NOTE: The descriptions of the places in this guide were accurate at the time the articles were posted. Please be advised that you should call ahead before traveling to any of them.

Massanutten Resort - Where the Rubber Hits the Snow

By: Michelle Harper

Snowtubing at Massanutten ResortWinter is historically a slow time for motorcycling. Other than polar bear runs, there doesn't seem to be a lot you can do. When you think of winter sports, thoughts of skiing and snowboarding are more the fare. Since riding with skis strapped on the bike hardly seems practical and renting equipment when you arrive is an expensive proposition, Virginiawind decided seek an alternative solution. We found the answer - snow tubing at Massanutten Resort located off Route 33 ten miles east of Harrisonburg, VA.

Snow tubing is a fairly new winter sport that entails sliding down a snow covered hill on an inflated tube. It offers an affordable alternative to skiing at only $14 per person for a two-hour session. It requires no special equipment (the park provides the tube). This is a no muss no fuss activity.

Massanutten Resort opened Virginia's first snow tubing park in January 1998. Here snow tubers take a handle tow lift to the top of a 900-foot hill and slide down one of nine lanes. Snow tubing is offered for all ages from 9am-9pm daily during the winter sports season for two-hour sessions. Sessions are 9-11am; 11am-1pm; 1-3 pm; 3-5 pm; 5-7 pm and 7-9pm. The only drawback is the tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis and there is no way of knowing if there will be space available. However, even though the park was fairly crowded, we were able to get the session we requested.

Snowtubing at Massanutten ResortSnow tubing requires no experience or lessons. This is a free-style type sport. You can be creative in the manner you ride your tube down the mountain. You can choose to go head first, feet first, spinning or linking to other tubes (the more weight, the faster you go). Everyone can find their own unique form. The best time to tube is later in the afternoon or early evening when the lanes are fastest.

If you are like us and have never been to a ski resort before, we would like to put your mind at ease. Initially we were a bit intimidated. We were afraid there would be additional costs associated with snow tubing that would make it cost prohibitive (these fears turned out to be unfounded - the only cost is the $14.00). Even though we were not sure what to expect, we decided to meet the challenge. However, it would be a disservice to not tell the entire story….

I am not a chicken when it comes to speed but I don't like heights. I was completely ready to tackle the adventure of snow tubing until we actually reached the park. As we pulled into the lot, I found myself staring straight up a hill that was much larger than I had envisioned and watching snow tubers spinning and whizzing down the mountain. My heart sank. Did I hear someone screaming? Suddenly I was taken with the urge to just take pictures at the bottom.

Snowtubing at Massanutten ResortHowever, I had my son, Michael, with me and I didn't want him to see my shortcomings, especially since he was balking at the idea as well (he had inherited my fear of heights). Of course, my husband Kent was eagerly ready to press on. Finally, I made a pact with my son, if he went, I would go. Neither of us wanted to chicken out first so before I knew it we had tickets attached to our jackets and were standing in line to hear our instructions before the session began.

We were told to select a tube. It seemed very important to find the right one. Since I had no idea what the right one would be, I went for the prettiest one - seemed as good a reason as any. Then we were instructed to hand the tube ring to the person running the lift and sit on the tube backwards facing down the mountain. No problem there. He hooked the ring and I was off. There was a small jerk and the tube started slowly ascending up the hill. There was no turning back now.

Snowtubing at Massanutten ResortMy mind was racing but I was beginning to feel like I could do this. Besides, Mike was already ahead of me and I wasn't going to let him show me up. The lift was slow so I had a lot of time to think. As I chugged up the mountain, I rehearsed my instructions. "When you get to the top, you will go through a small chute which releases the tube. You will have eight seconds to jump off, grab your tube and get out of the way because the next person would pile on top of you." - Seemed straight forward enough. So far so good, besides, I couldn't see where I was going so there was nothing to fear.

Suddenly the tube spun rather quickly and I was released. The speed caught me off guard after the leisurely ride but I knew I had to act quickly (I had eight seconds before there would be a collision). I hopped/fell off the tube and scrambled to safety in as dignified a manner as I could muster in my semi-panicked state. I grabbed my tube and stood at the top of the "hill" that from where I was standing, it seemed more like Mount Everest.

