The Shenandoah Valley is one of most popular winter vacation spots on the East Coast, with skiing and other snow sports, cozy cabin rentals and dramatic mountain scenery all luring travelers.
While cold, of course, temperatures are not usually severe. In Harrisonburg last February for instance, high temperatures averaged in the mid-40s and 13 days were above 50 degrees.
But winter is winter, and some care must be taken when planning your visit at this time of year. One of the best sources for Valley weather information is WHSV-3 in Harrisonburg, and Chief Meteorologist Aubrey Urbanowicz gave us a few things to keep in mind.
“Forecasting winter weather is hard enough, and when you add in a few mountain ranges it can be even more challenging,” she said. “One of the biggest threats to the area with the mountain features we have can be icing. Terrain also plays a big part. Sometimes it might be raining in the Shenandoah Valley, but if you drive up to the Blue Ridge Mountains there could be ice or snow!”
Snowfall anywhere can be hard to predict. Massanutten Resort reports they get two-and-a-half to three feet a year. But as Urbanowicz said, “Sometimes it only takes a degree or two to make the difference between snow, sleet, or rain.” Urbanowicz also pointed out there can be sudden changes, especially with differences in terrain, so it’s a good idea to prepare for a range of weather conditions.
To check on Valley weather conditions before you leave for a trip, tune into WHSV-3. You can also find out about any road closures on Skyline Drive by calling 540-999-3500, option 1, then option 1 again; you can also click onto Shenandoah National Park’s FB here to keep up with weather-related announcements.
While campgrounds and concessions are closed at this time of year, Skyline Drive still provides a starkly beautiful 105-mile drive. Waterfalls may be locked up in ice. With the leaves down, views appear even more expansive. There are no crowds, and if there is snow it can enhance photo opportunities.
Winter is also a smart time to visit the Valley’s famous caverns, such as Skyline, Luray, Shenandoah and Grand, since the underground temperatures remain in the mid-50s all year, and ticket lines are short.
Of course, the skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and a cozy fireplace afterward are the high points of winter for many. Massanutten Resort in McGaheysville and Bryce Resort in Basye are both ready to provide the bracing thrills you need. Click here to peruse a wide range of lodging accommodations, and don’t forget about mid-winter Special Packages found here.
Banner photo courtesy National Park Service