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Massanutten - An Unofficial Guide

This unofficial guide is maintained by MarzNC, Ambassador for Massanutten.

 

Massanutten in the Shenandoah Mountains of northern Virginia is one of the oldest ski areas in the Mid-Atlantic region. Lifts began running in 1971. It boasts the highest vertical drop - 1100' - in Virginia, Pennsylvania or Maryland. Another point in Massanutten's favor in spite of only having 70 acres is the length of the runs; for example, ParaDice at the top is 4100' long and the primary green, Southern Comfort, is 2300'. There is advanced snowmaking on 100% of the 14 trails, including a separate terrain park with large features served by a J-bar. Every trail is lit for night skiing and riding. The progression from beginner to intermediate to the hardest trails is well thought out. With replacement of all the original lifts completed in recent years, Massanutten has two conveyor loading quads at the base, a triple for blue and black trails, and a quad (Lift 6) that serves the two black runs at the top of the mountain, plus two magic carpets and a J-bar for the larger terrain park.

 
Good: conveyor loading for base chairlifts, advanced snowmaking on all trails
Better: all 14 trails lit for night skiing and riding, live webcams for checking conditions, 4-hour or 8-hour flex ticket
Best: Slopesliders ski school for kids 4-12, group clinics for beginners and intermediates ages 7+, never a lift line for Lift 6
 

Massanutten is a great place for families to ski together. Also a good place for any group with mixed abilities. The advantage of being small is that parents can feel comfortable allowing school age kids to ski with their friends, without having to be with an adult all the time. With only one lodge, gathering a group together is easy when it's time to eat or to leave. Advanced intermediates and better usually stay on Lift 6 if they don't want to spend time waiting in a lift line. Beginners can move up to mid-station off Lift 5 when they are comfortable with Geronimo. Intermediates can test their skills on Upper Showtime to gain confidence before heading up to the top of Lift 6.

 

The ski school is run by people who are dedicated locals. They have been helping locals and travelers learn to ski and snowboard for years. The new building opens for 2015-16 and is a great addition. Packages that include a lift ticket, rental gear, and a lesson are available for beginners and intermediates ages 7 and up. The Mountain Cruisers program for kids ages 4-12 (7-12 for snowboarding) is excellent. Mountain Cruisers runs 9:30-2:00 and includes lift ticket, gear rental, snack and lunch breaks. Advanced beginners or intermediates can take a 90-min group lesson at a very reasonable price, with or without rental gear. There are weekly 2-hour clinics for women and seniors (over 50) taught by very experienced instructors.

 

Massanutten was one of the first in the Mid-Atlantic to change to flex tickets. Can get a 4-hour or 8-hour lift ticket to use any time from 9:00am to closing. Also can get a twilight ticket starting in the late afternoon. The lights are on until 9:00pm weekdays and 10:00pm on weekends and holidays.

 

Trail Map

Massanutten Trail Map 2012.jpg

Lift 6 (far right) goes to the peak of Massanutten Mountain.  Lift 5 was the original "top" for the ski area, now a triple.  Lift 4 follows the long green trail called Southern Comfort.  Lift 3 is a short quad that serves Geromino (green), which has a small terrain park, a cross-over to the big terrain park, and a cross-over to Southern Comfort.  Beginning skiers like Southern Comfort with a very easy pitch.  Beginning snowboarders stay on Geronimo, which is slightly steeper and does not have a flat section.  Lifts 3 and 4 have conveyor loading.  The teaching/training area next to the lodge has two magic carpets.  The training area is open for general use after the children's ski school program finishes at 2:00pm.

 

Advanced intermediate and advanced skiers can enjoy lapping ParaDice and Diamond Jim off Lift 6 at the top of mountain. Unlike other places in the Mid-Atlantic, waiting on a lift line more than a couple minutes rarely happens on Lift 6. That's true even on holiday weekends. Advanced skiers and boarders play on the bumps on MakAttack once there is enough snow available for them to grow. They also enjoy Upper Showtime, which can have better snow conditions than DJ after a rare snowstorm. According to MountainVertical, the vertical at Massanutten is 1070 feet, about the same as Blue Knob and Blue Mountain, and more than any other PA ski areas.  Those riding Lift 6 get about 825 feet vertical on ParaDice or DJ alone.  In comparison, Timberline is 980, Canaan Valley 740, Snowshoe 1480, Seven Springs 750.

 

The progression for an intermediate who wants to try out Lift 6:

0) Be comfortable skiing Lower Showtime from Lift 5 mid-station while making continuous turns under control.
1) Take Upper Showtime from the top of Lift 5. Be careful at the very top. Best if you know how to sideslip BEFORE going to the top. DO NOT take MAKattack.
2) Get comfortable making turns on the short steep section at the top of Upper Showtime. There is nothing any steeper off Lift 6.
3) Take Lift 6 and go down ParaDice.  Stop and rest as needed.  Have fun!
4) Take Lift 6 and check out Diamond Jim. Preferably when the entire run is open. On weekends, half of DJ is used for ski team practice and NASTAR.

 

Massanutten in Pictures

 

Looking up Southern Comfort (green) from the parking lot side of the lodge.  The ramp is the easiest way to the lodge when carrying stuff.

