A haze of blue hues hangs on the horizon where the mountains meet the sky and the clouds cap the treetops. Standing near a summit, I hear the sound of songbirds and a breeze rustling the leaves between the trees. There are over 30 miles of hiking trails wandering within 11,000 acres of lush woodlands at Wintergreen Resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
With a field guide to the forest’s flora you’ll find trillium blossoms in a spring thicket, the bright magentas of rhododendron and azalea shrubs, mountain laurel buds and leafy green ferns beside streams spilling through boulders, down cascading waterfalls near wildflowers that pirouette in the wind and bloom in the sun.
Wintergreen can either be a sanctuary for seclusion or a picturesque place to get your fill for thrills. “There’s so much to do or so little to do,” describes Zach Marlowe, director of mountain operations. With snowcapped peaks on the range and slopes coated in snow for alpine skiing and downhill snowboarding and tubing, it’s well known as a wintertime resort, as its name insinuates. Wintergreen exposes its own adaptable alter ego as a desirable destination for each season with outstanding outdoor recreation, luxurious accommodations and delightful dining.
“We’re different,” exclaims Marketing Manager Betsy Dunkerton, who adds, “we’re a short drive but a world away.”
Wintergreen welcomed its first visitors in 1975 and was founded as an immaculate resort embedded within its impeccable natural surroundings at one of the narrowest corridors of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Winding roads are masked by trees and are invisible to the naked eye while you peer out from your mountainside house or condominium, which nuzzle beneath the tree line. Through Wintergreen Real Estate, roughly 200 owners rent out their properties with expansive views. These include studios and lodge rooms with kitchenettes; condominiums with a kitchen, fireplace, appliances, dining area, balcony or decks; and spacious homes with up to nine bedrooms and plenty of amenities.
As an added value, your stay at Wintergreen gives you exclusive access to the resort’s ample offerings, from programming and events to onsite facilities and recreational activities.
During my getaway I learn exactly why their Tennis Academy is well worth all the racket (I couldn’t resist) and has been a smash as a top 10 ranked resort tennis program in the world. Wintergreen has two tennis facilities you’ll love at Devils Knob on the mountain and Stoney Creek in Rockfish Valley for a total of 19 clay courts outside open spring through fall and three indoor deco-turf courts open all year. They offer clinics, private lessons and their Tennis Academy and host tournaments as well as a fully equipped pro shop for gear and accessories. Kostyantyn Khodirev, director of tennis and tennis professional, leads me in a lesson on proper grip and hitting with my backhand, forehand, volley practice and baseline serving to turn into an ace in the sport.
Two golf courses on the mountain and in the valley are adjacent to the Devils Knob and Stoney Creek tennis and provide 45 holes of play in addition to a driving range. With their Golf Academy, they provide schools, clinics and lessons.
Family fun awaits at Discovery Ridge Adventure Center with ziplining, a bungee trampoline, tubing, archery, a climbing tower and mini golf. A nearby outing at the 20-acre Lake Monocan gives you a chance to swim, fly-fish, kayak, canoe, play volleyball and plop down and have a picnic.
In the summer, The Treehouse is a childcare program providing hikes and nature walks, a playground, arts and crafts, campfire with storytellers, movies and group games for kids while parents can have their own relaxing reprieve, such as a visit to The Spa at Wintergreen. There you can rejuvenate and find repose with a massage (much as I did after a tennis lesson), and try a body wrap or a wedding or pampering package. Adjoining the spa, the Aquatics and Fitness Center recently expanded and features a remodeled pool. The Center is also where you can schedule an invigorating yoga session.
Dining is diverse at Wintergreen, with four restaurants at the resort. The Copper Mine Bistro has a casual setting with tasty breakfast plates and a mix of Mediterranean cuisine for dinner; Devils Grill serves contemporary American dishes for lunch and dinner in a refined space on Devils Knob Golf Course; The Edge is a relaxed eatery and bar open for lunch and dinner with pastas, salads, burgers, panoramic views and local brews; and Stoney Creek Bar & Grill provides porch and patio lunches and brunch alongside the valley’s golf course.
“We’ve tried to up the ante for when people are here to have a great time,” remarks Dunkerton. They’ve converted their former Gristmill restaurant to The Terrace Café and renovated the lodge to lounge in a more casual ambiance as well as two of their retail shops, Wintergreen Real Estate offices and the concierge check-in space at Mountain Inn.
Guests can expect a full schedule of events throughout the year, from Fourth of July fireworks, Labor Day Weekend fun, Oktoberfest in the fall and holiday festivities starting at Thanksgiving. From July 7–Aug. 4, Wintergreen Music Festival puts on classical, jazz, pop and Broadway tunes from professionals and student musicians and various activities throughout the month-long celebration. Then, the hills come alive with Brian Clowdus Experiences Presents The Sound of Music from Sept. 5–29, as attendees will take a ski lift to this magical musical performance. “People are getting really excited,” says Marlowe.
With Wintergreen’s beer, wine and cider tours, you’ll be provided a curated imbibing experience with your own guide driving you in a luxury vehicle. And whether you’re there for business or a celebration, there are several venues, banquet spaces and award-winning service professionals available for every occasion.
With my visit, it’s evident Wintergreen is passionate about their partnerships with nonprofits. In particular, Wintergreen Adaptive Sports provides volunteer instruction, training and mentoring for outdoor sports and recreational activities to those with disabilities.
As a unique aspect to their resort, The Nature Foundation is a nonprofit that creates an understanding, appreciation and conservation of natural and cultural resources in the Blue Ridge Mountains through research and education. At their onsite facility, I learn more on how The Nature Foundation promotes environmental stewardship. “We were the original vision for this place,” explains Doug Coleman, executive director of The Nature Foundation, as the resort and nonprofit were established simultaneously. “If you want to know what the original dream for Wintergreen was, the heart of it is right in this building,” he tells me during my visit.
The Nature Foundation has encouraged developers and realtors at the resort to assume responsibility to protect the natural environment and nurture nature, while the organization has been engrained in the community by providing educational outreach in county schools. They’ve done studies and have put plans in action for defense against invasive species and have even given guests a closer look at native plant assemblages (some of which are 4,500 years old) and wildlife, from bears and bobcats to coyotes.
Coleman expresses, “You cannot protect the environment unless you understand it.” They impart an education that makes you cherish the natural world at Wintergreen during your stay and an appreciation for nature you’ll keep long after you leave.
Start making your vacation plans at WintergreenResort.com.