As I stood frozen at the top of the hill, Mike and Kent selected a lane and got in line. At that particular moment I was more content to serve as observer at the top of the mountain. Actually, my mind was frantically searching for another way down. Surely there had to be a way for folks to chicken out and head back. After all the guys working at the top had to get down to go to the bathroom and such. My hopes of an alternate route down the mountain were dashed, when I saw one of the workers going on break by taking a tube down the mountain. There appeared only one way out of this and it was staring me in the face.

Snowtubing at Massanutten ResortI realized all hope was lost and was sinking into despair when Mike looked back at me with nervous expectation as he stood next in line. I smiled and waved not letting on that I was frantically searching for an escape. As I looked on, he hopped on his tube as the starter shouted "go". I was temporarily shamed as I saw the back of him disappear down the side of the mountain but fear kept my feet firmly planted where I stood. I finally decided that if he made it to the bottom and came back up again, I would go down the next time.

For what seemed like hours, I waited for Kent and Mike to return to the top. Some little kid of about 7 or 8 brushed past me for his next run. This was getting embarrassing. People were going for their next rounds and I was still standing there "frozen" with terror. Kent reached the top and told me not to worry and that it really was "fun"! I quickly responded by telling him that the idea of careening off a mountain with the only thing between me and harms way was a piece of air filled rubber was definitely NOT my idea of "fun" and I stubbornly waited for Michael to get back to the top. I didn't know it at the time, but he was at the bottom waiting for me. Finally, he decided to come back up and see what the problem was.

Snowtubing at Massanutten ResortHe confirmed what Kent had been telling me - that it really was fun. Kent convinced me to link my tube to his. He would lead the way and all I had to do was close my eyes and he would deliver me safely to the bottom, never to have to go back up again. Seeing no alternative and knowing that my son was watching my every move, I reluctantly agreed. Before I knew it, the starter shouted "go" and Kent pushed us off. I started by closing my eyes but decided that I was going to take this demon on with my eyes wide open.

As we whizzed down the first slope and hit the dip, I told myself "ok so far so good." The tube reached the next peak and I could see the drop. I held my breath, we swooshed down to the next dip. Not too bad, my heart was racing but I had managed not to scream when the next and final dip rose to meet us. Suddenly, we slowed to a gentle pace and before I knew it we were at the bottom. Kent looked worriedly at me and said "now you made it to the bottom. You can go get the camera and take pictures if you like." I smiled reluctantly and said "maybe I will try that again. I wouldn't want to just do it once. That doesn't prove that I beat this thing." The truth is that I kind of enjoyed it but I didn't want to let him know that. It was an ego thing.

Snowtubing at Massanutten ResortUp we went again. When we got to the top, Kent asked if I wanted to go solo. I told him "no" and that I wanted to do it the exact same way we did last time. My bravery was still new to me and I didn't want to push my luck. Down we went again. At the bottom, Kent again looked at me worriedly waiting for some kind of response. I said "We should have a picture of us - you know - for the article." So I managed a fake sigh and said "I guess we have to do it again." I think Kent was on to me by now but he had learned me well enough to know to never say "I told you so."

Snowtubing at Massanutten ResortAll too soon our session ended. After all the activity we were starving. So we headed just a short walk up from the tubing park, to the ski lodge. Ever since I could remember, I have always wanted to sip cocoa by the fireplace in the lodge like you see folks do in the movies. Having never actually been to a ski lodge before, that was the only reference I had. We found a fireplace but it wasn't lit. We did find hot cocoa, warm soup and other snack bar/cafeteria style food to choose from. Inside, we enjoyed spectacular views of the slopes as we warmed up and satisfied our appetites. The lodge also has a Lounge if you would like to share a few drinks with friends after your time on the slopes. If you want more than cafeteria style food, Fareways Restaurant is just a few minutes drive from the lodge.

Massanutten is a four season resort offering activities year round in addition to snow tubing, skiing and snowboarding, it also offers golfing, fishing and hiking. If you would like to extend your stay to more than a daytrip, Massanutten Resort offers a hotel and houses for rent. Whether it is conquering the mountain or enjoying the view, this is the perfect winter destination, even on a motorcycle.

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