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Sometimes a quick weekend getaway is necessary to escape the stress of living and working in the Capital Region. If your ideal break looks like a day or two spent on the slopes, you’ll be pleased to find that you don’t have to fly out to Vermont or Colorado to find your happy place. There are multiple ski resorts within a few hours’ drive of Washington, D.C., and although they don’t measure up to the more famous east coast resorts in terms of natural snowfall, excellent snow making technology makes it possible to shred the pow all season long. From family ski resorts to mountains with pro-level snowboarding facilities, here’s our pick of the best options within a five-hour drive.
Best Overall: Liberty Mountain Resort
If convenience is your top priority, Liberty Mountain Resort stands out as the closest ski resort to the city. In just an hour and a half, you can swap your suit for salopettes and be tearing your way downhill. The resort is spread over 400 acres in Carroll Valley, Pennsylvania, near historic Gettysburg and the Catoctin Mountains. Choose from 16 trails, ranging from beginner green runs to challenging double black diamond runs, all floodlit so that you can ski late into the night. There’s also a terrain park and 16 snow tubing lanes at Boulder Ridge.
The resort offers instructional packages for beginners and children. If your kids aren’t skiing yet, you can leave them at the full-service daycare while you hit the slopes. Liberty Hotel comprises three separate lodges, all of which have access to an indoor swimming pool, a spa, and two restaurants. Head to Eagle & The Owl for laidback pub food and craft beer on tap, or to Ike’s Chophouse for a more refined culinary experience.
Best Runner-Up: Whitetail Mountain Resort
Located in the mountains south of Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, Whitetail Mountain Resort is just over an hour, 30 minutes, from Washington, making it a great alternative to Liberty Mountain. It offers 23 trails to suit all abilities, nine lifts, and a vertical drop of 935 feet. All runs remain open late for night skiing, meaning that you can still enjoy time on the slopes after work on a Friday. Alternatively, you can practice your best board tricks in one of the resort’s two terrain parks. For families, the 16 snow tubing lanes on offer are a highlight.
Other facilities at Whitetail include an equipment rental center and sports shop, a ski and snowboard school with programs for children and adults, and a childcare center for kids between six months and 12 years old. There are several on-site eateries at which to fuel up between sessions on the slopes, such as Mountain Hearth Pizzeria (casual brick-oven pies and calzones) and Solstice Restaurant (à la carte dining with impressive mountain views). Whitetail Mountainside Village has a host of condos and self-catering apartments for accommodation.
Best for Beginners: Bryce Resort
Bryce Resort is located approximately two hours from Washington, D.C., in Basye, Virginia, in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. A popular year-round vacation destination with zip lining and golfing in the summer, it’s also a relaxed place for beginners to learn to ski in winter. At the resort’s acclaimed Horst Locher Snow sports School, certified instructors provide group or one-on-one instruction for all skill levels, from children who are venturing onto the slopes for the first time to adults who need some help brushing up on forgotten skills.
The beginner terrain at the base of the slopes is easily navigated via a series of carpet lifts. When you’re ready to tackle a proper ski run, there are eight to choose from: four green runs, three blue runs, and one black diamond. Don’t forget to check out the snow tubing lanes as well. Afterward, head to Copper Kettle Restaurant for seasonal cuisine and live entertainment throughout the ski season. Bryce Resort doesn’t have a hotel but is near to a myriad of nearby vacation rentals.
Best for Intermediates: Wisp Resort
A three-hour drive northwest of Washington, D.C., will land you at Wisp Resort. Nestled in the mountains of western Maryland, the area gets more than 100 inches of snow every year, which the resort adds on to with its state-of-the-art snow making technology. It’s a great choice for those who have passed the beginner stage but aren’t quite ready to tackle double black diamonds. About half of its 33 slopes are classified as intermediate. More than 90 percent of the resort’s skiable terrain is lit for night skiing and snowboarding five days a week.
There’s also a terrain park, snow tubing runs, and a Nordic Center for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. You can sign up for lessons if you’d like to hone your existing skills, and either rent or buy equipment on site. When you’re not on the slopes, you can kick back with a beer and pizza at Wispers Bar & Grill, one of five dining outlets. The Lodge at Wisp offers six room categories, suiting every budget, plus an indoor pool, hot tub, and fitness center.
