BEAT THE WINTER BLUES
Get Your Blood Pumping this Season with a New Cold Weather Sport
It’s tempting to spend all your leisure time bundled up on the couch during the winter, but staying active can drastically improve your overall physical and mental health. Enter winter sports — from tubing to ice skating to skiing, there are many options to choose from locally and regionally.
Since sliding around on ice and snow can be a little bit intimidating for some people, we are here to take a little bit of the guesswork out of your new adventure.
Photo Courtesy of Omni Homestead Resort
According to Meghan Noga, figure skating director at “The Lot” ice rink at Lancerlot Sports Complex in Vinton, beginner ice skaters first need to ask themselves one question: “Are you OK with falling? Because that’s going to happen. I’ve been skating for 20 years, and I still fall!”
If you are looking to learn the fundamentals of figure skating — such as different edges, how to stop and more — Noga highly recommends lessons. They offer group lessons specifically for adults 18+; six sessions costs $90 and includes your skate rental.
She adds that if you can be patient and “get your ice legs,” it’s possible to improve your skills quickly.
“We have had people as old as 55 start lessons and at our next show they are skating for everyone … and they’ve only been taking lessons six months!” she says.
While it may seem obvious, adults often don’t realize how cold it is in the facility, Noga says. “Wear layers, lots of layers, including long thin socks, and I also wear fleece-lined snow pants and a jacket,” she says, adding that some people wear helmets when they are first starting lessons.
The Lot offers year-round open ice skating, including family skates, DJ skates and more.
Tubing & sledding
If you are brand new to winter sports, Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre in Lynchburg is a great place to get your feet wet (or should we say cold). The facility offers activities for winter sport enthusiasts all year long, including two Neveplast tubing runs. Neveplast is an artificial ski slope with a synthetic surface that’s slippery, just like real snow.
According to Assistant Director Luke Baderman, tubing is their most popular wintertime activity. “It’s easy to grab your tube, ride up the conveyor belts and slide down. Tubing is also much less intimidating than skiing or snowboarding!” he says.
There is also a designated sledding area at the Snowflex Centre that’s made with the patented Snowflex® material. It’s slippery but also provides some grip, allowing you to change directions and control how fast you go.
You can take your tubing skills to the next level at Wintergreen Resort’s The Plunge, Virginia’s largest snow tubing park. Wintergreen is located about 90 miles from Roanoke in Nelson County.
You can also go tubing at Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, which may also be a day-trip option from Roanoke.
“It’s great way to transition to real snow. If anything, it is a tad harder to ride on the Snowflex® material compared to real snow, so if you are able to ride comfortably here, then riding on actual snow will be much easier,” said Baderman.
Lessons are highly recommended before you venture out on any slope, and all resorts in our region offer them. Aside from turning and stopping, you’ll also learn how to use ski lifts safely.
“If we have a true never-ever, then we start with getting to know the equipment, then we move onto body mechanics and how our body can influence the snowboard or skis. Then we start sliding!” says Pierce Byrd, director of Wintergreen’s Snowsports School. “Once our students find balance while sliding, we start to turn our equipment to a stop. Teaching stopping is very important and necessary to ski or ride safely on the slopes.”
According to Massanutten Resort’s “Beginner’s Snow Sports Guide,” when skiing/snowboarding you should wear:
- one pair of warm socks
- water-repellent ski pants, jacket & gloves
- thermal underwear & warm layers underneath (avoid cotton)
- winter hat
- lip balm/sunscreen
Most ski resorts in our region can typically stay open through March, with the help of snowmaking capabilities. “In the Southeast, we have a winter-window from December to March for the best ski conditions,” Byrd said.