill (thanks to a moving walkway) is my idea of a great time. I don't think I stopped smiling the entire 2 hours we tubed. Make your reservations online in advance because the tubing sessions can sell out on the weekends.

Overall, we had a blast at Wintergreen and it was so convenient. I think it'd make a great place for a low-key family reunion. If you're not into the snow thing, they offer golf, swimming, tennis, and hiking during the rest of the year. Next time, I want to check out the Wintergarden Spa and perhaps try zooming down the hill on the zipline.

Have you been to Wintergreen? If not, where do you ski near DC?

Second Thoughts from B

First off, I know what all you guys are saying, "Your wife plans Valentine's Day for you?!?!" Yeah, she's that cool. And really, it makes sense. Neither Valentine's Day nor an anniversary is gender specific, yet somehow tradition has made it a guy's responsibility to treat the ladies. Well, we live in an equal opportunity gift giving household, and she is just as happy to give as I am to receive. But it does put the pressure on me for August...

But back on topic: Wintergreen. I think the whole weekend can be summed up by J's comment that tubing was the highlight of the trip. This is half because it was far more fun than we could possibly describe, and half because the skiing is adequate at best.

Even with historically good snowfall, I wouldn't recommend Wintergreen as a ski-only destination. There are only 5 lifts of which 3 are worthwhile, and the runs are rather short. Granted, I'm spoiled having cut my skiing teeth at Mammoth, Lake Tahoe, as well as in Utah and Colorado.

However, as a winter activity center, Wintergreen is fantastic. Walking to the slopes takes most of the hassle out of skiing (now if they could only make ski boots warm and comfortable). The food at Copper Mine was surprisingly good and reasonably priced. The condo was such a bargain and the equipment rental operation was smooth. Topping that off with the fantastically fun tubing made for a great weekend.

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