Massanutten Makes a Splash

It's always summer at Massanutten Resort's indoor water park, which is good when the winter sports are limited to the man-made snow on the tubing park, left, and some lower downhill runs.
It's always summer at Massanutten Resort's indoor water park, which is good when the winter sports are limited to the man-made snow on the tubing park, left, and some lower downhill runs. (Water Park Photos By Serena Hepner)

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By Steve Hendrix
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 3, 2007

A year ago at Massanutten Resort, a small ski and golf center near Harrisonburg, Va., they opened a water park to keep the guests coming during those warm, snowless months. Who knew that would quickly come to include December and January?

Now, during the endless summer that is the current winter, business is booming at the indoor water park as only a handful of downhillers make do on the sad ribbons of man-made skiing on the mountain above.

"This is a textbook example of what to do when Mother Nature throws us a curveball with the weather," said Joe Grandstaff, Massanutten's director of marketing. "We've had families this week who have gone to the water park, played golf and skied all in one day."

The water park -- a 42,000-square-foot, $30 million collection of fanciful slides, artificial rivers and mighty waves -- has also pushed Massanutten into the upper tiers of mid-Atlantic resorts, at least in terms of size.

From a small ski and golf resort in the early 1970s, Massanutten has become a sprawling 7,000-acre town of condominiums and fairways in a neat tuck of the Blue Ridge Mountains about two hours from the Capital Beltway.

The place boasts twin 18-hole golf courses, 14 ski runs, two recreation centers (each with indoor pool), a six-building hotel, a half-dozen eating places and a whopping 1,700 timeshare condominiums (it's the largest timeshare site in Virginia). The few private houses that remain in the neighborhood sit somehow sullenly among traffic backups that can make a left turn a five-minute affair.

The drive into Harrisonburg features a billboard plea for young locals to visit http://www.massresortjobs.com/ as the resort strains to fill its 1,200-strong staff of cooks, cleaners and lifeguards.

"It hasn't been slow around here since the water park opened," said the clerk at the General Store one morning last week as she scanned groceries and souvenir T-shirts.

Outside, the mid-50s-and-climbing temperature kept the action at the ski rental counter at a trickle (three lifts were running on four lower trails, mere threads of man-made white surrounded by still-green brush).

But the parking lot at the nearby 12-lane tubing park, also featuring artificial snow, was crowded, and the line to ride was several minutes long. Some folks wore parkas. Others wore shorts.

The steep, mountainous terrain around the ski area is Massanutten at its best, with long Shenandoah Valley views and dense woods enclosing the many condo complexes. The golf course up here, Mountain Greens, is a tight and challenging affair, with steeply terraced tees and fairways that spill like green glaciers out of narrow slopes.

The second, newer course, Woodstone Meadows, is down on the valley floor, a more austere course absolutely swarmed by tightly packed condominium buildings. It's a bit of a timeshare Levittown, but a popular one; Massanutten is building yet more complexes to meet the demand.


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company


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