Wintergreen, VA (SportsNetwork.com) - When looking for that special vacation spot, most families seek out warm, sunny climates, usually around the beach. I'm not saying that this is a bad idea, but aren't you getting tired of the ... as Motley Crue would say, same ole, same ole?
If you said yes, then I have the hideaway for you and it's a year-round spot, Wintergreen Resort, tucked away in the mountains of western Virginia.
Located within a two- to three-hour drive from Richmond, Virginia, or Washington, D.C., Wintergreen is the resort for all seasons. Whether it be skiing in the fall and winter or tennis and golf in the spring and summer, Wintergreen accommodates them all.
With less than a handful of resorts in the state for skiing, Wintergreen is ripe for the taking and the numbers don't lie.
The resort features 11,000 acres with a peak elevation of 3,515 feet. There are 26 slopes and trails, 14 of which are lighted for night skiing. Are you kidding me? But the best part of this winter wonderland, might be The Plunge, Virginia's largest tubing park. If balance on skis is an issue, then the tubing park is for you. Sitting in an inner-tube, you slide down a 100-foot vertical drop at 25-40 mph in 30 seconds. Talk about a rush!
Following a day on the powder, Wintergreen has the perfect respite, The Spa at Wintergreen. From couples massages to facials, pedicures or my personal favorite, the deep tissue hot stone massage. Close your eyes and picture a full day on the slopes and then a trip to the spa for a two-hour custom pampering package. Again, are you kidding me!
Let's not overlook the spring and summer months, as Wintergreen has been a top-25 world-ranked tennis resort for the past seven years, in fact, Tennis Magazine rated Wintergreen as the No. 1 resort for families. You'll have a hard time focusing on your game with the incredible mountain views on the 19 clay courts. Even if the weather is suspect, Wintergreen offers three indoor Deco-Turf courts, similar to the ones used at the U.S. Open.
Alas, golf is my game and Wintergreen gets it, with 45 holes of outstanding golf.
Devils Knob receives most of the accolades, with its stunning vistas and a slope rating of 138. The course itself at 3,850 feet of elevation is the highest course in the Old Dominion state. Although just 6,712 yards in length, the layout is extremely difficult, with its small slick putting surfaces, tight tree-lined fairways and a variety of elevation changes on each and every hole. "Our greens are in great shape and can be quite a challenge for sure," said Philip Licata, head golf professional at Devils Knob. "How good ... we have a member that refers to our greens as 'curved concrete.'"
With a par of 70, this course will certainly play to a scoring average of over par, but let's not forget the outstanding course conditioning. This is golf at its best.
"The environment allows us to grow grass very easily since it's cooler up here on the mountain and it's drier with lower humidity, so our conditions are outstanding," continued Licata. "Although weather is big factor, much of the credit needs to go to our superintendent Wallace Haskins, with Fred Biggers overlooking his work."
Although the course is difficult, especially from the back tees, it certainly is user-friendly with five sets of markers playing down to 4,000 yards. So all of those junior golfers striving to become the next Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy, Devils Knob will be a great start.
"Year to year, our conditions at Devils Knob are very consistent, mainly because of the environment," Licata said. "It's a lot cooler, roughly 12-15 degrees cooler than the valley. So it's a nice change of pace during the summer months. Our season is usually the second Friday in April and the last Sunday in October at Devils Knob, while Stoney Creek is open year-round, as long as there is no snow on the ground."
If it's a full day of golf you strive for, then go no further than the 27 holes down in the valley at Stoney Creek.
Legendary golf course architect Rees Jones crafted all three nines situated in Rockfish Valley, 3,000 feet below the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Jones, known as the "Open Doctor," for redesigning and renovating many of the U.S. Open Championship venues in the past two decades, crafted the first 18 holes in 1988 and within one year, it was selected as runner-up for the "Best New Resort Course" by Golf Digest.
The Monocan and Shamokin nines were followed 10 years later by the Tuckahoe nine, and all three courses feature the many elements of a Jones design, complete with generous landing areas, mounding, several forced carries, deep bunkers and large greens.
"The Tuckahoe nine is a lot of up and down with topography change and Cavalier Zoysia fairways, which is, day in and day out, the best surfaces to play on and personally, I think our fairways are the best on the East Coast," said Geoff Redgrave, director of golf at Wintergreen.
What might set Wintergreen apart from other resorts is the outstanding golf academy.
"What we want to do at the academy is have a variety of offerings for the beginner player as well as the advanced player, not to mention the junior golfer," Redgrave said. "We try to provide a holistic approach to hit all the different types of golfers."
The key here is that it's not just a "come in for an hour lesson," these are programs tailor-made to your game and time frame.
"We have one, two and three-day golf school programs," Redgrave added, "with very small class sizes that run four hours per day, including lunch and a round of golf, so this is a great way to work on your game with as close to a one-on- one basis than you can find."
In addition, the junior and family programs at Wintergreen are ideal for all levels, as they work on teaching the fundamentals of golf. "We teamed up with Nike and US Sports Camps to get kids here for a good part of the week," said Redgrave. "Kids stay overnight and work on their games for an entire week."
A big part of Wintergreen is family and the golf programs fit this resort to a "tee," so to speak.
"We have family golf programs that we utilize, where we have instruction with the families who take our clinic and then they all go out and play the course," Redgrave said. "We shorten the golf course and they play the family fun tees in the afternoon, so they are not intimidated by other golfers and they'll experience the golf course. This is a neat way to reach out to new golfers as well as experienced players so that they can enjoy the game more."
All I can say is Wintergreen is one of those unique resorts. Where else can you ski in the morning and play golf in the afternoon, and I'm not talking about Xbox? This is just the tip of the iceberg, but I'll have to make another visit to Wintergreen, so I can take on the 900-foot Zip Line, the 30 miles of hiking, boating/fishing on the James River, shooting a better score at Devils Knob or gaining revenge on my son for beating me at miniature golf.
Don't just take my word for it, experience it for yourself and let me know how you make out.