Best for Experts: Blue Knob All Seasons Resort
Also three hours’ drive from the city, Blue Knob All Seasons Resort is located in Claysburg in the Allegheny Mountains. It’s Pennsylvania’s highest skiable mountain and home to the state’s most challenging slopes (including a vertical drop of 1,072 feet). Although its 34 trails include a fair share of beginner and intermediate runs, Blue Knob stands out for its impressive selection of advanced and expert runs (35 and 10 percent, respectively). This includes seven double black diamond trails. Also, the resort offers a NASTAR (National Standard Race) program with competitions held every weekend.
You can sign up for private or group lessons, and either rent or purchase equipment at the on-site shops. Snow tubing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing are all offered as well. Head to the Alpine Village for a hearty meal at Clubhouse Bar & Grill, or for comfortable lodging ranging from studio apartments to multiple-bedroom condos. Privately owned chalets and cabins are also available for rent, some of them with ski-in/ski-out options for unrivaled access.
Best for Families: Roundtop Mountain Resort
Roundtop Mountain Resort is located two hours north of Washington, D.C., in Pennsylvania. With a friendly atmosphere and a good range of runs for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities, it’s a great fit for families. In addition to 20 trails, the resort also has an excellent ski and snowboard school whose instructors receive rave reviews on TripAdvisor for their warm, fun way with kids. The three-day Discovery Program package includes all lift tickets, lessons, and rental equipment and is guaranteed to give beginners the confidence to go it alone.
If your children aren’t ready for the slopes yet, they can make friends with other kids in the indoor childcare center. When you’re finished on the trails, there’s ample family fun to be had on the snow tubing slope, which includes a special area for kids aged 4 and under. The resort has two food courts and a welcoming Fireside Pub & Grill. And although it doesn’t have lodging, there are plenty of options for every budget in nearby Harrisburg.
Best for Cross-Country Skiing: Canaan Valley Resort
If you love to cross-country ski, Canaan Valley Resort in West Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains—located just outside Davis and a three-hour drive from Washington D.C.—boasts 21 miles of marked and ungroomed trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. You can also use the snow-covered golf course. The Snow sports School offers cross-country ski lessons and there’s much to learn at the dedicated cross-country Recreation Center, too.
The resort has 47 downhill trails for skiers and snowboarders of all experience levels. Its tubing park has some of the longest lanes in the mid-Atlantic, and there’s an outdoor, covered ice skating rink. Winter sports aside, Canaan Valley is a full-service resort with a spa, fitness center, and gaming arcade. When hunger strikes, visitors can head to the Bear Paw Food Court for a warming cup of soup slopeside, then enjoy an à la carte dinner by the fireplace in the Hickory Dining Room. Accommodation options range from suites to cabins and campsites.
Best for Snowboarding: Seven Springs Mountain Resort
Located three and a half hours away near Champion, Pennsylvania, Seven Springs Mountain Resort is a haven for snowboarders with no fewer than seven terrain parks, all of which are built and maintained on a daily basis. Expect everything from beginner jumps to pro-level kickers and a legendary urban-inspired park known as The Streets. Seven Springs is also home to the only 22-foot superpipe in the East, which hosts major qualifying events for elite athletes.
Terrain parks aside, there are 33 slopes and trails spread out over 285 acres of skiable terrain. Other amenities include a NASTAR course and a Snowsports School for private and group lessons. You can choose from a full fleet of Burton snowboards at the rental shop, then treat your aching muscles to a massage at the spa after a grueling session on the mountain. Dining options range from farm-to-table fine dining at Helen’s to more relaxed family meals at Slopeside. Stay in the Main Lodge Hotel, or choose from a variety of rental townhomes, condos, and chalets.
Best for Longer Trips: Snowshoe Mountain Resort
If you’ve got a little more time on your hands, consider traveling further afield to Snowshoe Mountain Resort. Situated on Cheat Mountain, the second-highest peak in West Virginia, it’s a four-hour, 30-minute drive from the capital. However, its elevation and powerful snow machines provide the best powder in the region. The resort guarantees more skiable terrain than any other ski mountain in the Southeast—and if not, your next day of skiing is free.
With over 60 trails and glades, you’ll never run out of new runs to explore. There are five terrain parks, options for night skiing, and a school offering private and group instruction. Other winter sports include snow tubing, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. Your après ski activities are taken care of at the mountaintop village where the spa and a whole host of shops, bars, and restaurants await. Expect music concerts, food festivals, and more in-season. Accommodation is equally diverse, whether you prefer hotel rooms or multiple-bedroom mountain homes.