Western North Carolina – With temperatures dropping and snow falling particularly at higher elevations, skiing, ice skating, snow tubing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and all the joys of being outside in the snow have arrived. Sapphire Valley, Cataloochee, Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountain all are open for skiing — maybe not all the runs—but they have a good base, and many skiers are on the slopes. Many lifts, but not all, are open. Snowmaking is in progress at many resorts; many lifts are operating. It is easy to look at the weather cams on the various resort websites to actually see the ski conditions. From this, you can see that at the very top, the clouds and fog make it difficult to see your path! You can see on these cams that many of the skiers seem to realize that the lower gentler slopes are a better idea for an enjoyable afternoon of skiing.
Ski Sapphire Valley and Cataloochee Ski Resort
Ski Sapphire Valley is located near Cashiers. It is a great slope for beginners, a 500-foot snow tubing run and snowmaking ability. There is a state of the art quad lift, a learning center slope and wide slopes to go down. You must sign a Covid Release form to use the Ski Sapphire Valley Facility. For more information, go to www.skisapphirevalley.com
Cataloochee Ski Area is located west of Asheville in Maggie Valley. Right now, they have a base of 24 to 40-inch base with packed powder and night skiing. Snowmaking is in progress. They offer gentle slopes for novices and more difficult terrain for experts. Four of the five lifts have opened for the season and nearly half of the trails are available to be skied. All types of clothing and equipment can be rented; lessons for all ages and levels are offered. Further down the hill in Maggie Valley, Tube World has a snow tubing hill for the youngsters to enjoy. It is located across from Ghost Town n the Sky. Sessions are one hour and 45 minutes long and run every two hours. Cataloochee will close at 4:30 pm on Christmas Eve and open at 1 pm on Christmas Day. Tube World closes at 6 pm on Dec. 24 and opens at 2 pm on Dec. 25th. For more information, go to www.cataloochee.com.
Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountain
Sugar Mountain Ski Resort and Beech Mountain Resort are quite near each other in Banner Elk. This is approximately 55 miles from Asheville. This year, the Sugar Mountain Resort has expanded with new infrastructure. The slopes are open; snowshoeing tours are available, tubing runs in the tubing park are going; and ice skating is available. Due to the pandemic, the skiers are required to wear face coverings and keep a respectable six feet distance from each other.
Sugar was one of the first ski areas in the South to open almost 50 years ago. It has certainly allowed winter sports to grow in this area year after year. Gunther Jochi ended up buying the ski resort and managed to bring it out of bankruptcy. It is now a large winter sports arena with visitors coming from all over to experience the joy of winter sports. Having grown up in Austria, he had the knowledge and experience to lead and develop this into this extraordinarily successful operation. In 2019 Gunther Jochl received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, an honor granted by the State of North Carolina to individuals who have shown extraordinary service to the state. It is the highest award for state service granted by the Office of the Governor. Gunther and his wife, Kimberly, are actively involved in managing all aspects of Sugar. They both are avid skiers, have an intense passion for the sport of skiing and enjoy the outdoors. Kimberly was a former nine-year member of the United States Alpine Ski Team (1984-1993). For more information go to www.skisugar.com.
Beech Mountain Resort opened in 1967 and is the highest ski area in Eastern America at 5,506 feet elevation. It is currently run by Ryan Costin, whose grandfather, Ray, bought the Beech Mountain Resort in 1985. It features 16 trails and 8 lifts, numerous snowmaking machines and several winter sports options for all levels. A skier can discover a delightful roundhouse Skybar at the top of the mountain with an incredible panoramic view of the mountains, as he or she steps off the chairlift. The entire family can enjoy themselves at Beech Mountain Resort. Before someone takes to the slopes in the Resort Village, everyone can enjoy a picturesque Alpine atmosphere with a game room, coffee shop, retail store, and ski repair/rental shop. The cafeteria offers many fast food meals and has large picture windows for viewing the slopes and the skating rink. A large 7,000 square foot outdoor skating rink allows children under age four to skate free, with adults on weekdays paying $20 for a two-hour session and $24.00 on weekends. This includes skate rentals. For more information go to www.beechmountainresort.com.
S’mores + Beer – Brewhouse – Beech Mountain
Tuesday, Dec. 29th, 6 – 8 pm
Come bundled up for roasting marshmallows over a fire pit outside of the Brewhouse. This event is open to all! Safety is our #1 priority, so all our s’mores supplies will be pre-bagged individually to keep everyone safe! The S’mores are free, and the beer is $6 a pint. S’mores supplies are first-come, first-serve.
A New Year’s Eve Celebration— Sugar Mountain Resort
Enjoy a performance by The Rockabilly’s on the Flying Mile slope-side deck from 4 – 6 pm (weather permitting) and a firework show at 5:45 pm. All face covering and physical distancing guidelines must be observed.
Today visitors from all over come to the Blue Ridge Mountains to enjoy the many aspects of winter sports. It has allowed many Southerners to learn about skiing, snow tubing, ice skating, snowboarding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. These resorts have had a tremendous impact on the economy.