 

View from midway up Lift 4 looking at Southern Comfort (long green, next to yellow fence), bottom of Main Street (blue) and Lower Showtime (blue, far left) 

 

Looking back at the lodge from Lift 3, which serves Geronimo (green) and Nuttin-To-It (green) to Southern Comfort (green)

 

Ski school training area.  Beginner kids use blue carpets initially.  Magic carpets on either side, one for Mountain Cruisers and the other for group and private lessons.  Anyone can use the area after Mountain Cruisers finishes at 2pm.

 

How to Load video for the conveyor loading, first installed in 2009 when new quad replaced original double for Lift 3.  Conveyor loading also added to the other base lift.

 

Blue trails on the left are off Lift 5.  Top of the mountain black trails on the right are served by Lift 6.

 

A couple of friends at top of Lift 6 ready for the two black runs: Diamond Jim (left) and ParaDice (right).  Diamond Jim takes a direct route down the mountain.  DJ is used by the race teams for training, for regional races, as well as for NASTAR on weekend afternoons.  The right side usually remains open when gates are set up for practice.

 

ParaDice starts with a relatively flat section that holds the snow during warm spells, then curves around for a fun ride for the rest of the 825 vertical to the base of the lift.  

 

MakAttack can grow big bumps if the weather cooperates.  All trails are lit for fun after the sun goes down.

MAKAttack bumps tend to be long, not round, partially because there are more good snowboarders who play on them than advanced skiers but also because the trail opens with a collection of snow whales of different sizes.

 

View from Lift 5 of Showtime (blue), taken at 9:15am.  Never a crowd before 10:30.

 

Looking down Upper Showtime (right) and Main Street (left).  When open, Mass Transit and Yee Ha provide a way to Lift 6 without having to ride Lift 4 with beginners.  What is harder to see is the short steeper drop off where instructors prepare students for a black trail.

 

Ski school offers beginner lessons every hour 10:00-3:00 plus evening times, and intermediate group lessons three times a day.  Here instructors get ready to see if they are needed for the next session.  This a "line up" on a weekend.

 

A small Mountain Cruisers group paying close attention to their instructor on Southern Comfort (green)

 

An intermediate group on Lower Showtime (blue).  Children (7 and up) and adults are put in separate groups.

 

 

Lower MacAttack (blue) is usually empty.  When there is enough natural snow, tree skiing is possible.

 

Looking down Diamond Jim (black) towards the lodge.  1100 ft vertical, with about 825 on before it connects with Southern Comfort (green) for a long run out to the base.

 

Location

Massanutten is 14 miles east of I-81 near Harrisonburg, on US33, no mountain driving required.  It's about 2.5 hours from DC, 4 hours from Pittsburgh, and 4 hours from Raleigh.

 

Lodging

Lodging is available at the resort in the Massanutten Hotel and timeshare condos, as well as in privately owned rental houses.  Those staying on resort get free access to amenities such as the indoor pools, hot tubs, saunas, fitness centers, and gymnasium.  

 

Motels on the edge of Harrisonburg are 14 miles away.

 

Good Eats

There are a few places to eat at the Massanutten resort besides the ski lodge.  The deli in the Woodstone building is pretty good but can be very busy on Friday and Saturday nights.  Asking for delivery is not a good idea but take out works fine.

 

Within a few miles of the entrance there are several good local restaurants.  The Thunderbird Cafe and Ciro's Italian are very good for families or a quick meal.  Romano's and Hank's are good for leisurely dinner, especially if interested in a good wine or beer.

 

Chain restaurants of all types in Harrisonburg, including a couple buffet places.  There are fun local places in the historic downtown.

 

Other Fun Besides Skiing/Boarding

Other fun in the winter includes snow tubing, ice skating, a mega zipline, go-karts, golf (valley course), a spa, and an indoor waterpark.

 

Snowtubing with all lanes ready to go.  Ride up on magic carpet (on right), which is also used for people doing the dual Mega Zipline.

 

Massanutten became a successful 4-season resort in the 1980's based on real estate development, including additional timeshare units in the valley, but it began in 1971 with a ski hill.  The dedication of the local people running Snowsports is a big reason skiing/boarding at Massanutten continues to provide a great experience for locals and vacationers.  Since 2006, Massanutten has spent millions upgrading lifts, snowmaking, and the lodge buildings.  The results were worth the wait.

 

Comments (4)

Excellent work, MarzNC. I just love these comprehensive guides to smaller, local resorts. I think they do a great job of introducing newer skiers and locals to a resort they might consider visiting. 
"Advanced intermediate and advanced skiers can enjoy lapping ParaDice and Diamond Jim off Lift 6 at the top of mountain. Unlike other places in the Mid-Atlantic, waiting on a lift line more than a couple minutes rarely happens on Lift 6. That's true even on holiday weekends.  ...Those riding Lift 6 get about 825 feet vertical on ParaDice or DJ alone."
This is something I remember about skiing Massanutten quite a bit in the 1990s and is a great insider's piece of info.  Even when the rest of the mountain is mobbed that lift is lightly used. 
Since the original double-chairs, Lift 3 and 5, were replaced in the last few years the lines for beginners and intermediates on Geronimo, Showtime, and Pacesetter aren't too bad on non-holiday weekends most of the day.  People who rent equipment often don't get out until 10:00 or so.  Those who get a 4-hour ticket are gone by 2:30pm.
Really well written guide! Great work!
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