Southern Snow Scene

By Sam Calhoun (

Article Published: Dec. 8, 2011 | Modified: Dec. 13, 2011
Southern Snow Scene

Skiers — and ski resorts — are looking forward to this year's snowsport season.

Photo by Rob Moore

We live in other peoples’ dreams.

Trace the s-curve of fresh tracks down any High Country ski slope, and at the end – catching his or her breath – you’ll find another happy customer; another year of stress melted; another local rediscovering “fun” in their own backyard.

Winter 2011-12 has arrived.

Welcome; you have a front-row seat.

And soon, the dreamers will arrive. Over the last months, these new and regular visitors marveled over High Country travel plans. With feet tapping under desks, their eyes gazing longingly, pensively out office windows, they daydream of our snow-capped backyards and promises of turns on powdery precipices. Anxiously referencing office clocks, they prep for their annual pilgrimage, like they do every year, with great precision, planning lodging, meals, lift tickets and side trips – counting down until the big day when they get to arrive back atop the High Country at their favorite ski resort.

Sure, natural snowfall is a tad scant so far this winter, but it’s coming; it always does – about 100 inches up top. And thanks to industry leading snowmaking technology rampant across our ski mountains – and talented staff who run it – all will be white very, very soon.

The timeless allure of this winter wonderland perched atop the South is not lost on our visitors, or locals. And it’s here again.

The recession’s grip has made life rather rough, rather grinding, which means our short vacation escapes are even more valuable and vital for our mental wellbeing. I’m thankful we have a dreamy escape right here in our own backyard – and in our visitors’ backyard, for that matter. We need this catharsis via winter snowsport, however cold the wind may blow.

Here’s to winter 2011-12.

Go play in the snow.

Around the slopes …

(828) 295-7828

Ice skating at Appalachian Ice Arena – the High Country’s only Zamboni-maintained ice rink – began Saturday, Dec. 3, during the resorts’ 50th anniversary weekend. Ice skating is now open on a regular schedule, with three sessions offered daily: 12 to 2 p.m., 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.

Like the rest of the local resorts, Appalachian has been gambling as much as possible with Mother Nature to squeeze in snowmaking when temperatures dip low enough. Utilizing top-of-the-line automated snow guns and a half-century of winter weather knowledge, App’s crew has done an admirable job, yet overnight low temps have been warmer than expected, causing staff to err on the side of caution about opening too early and with too little snow. Appalachian has long been known as a resort that aims to open with satisfactory snow levels and conditions, and I salute the staff for holding course.

According to staff on Dec. 1, “All (Appalachian Ski Mountain) staff will be watching the weather closely and hope to resume snowmaking as soon as temperatures permit, sometime mid-week next week.”

If the resort can open by this weekend, it will host the first event in the 8th annual Rome Pre-Jib Series, a Spy-sponsored Super Session and the beginning of the “Exclusively for Women” Workshops, which are offered for both skiers and snowboarders.

On Dec. 6, Appalachian announced a season-long event schedule – themed “Fun For the Entire Family” – to celebrate its 50th year. Festivities include free lift tickets to App’s first 100 customers, a prize pack promotion for the first rider to get App’s “Golden Chair,” a season-long Golden Scavenger Hunt and family-themed events on Jan. 27, Feb. 20 and March 10, 2012.

(828) 963-6561

Although its zipline course is still in operation and offering tours daily – weather permitting, of course – Hawksnest has yet to open its snow-tubing operation for the 2011-12 season. According to Hawksnest staff on Monday, Dec. 5, “It looks like later this week we will be able to resume snowmaking operations – we are not sure about opening for snow-tubing this weekend until the cold weather arrives.” Staff advises snow-tubing lovers to check Hawksnest’s website for daily updates.

(828) 387-2011

Reports from two friends who attempted to be the first on the lift when Beech Mountain Resort first opened on Saturday, Dec. 3 (Jason Vioral was lucky enough to grab the first chair of the 2011-12 season), claimed that attendance on the slopes was robust for opening day, besting numbers from previous seasons.

As of Monday, Dec. 5, Beech featured five open slopes, with a four- to 16-inch base of wet granular. Unfortunately, due to unseasonably high temperatures on Dec. 6, Beech had to temporarily close, with plans to reopen this Friday, Dec. 9.

Beech will host the grand opening of its newest addition, Roots Ride Shop, beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 17, in Beech Tree Village. Offering competitive prices on apparel, as well as ski and snowboard equipment, the shop will offer a raffle ticket with all purchases for a drawing at Rail Jam, which will be held in conjunction with the grand opening.

Roots Ride Shop’s indoor skate ramp will be open to the public throughout the day. The spectator-friendly Rail Jam will feature ski and snowboard categories with $1,000 in Roots Ride Shop credit for first prize in each. Second and third place winners will receive prizes from Smith, Scott, Armada, Flow, Bataleon, Vans, Spyder, Dakine, Billabong and Loki. Entry in the Rail Jam is free.

An award ceremony for the Rail Jam will be held following the event in Beech Tree Bar and Grille at 6:30 p.m., with the premiere of the ski and snowboard film, “One for the Road,” in addition to live music. Admission is free to see the film and band.

(828) 898-4521

Sugar Mountain Resort was the first to open for the 2011-12 season, and, as of Dec. 5, sat with a six- to 18-inch base of wet and frozen granular and two slopes open. Rain and warm temperatures forced the snowsport resort to temporarily close on Dec. 6, but staff anticipated snowmaking to begin again Wednesday, Dec. 7.

Ice skating and snow-tubing remain closed, but that could change very soon – maybe even by this Thursday, Dec. 8 – according to reports.

At Sugar this week, all efforts are centered on SugarFest, the High Country’s unofficial kickoff for the 2011-12 ski season that takes place this Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 10 and 11.

Monster Energy launches SugarFest with a chance to win one of six RIDE snowboards: Text “RIDEBOB” to 35350 or click to at anytime to enter for a chance to win.
Weekend festivities begin this Friday, Dec. 9, when the 18th annual Pre-Season Ski Clinic introduces Olympic gold medalist Diann Roffe and U.S. National Super G champion Keely Kelleher to skiers taking part in three days of personalized instruction on the slopes. The all-inclusive clinic is open to everyone and includes three days on the slopes, video analysis, tuning seminar and a banquet Saturday night.

SugarFest also includes ski and snowboard demos from top manufacturers, fireworks, live bluegrass from Boss Hawg, an appearance and ice-skating performance by 1992 Olympic silver medalist Paul Wylie on Saturday and RIDE Rail Jam Expression Session on Sunday. For more info, click to

Go play in the snow.

Other helpful links …

Jonas Ridge Snow-Tubing
(828) 733-4155

North Carolina Ski Areas Association

High Country Host Ski Website

Ski NC

Ski columns archives

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