Hitting (Close to) the Slopes

By Rachel Marsh | January 9th, 2018

How to enjoy a ski vacation without the skis


ski vacation Image

The snowy season is upon us, and people all over are digging out their snow gear and ski goggles for a vacation on the slopes. For years, individuals have excitedly looked to skiing as a way to bond with travel companions and embrace the icy conditions Mother Nature insists on bringing every year.

But, question … what if your friends and family are going on a ski trip and you’re not a skier? In that case, should you skip out? Or spend your holiday catching up on your reading and soap operas by the lodge’s fireplace?

Answer: absolutely not.

A disinterest in skiing, or just a plain old disinterest in spending more time in the cold than necessary, leaves many people the odd-ball-out on ski retreats. But plenty of resorts want their nonskier guests to have as much fun as the snow bunnies. So while the rest of your crew risks frostbite and broken bones, you can go your merry way and meet them for the après-ski party.

We’ve singled out some of those very spots, ones that offer unique ways to stay off the slopes yet still have a fulfilling vacation. In addition to indoor pools, shopping, dining and other cold weather sports such as ice skating and tubing, these winter destinations have some other alternatives up their sleeves that will leave you thinking, “What’s skiing?”

Photograph by Jess Hoffman, courtesy of Massanutten Resort
Photograph by Jess Hoffman, courtesy of Massanutten Resort

Massanutten Resort

Massanutten Resort boasts nearly 15 different ski slopes. Evidently, however, someone at Massanutten shares your disinterest in skiing, because the resort has become a hub for non-snow-related activities.

Where to even begin? During the day, the lodge offers a host of classes, covering categories such as aerobics, crafts, culinary and wine.

Start the day off with some Zumba, take a soap-making seminar after lunch, follow it up with a crocheting workshop and finish off the afternoon at a cooking demonstration.

And to avoid cabin fever, take your activity-loving self out of the lodge for a day. The resort offers a scenic bus tour up to Washington, D.C., showing guests the highlights of our nation’s capital without the hassle of driving.

Then come back to the Massanutten, swap stories with your ski-weary companions, and do it all again the next day. With so many activities to choose from, you may soon forget you’re even at a ski resort.

Distance from Richmond: 2 hours

Wintergreen Resort

Stinson Vineyards | Photograph courtesy of Stay Charlottesville
Stinson Vineyards | Photograph courtesy of Stay Charlottesville

While the rest of the crew is gearing up for time in the snow, prepare yourself for a juicier kind of day. After all, what’s a “ski” trip without a little wine?

Or perhaps, a full day of wineries.

Wintergreen Resort is conveniently within arm’s reach of a variety of wineries and vineyards. Have a tasting at Afton Mountain. Sip a glass of merlot at Rebec Vineyards. Savor a bottle of rosé next to the mountainous view at Veritas Vineyard and Winery.

And don’t forget the area’s other alcohol options! The area is home to multiple breweries (two Blue Mountain Brewery locations, Wild Wolf and Devils Backbone), two cideries and three distilleries.

Reserve a space on a winery or brewery tour bus for a day of chauffeured fun. Wish Wish Wine Tours, Monticello Wine Tours, Brew Ridge Tours and others will pick up and drop off right at Wintergreen Resort, so all you have to do is show up at the front door. (And vicariously experience two local wine tours, Top Shelf Transportation and Cville Tours Taste of Luxury.)

Then come back to the lodge from a long day of spirit-samplings as rosy-cheeked as the skiers.

Distance from Richmond: 2 hours

Canaan Valley Resort and Conference Center

Most ski resorts greet winter by opening up the slopes and shutting down the summer activities. But not Canaan Valley Resort [locals pronounce it Cah-nane]. Golf-lovers, rejoice: this West Virginia retreat is keeping the greens open even during the winter.

Their highly acclaimed golf course is 18 holes of remarkable countryside with 65 sand bunkers and eight water hazards. It’s flat and forgiving, ideal for golfers of any skill level. On those weather-permitting winter days, grab an extra pair of wool socks – for warmth, not just in case you get a hole in one (argh, sorry) – and head out to the tee.

Just don’t forget your parka and warm thoughts.

Distance from Richmond: 4 hours

The Omni Homestead Resort

While the winter warriors are spending their vacation worrying about the snow and freezing temperatures, spend your vacation slowly forgetting you have any worries at all.

Start your day by stretching out your muscles and aligning those chakras with a personalized yoga and meditation session. After you’ve had enough Namaste, relax your now-limber body in the Homestead’s extensive spa. Choose from a variety of massage treatments, including Swedish, cupping and deep tissue. Perk up your hands and feet with a mani-pedi, invigorate your skin with an enhancing facial, and then finish loosening up in a mineral soak.

And after you’re all pampered out, take your indulged self for a float in the peaceful Serenity Garden Pool.

Return to the lodge satiated and glowing, to make all of those sore-muscled skiers envious.

Distance from Richmond: 3 hours

Snowshoe Mountain Resort

At Snowshoe Mountain Resort, you can say farewell to the ski lifts and hello to the saddles. Conveniently located within the resort property is Autumn Breeze Stables, a local farm with an abundance of reliable and well-mannered horses.

The stables are open year-round, weather permitting, for horse lovers of all ages and skill levels to saddle up and take a ride. Get a quick horseback-riding refresher, and then enjoy woodsy trails and scenic views. Trails and trail times vary from one to four hours.

And when the weather becomes too flakey for trail rides (think: snow!), horses are hitched up to a buggy for the kind of one-horse-open-sleigh experience that’ll have you laughing all the way.

Distance from Richmond: 4 hours

Autumn Breeze Stables in Pocahontas County, West Virginia | Photograph courtesy of Snowshoe Mountain
Autumn Breeze Stables in Pocahontas County, West Virginia | Photograph courtesy of Snowshoe Mountain

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