Winter Sports Begin in North Carolina Mountains - TribPapers
Outdoors

Winter Sports Begin in North Carolina Mountains

Photo by Harrison Moore.

Asheville – It has been slow to start this winter, but happily a number of the ski resorts in Western North Carolina are now able to open for business with snow for all levels of a skiing abilities. Western North Carolina ski areas have had a hard time dealing with the warm temperatures—particularly over the Christmas holidays—but fortunately the pattern has changed. Two rounds of snow just hit Southeastern ski resorts. A number of our nearby ski resorts are open for families to enjoy winter sports, in part thanks to top-of-the-line snowmaking machines.

Visitors from states south of North Carolina are making reservations for the long Martin Luther King weekend ahead. Those from South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida are driving to this area, where they have rented a cabin or are staying at a bed & breakfast or Airbnb, Once in the mountains, they can bundle up to go outside to throw snowballs at each other, make a snowman or just roll in the snow for fun and then return indoors to a roaring fireplace and warm up with a cup of hot chocolate. It is a welcome change from all the indoor COVID-19 restrictions.

Sadly not all resorts and trails on the slopes are open, but many are. Ski Sapphire Valley hopes to open soon. Otherwise near to Asheville, snow making machines (snow guns, some of which automatically turn on when the temperature dips to 29 degrees) are busy adding to Wolf Ridge Ski Resort’s 25”—29” base or Cataloochee’s 32”—44” base of snow. Tubing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and skiing are all available at Appalachian Ski Mountain, Beech Mountain Resort, Sugar Mountain Resort, Wolf Ridge Ski Resort and Cataloochee Ski Area.  

Wolf Ridge Ski Resort

Johnny Goin, the Wolf Ridge Ski Director, said “that their resort caters to all skiers, but to novices and intermediate skiers in particular.”  There are fifteen ski slopes and trails, with four of the slopes rated for beginners, nine ‘intermediate’, and only two considered ’advanced.’ There are four lifts total. Located just 30 minutes north of Asheville near Mars Hill, Wolf Ridge Ski Resort attracts numerous local skiers who come for the day with friends and family. The rustic lodge overlooks the slopes with three stone fireplaces, an all encompassing cafeteria which offers breakfast, lunch and dinner and a rental shop for all equipment. Throughout the years their snow making and grooming capabilities have grown, which allows for night skiing until 10:00 pm during the week. 

Cataloochee Ski Area

The Cataloochee Ski Area in the Great Smoky Mountains is also an easy drive from Asheville, particularly for a day trip. 13 of 18 trails at Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley are currently open, with all 5 lifts open (the double, triple, and quad chairs and two conveyors).  All slopes have lights for night skiing. There are 40 skiable acres with a vertical drop of 740’. However, reservations are recommended for tubing and for skiing which can be accomplished online. Private lessons, as well as group lessons with a trained ski or snowboard instructor, are also available. There is a cafeteria that serves throughout the day and has a variety of items.

Boone Area

The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina offer an incredibly beautiful setting for participating in winter sports. Approximately an hour and 45 minutes drive from Asheville are expansive and challenging slopes in the Boone area. You can find Appalachian Ski Mountain, Beech Mountain Report and Sugar Mountain Resort. Snowfall has been plentiful recently at this higher elevation, so lovely powered snow is underfoot for easy gliding and turning on the slopes. Sugar Mountain Resort reported 4 inches on January 7.  Appalachian Ski in Blowing Rock is known for being one of the first ski slopes in the Boone area.  It has all the needed amenities, such as a large base lodge, restaurant, video game room and observation deck.  Slope-side lodging and ski-and-stay packages are available for staying overnight.  Beech Mountain Resort has the highest ski area in the east at 5,506-foot peak elevation.  There are 15 slopes with seven chair lifts at Ski Beech.  Unfortunately this year at Beech Mountain the ice skating rink is closed for the season.  Sugar Mountain Resort is one of North Carolina’s largest ski/snowboard area—with 20 slopes from beginner to expert with lifts.  In addition, Sugar Mountain Resort has a 10,000 square foot refrigerated outdoor ice staking rink, where ice skates are available for rent.

So perhaps it is time to put on your winter garments, your hat, gloves, socks and boots, time to hit the slopes while the cold weather is underway. Most of the winter resorts have finally opened for the season.  For up to date information be sure to go to the individual websites.

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