Written by: Nate Trautman | Edited by: Dara Barney
Have you experienced snow nirvana? Bryce Resort in Virginia might get you there.
You’re riding down a mountain when suddenly, the turns are linking perfectly, the snow becomes indescribably good, and through it all, powder is coating your frozen perma-smile. It starts to feel like you’re a natural, a real pro; and just for a moment, you are a skiing-immortal.
Turns out, you have been visited by Ullr, the Nordic god of snow and patron saint of skiers!
Ullr (pronounced “OOH ler”) translates to “Glorious,” and while he is most closely associated with skiing, his full title is “Ullr: Son of Sif, Stepson of Thor, God of the Snowshoe, God of the Bow, and God of the Shield.”
In Norse mythology, he is known as an unrivaled ski-runner; so talented that he could glide across the sky, dusting the heavens with stars. Ullr guarded his knowledge of skiing closely and prevented the other gods from learning his favorite sport… he kept that glory for himself. Fortunately, he took pity on us lesser beings and gifted us with the ability to ski. Thanks to glorious Ullr, we have the power to temporarily transcend our humanity and experience a Norse god’s divinity on the slopes.
In the American snow sports community, Ullr is celebrated as the god of skiing, snowboarding, tubing, snow, and general winter festivities. In Europe, Ullr is considered the Guardian of Skiers and an Ullr medallion is widely worn as a protective talisman by recreational skiers, pros, and ski patrollers in the old country.
Back in the states, we have a… “less sophisticated” way of honoring the stepson of Thor. True believers will dawn a Viking hat, dress in their most Nordic wardrobe, and make toasts to the old Norse god in an appeal for good snow, great skiing, and a generally enjoyable winter.
Every year, the beautiful Bryce Resort in northern Virginia celebrates the return of winter to their slopes with a bonfire ritual for Ullr. At the end of each November, right when the first flakes of winter are tuning into true storms, the resort builds a massive bonfire dedicated to the old Norse god of skiing. As is Bryce tradition, the bonfire is fueled by ski and snowboard-shaped planks, meant as a sacrifice to the god of skiing to ensure an excellent ski season.
Friends and families of the resort gather around the fire to offer Ullr their wooden skis and serve up their best pagan style dances. Because modern snow sports devices contain toxic plastics, Bryce Resort has premade wooden ski and snowboard effigies on hand for the sacrifice to Ullr.
Alongside Ullr’s blaze, Bryce lights a more modest bonfire for the purpose of roasting marshmallows. All in all, the Ullr fire is fun for the whole family, and a true celebration of the joy of winter, the community formed around our favorite frozen past time, and the unique places we recreate upon.
Ullr also serves as a connection to the ancient roots of skiing and reminds us that a mythical level of magic lives in snow sports.
Where to Go
Bryce Resort is tucked into the heart of northern Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, near the West Virginia border, just 11 miles west of Mount Jackson. The resort is popular with residents of the valley, as well as families and tourists from the Washington, DC area, 115 miles away.
The Shenandoah Valley stretches 200 miles across the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains and is nicknamed “The Big Valley.” It is known for a rich history and heritage of early America and is sprinkled with historic sites spanning the pioneer days to the civil war.
The Big Valley is also a picture-perfect outdoor wonderland with country roads winding through pastoral farms built into a vast expanse of forested Virginia hills. While we hope you don’t lose your way en route to Bryce, it certainly isn’t the worst place to get off track.
Bryce is just a two-hour drive from Washington, DC, and you will enjoy the trip through Virginia’s lush mountains on your way to the resort.
Where to Stay
While Bryce Resort does not offer its own mountain lodging, there are plenty of convenient and cozy places to relax in at the base of the hill. Here is a great list of options ranging from private vacation homes to mountain-style inns, sure to accommodate a variety of party sizes and budgets.
A Day on the Mountain
Bryce Resort has quad-chair, a double-chair, and five magic carpet valets for beginners. The entire mountain is accessible from the main quad, while the double lift terminates several hundred feet below the top of the resort.
The resort operates an extensive snowmaking program and generates excellent riding conditions through all types of winter weather.
Bryce offers a full rental shop and a ski lesson program for all ages and skill levels. This resort is an accessible ski destination for families looking to get started with snow sports.
The hill has eight slopes with a variety of trails splitting off each main run. The majority of the resort is rated as beginner or intermediate and is a comfortable place for new riders to learn.
In addition to skiing, Bryce offers a snow tube park if you find yourself in the mood to mix it up!
The Copper Kettle Restaurant at the base of Bryce is the perfect venue to relax in after a day on the slopes. Catch up with the crew and check out some live music while enjoying post shredding refreshments.
As they say, “Virginia is for Lovers,” and if nothing else, skiers and snowboarders are utterly infatuated with their preferred snow-pursuit. Foster your own connection with winter fun via an Indy Pass at Bryce Resort this winter.