Family travel

The Big Little Resort in Massanutten, Virginia

Why We’ll Be Back to this Friendly and Family-Oriented Mountain Resort Again and Again


For a place nestled in the Ridge and Valley Appalachian Mountains, minutes from Shenandoah National Park & Skyline Drive, I was astounded at the size of Massanutten. Traversing the resort for the first time at night, navigating around dark mountain roads, was a bit daunting. After following the landscape of a multitude of colored arrow signs on poles — part-international-airport-part Wizard of Oz — I found the check-in building, which they call the “Lobby.”

I checked in at the North Lobby and the desk clerk gave me instructions and a map to our unit. Everything was findable on my Waze navigation thank goodness because the resort was quite a myriad of little roads leading to hundreds and hundreds of rental units perched on the mountainside. We lucked out with a great condo with a spectacular view of the slopes through the trees. Particularly at night with all the twinkling lights, it was an amazing vista.

The units themselves are modernized and spacious, with a very large dining area and a cozy family room with a big screen TV over the mantle and an electric fireplace. While the parents were thrilled with the full kitchen, the boys were most excited about the hot tub! If you’re picky, bring your own pillows, and maybe a blanket if you like to turn the thermostat down low when you sleep, and an extra roll of TP if you are going to stay a while, but everything else is provided.


Equipment Rentals – Off to a Good Start

The rental experience could’ve been chaotic, but because of the friendliness of the people, it was not unpleasant. You must check in first on the touchscreen terminals along the wall. Then you must get your boots first. We didn’t know the drill, so we waited in the ski line and were told to get in the boot line, and we got in the boot line and were told to go register on the terminals. Then I was told for the premium skis I needed to go to the repair shop versus waiting in the regular ski rental line. It was not a big deal because they let us bump the line when we returned since we had already waited.

Bradley in the repair shop was very helpful and Disney-like cheerful as he fitted my son and his cousin for their snowboards. We picked Super Bowl weekend to come to Massanutten Resort because we anticipated it would be a light weekend — the logic being that athletic types, i.e., skiers and riders, would opt to stay home for the game, leaving the mountain to us non-football fans. Our plan didn’t pan out. The rental facility was packed on a Friday at 8:30 PM, just before closing time, with everyone renting their skis for the next day. Despite the crowds, the lines moved swiftly and orderly, thanks to the automated system, featuring self-check-in kiosks, with multiple monitors where guests keyed in their vitals and then cued up for service.

The word around the resort was that every Saturday rentals sell out by noon, and on the busiest weekends, they are out by Friday night. If the rentals are snapped up, fortunately, just about four miles down the road the Powder Shack carries a “shit ton” of rentals, according to a guy in line.

The Massanutten Vibe

An immediate sense I got from Massanutten was that the place was low-key. Everyone super helpful. It had a true air of a family resort. Like a village. When I needed ski poles, the fitter pointed to a big barrel of poles. “Just go grab a pair,” she said. I thought, “We’re not in LA anymore.” In my former hometown, we would have had bar-coded poles that were checked against our driver’s license and a security deposit. But Massanutten was chill. For starters, during this wind-down of the pandemic, some staff and patrons were wearing masks, but there were no “masks required” signs anywhere. This was unlike a visit to a popular Pennsylvania ski resort the previous weekend, where proof of vaccination was required to enter buildings and there were no-eating rules in the “warming room” that sufficed for all the closed-down lodges.

We lucked out with primo parking outside the Family Adventure Park and Tubing, just steps from the rental office, but our late arrival had its disadvantages. The general store was already closed at 9 PM, and there was nowhere close by to get snacks. The restaurants were completely booked up. We learned the hard way that reservations for the resort dining were a must.

