Falling For Wintergreen
This Blue Ridge Resort Offers Exhilarating Activities And Tranquil Pastimes Beyond Snow Season
For several years, I’ve joined in a tradition of traveling to Wintergreen Resort for New Year’s. A group of my best girlfriends and I drive the three-and-a-half hours northwest to the Blue Ridge Mountains to spend our last days of the year tasting vintages at the surrounding wineries, hiking through the snow-laced woods and participating in the snow sports that Wintergreen has to offer. (When I say participate I mean we grab a booth at The Edge restaurant, order a bottle of Virginia wine and make guesses about which skiers will take a tumble as they’re making their way off the lift. It’s a spiteful game, but the wine enhances the fun.)
Now as I gaze toward the slopes that are typically covered with snow and dotted with skiers and snowboarders, I see mountains slowly transforming into a kaleidoscope of red, orange, yellow and green. The air is crisp and slightly chilly, and the cheery frenzy of children rushing to glide down the hill is replaced by a peaceful solitude of frogs croaking. This place that’s felt so familiar to me suddenly seems brand new with just the change of seasons.
My home for the weekend is Mountaintop Lodge, an impressive seven-bedroom house that boasts everything needed for a perfect fall getaway. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow for grand views of trees cascading below. Outside, an expansive deck is ripe for entertaining. The great room reveals plush, leather couches surrounding a stone-adorned fireplace for those nippy fall evenings and a fully stocked and fully loaded kitchen next to a farmhouse-style dining table presenting an abundance of local apples.
There are plenty of places to find apples here and even a few options for picking your own. However, my favorite way to consume the sweet, tart fruit is in the form of hard cider. Thanks to Bold Rock Hard Cider, located just 20 minutes away in Nellysford, I’m sipping a crisp, refreshing and flavorful taste of the region alongside a sumptuous dinner from Devils Grill—tender, pan-roasted rockfish with rosemary roasted red potatoes, malted leeks and fennel tomato bouillabaisse.
Dessert, however, reigns supreme in my book. Toasted miniature marshmallows line up like tiny pillows atop rich chocolate custard enveloping a graham cracker crust. This confection is accompanied by a dollop of whipped cream and a perfectly round Rice Krispies treat to create the restaurant’s signature “S’more” Brulee.
After a restful, food-induced sleep I wake the next morning feeling energized and ready to get out in the fresh mountain air, so I trot over to one of Wintergreen’s 19 outdoor clay tennis courts. The resort is known for its tennis facilities and was ranked as the #10 tennis resort in the world by Tennis Resorts Online in 2012 as well as Tennis Magazine’s Top 50. The year-round tennis academy offers instructions tailored to individual learning styles and goals.
Today I’m here for a basic lesson from Jonathan Sarosiek, the resort’s director of tennis. Before we get started, I admit to him that the last instruction I’ve received was from a class I took in college and that my practice since then has been minimal. Even though he most likely spends his days with players more advanced than me, he exhibits patience and positivity through each “Woops” and “Oh, shoot” that I mutter during my lesson, reminding me every so often that I don’t need to apologize. At the end of the lesson, I’ve significantly improved my serve, forehand and backhand techniques and am enthusiastic to take what I’ve learned back home with me and attempt to win a match with my husband.
What better way to loosen up after a good workout than a relaxing massage? Lucky for me, I don’t have to travel far to reach the full-service Spa at Wintergreen, complete with an Aquatic & Fitness Center, sauna, indoor pool and outdoor Jacuzzis, allowing resplendent mountain views.
In the sun-drenched waiting area, I select a magazine, take a handful of ginger snaps and banana chips available to spa guests, prop my feet and calmly melt into a cozy chair. Exhilarating aromas of pumpkin, apple and warm cinnamon drift from nearby rooms, delicately transporting me to full fall mode. The Spa celebrates this season in wonderful ways with services like Pumpkin Chai Sugar Scrub to replenish the skin, Autumn Harvest Facial and Wrap, utilizing yam and pumpkin enzyme, and a Harvest Manicure, incorporating a hand exfoliation treatment with nourishing apple and cinnamon oils. I heartily partake in a tranquilizing 80-minute massage followed by a Wintergreen Signature Custom Facial.
Feeling cordially invigorated and inspired by the autumn-centric spa menu, I amble over to Wintergreen’s Mountain Village and gravitate toward the sounds of polka music. Oktoberfest is in full swing, and a crowd has gathered to imbibe on local microbrews, indulge in traditional German fare and enjoy the tunes produced by Shippensburg Blaskapelle, an “om-pah” German band from Pennsylvania. The festival is presented by Wintergreen Performing Arts, a non-profit organization that hosts spectacular cultural celebrations. Their main occasion is the Wintergreen Summer Music Festival and Academy, bringing more than 200 concert, theater and educational events in a four-week time frame.
After my autumn excursion, I’ll no longer wait until the slopes are covered in snow to make the trip to Wintergreen. This place proved its perfection as a rejuvenating fall retreat that awakened my senses and the soul with just a change of seasons. To learn more, visit www.WintergreenResort.com.
More to Explore
Discovery Ridge Adventure Center
Guests of all ages will find an activity to like at this destination within Wintergreen Resort. Take a wild ride on the 900-foot zip line, fly down a magnificent slope at The Plunge Tubing Park (available during snow and summer), and catch an outdoor flick at Ridgely’s Fun Park. www.WintergreenResort.com/Discovery-Ridge
Golfing at Wintergreen
Improve your game at one of Wintergreen’s esteemed golf courses. The mountaintop Devils Knob Course is Virginia’s highest golf course (elevation 3,850 feet) and known for its panoramic views, especially during fall foliage season. Stoney Creek, located in the Rockfish Valley, features a design by world-renowned golf architect Rees Jones. www.WintergreenResort.com/Golf
Wintergreen Nature Foundation
The foundation encourages the understanding, appreciation and conservation of the Blue Ridge Mountains’ natural resources. Stop by the Trillium House, the foundation’s home base, to gather maps for hiking trails around Wintergreen, including the Appalachian Trail. Guests can also take part in lecture series, school programs, day camps and a wildflower symposium, all sponsored by the foundation. www.TWNF.org