Mountain Meals

If you are lucky enough to snag a reservation, dining at the resort’s 12 on-property restaurants is worth it. A couple highly recommended spots are Base Camp and Virginia Barbecue. We had a great comfort food dinner at Campfire Grill. We had an enormous booth under a cabana with a huge wooden table, which made it feel like we were in our own private room. The mac & cheese skillet with shredded fried onions on top and bacon was a delight for my hungry boys. We also enjoyed the popular artisan pizza. The drinks served in Bell jars with handles were a nice touch. As with everywhere we went at the resort, the wait staff was friendly and efficient, despite the weekend crowd and a 90-minute wait for those without reservations.

A marked difference at Massanutten versus other area resorts is the availability and friendliness of the staff. Ever been to a place where you can’t find anyone to ask a question? No there. Even when you arrive to buy lift tickets there’s someone offering, “May I help you” And cheerful staffers are quick to guide you wherever you need to go.

A Mountain of Fun

The main event of our visit to the resort was riding and skiing, and despite my general meh feelings about East Coast skiing, I was pleasantly surprised. The resort’s 70-skiable acres feature 14 runs and seven lifts. About 75 percent of trails were open during our visit, with good, groomed conditions – better in the early hours before the crowds had churned the snow. The waits for chair lifts averaged about five minutes but were never more than 10 minutes. There were a lot of beginners on the slopes, even on the intermediate runs, so we had to watch out for out-of-control learners who didn’t know how to maneuver or stop. Skill level is one of the differences I’ve noticed between East and West coast skiers and riders, where many West Coasters have easy access to world-class resorts in Mammoth, Tahoe, and Utah. The East Coasters also do not dress the part. I saw some at Massanutten in jeans and many without helmets, which is rare out West.


We had two full days of fun on the mountain, including one day of snowfall. We also loved night skiing, which was chilly but uncrowded. The lodges were also not too crowded, and lines moved quickly for hot chocolate and food. As my boys are teens now, I felt comfortable sending them off to ride on their own, and we kept in touch regularly with our Sena Latitude S1 snow helmets with a built-in communications system that allowed the boys to chat with each other and for me to check in with them wherever we were on the mountain, up to more than a half mile range. The only time the boys seemed not to love having the ability to chat with us parents was when it was time to leave the slopes and I gave them the “final run” warning.

What’s New

The 2021-22 season was especially exciting at Massanutten because it was the resort’s 50th anniversary, which the resort commemorated by announcing a new expansion for 2022 that includes two new trails, a new “More Difficult” trail and a new “Most Difficult.” In 2023 the resort plans to open a new detachable quad lift to replace the existing quad lift 6 and a new double black diamond “Most Difficult” trail under the lift. In 2024, the resort will introduce two additional “More Difficult” trails, with one connecting Paradice to Mass Transit and another new trail off of lift 5.

Whatever the Weather

While Mother Nature can be unpredictable, if it’s a dry season, Massanutten is ready with more than 200 top-of-the-line snowmaking machines. They even feature a video about it on their website. The resort normally starts making snow in early to mid-December, and if the cold temperatures cooperate, they can keep the slopes open until early March. During our trip, snow started falling in the late morning and continued through the entire day, which made for awesome skiing and riding conditions.  Impressively, the resorts snowplows were out hourly clearing the roads, and we had no trouble getting in and out of the resort, though we did have to use the two snow shovels provided with our accommodations to clear the pathway to our condo and cars ourselves, which served as a great warm-up for the boys.

What Else Can You Do?

If the kids are still not passed out after a tiring day of riding and skiing on the slopes, there’s night tubing; but unless you like loud headbanger music (even my teens were questioning the volume), don’t go near closing time, when it seemed the staff was trying to run people off with the heavy metal.

If skiing and tubing are not your thing, there’s plenty more to do. Other winter activities include ice skating and snowmobiling. But Massanutten is not just a winter resort. It’s a year-round destination with 6,000 acres of activities and amenities for the whole person and the whole family.  There’s something for everyone, from golf to an indoor water park and a ropes course, to escape rooms, a spa, shopping, and activities for kids such as crafts for kids, such as building a terrarium, plus an ice cream parlor, a bungee dome, bumper cars, and go-carts.

For sure, we will be back, and not just for skiing.