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The True Beginning of Winter

By Sam Calhoun (

Article Published: Dec. 29, 2011 | Modified: Dec. 29, 2011
The True Beginning of Winter

The holidays aren’t over, my friends.

Whether you like snowsports or not, the true beginning of winter – now – brings with it an overly generous holiday helping of New Year’s Eve celebrations at our quartet of resorts.

All four of our snowsport giants – Appalachian Ski Mountain, Beech Mountain Resort, Hawksnest Resort and Sugar Mountain Resort – are catering to your every whim this Saturday, Dec. 31, in recognition of 2012’s arrival.

In addition to moonlight ice skating, torchlight skiing, snow-tubing, fireworks and buffets, this weekend proffers a festival-sized dose of live music, as Boss Hawg, The Johnson Brothers, Uncle Mountain and River Whyless all perform sets at our ski mountains.

Look below for info on App’s New Year’s Eve Extravaganza, Beech’s New Year Eve celebration, Hawksnest’s snow-tubing offerings and Sugar’s New Year’s mountain-style celebration, and plan to bookend your soiree of choice with two days on the slopes. You’ll be skiing out of one year and into the next, with a healthy dose of boogying mixed in for good measure.

So, game on. Make it count, but be safe. Don’t drink and drive – or ski, or board, or tube or, of course, torchlight ski. But have a great time, enjoying a High Country NYE.

Go play in the snow.

Around the Slopes

Appalachian Ski Mountain
(828) 295-7828
Status: OPEN

As of presstime, Appalachian Ski Mountain and Appalachian Terrain Park feature four- to 12-inch groomed bases, with three of 12 slopes open and three of six lifts available.
Night skiing is available, and ice skating is open.

Late Christmas night, Appalachian resumed snowmaking on its slopes in earnest, and, as of presstime, had opened two beginner slopes (Appaltizer and Avery’s Appal), one intermediate slope (Lower Big Appal) and a designated freestyle area (Lower Orchard Run).

Midnight Blast sessions are no longer in effect this week, thus all slopes will close at 10 p.m.
App’s terrifically popular Fresh Fridays Jam Session Series begins this Friday, Dec. 30, offering a “fresh” approach to terrain park competition with awards for “standout” performances.

Appalachian Ski Mountain will hold its annual New Year's Eve Extravaganza from 10 to 11:45 p.m. this Saturday, Dec. 31. The event includes fireworks, torchlight skiing, moonlight ice skating and more. Breakfast will also be available from 9 p.m. to midnight. For more information, click to, or call (828) 295-7828.

Beech Mountain Resort
(828) 387-2011
Status: OPEN

As of presstime, Beech Mountain Resort features a 10- to 22-inch base of packed powder, with five of 15 trails open and five of seven lifts available.

Night skiing is currently unavailable. Ice skating is open.

Despite lackluster winter temperatures thus far, Beech Mountain Resort makes up for Mather Nature’s deficits with a battalion of top-of-the-line snowmaking equipment, including 18 SMI Super Polecats (automated and mounted on towers), five polecats on trailers, 30 Ratnik air/water snow guns and 30 York air/water snow guns mounted on poles, for a total of 83 different ways to blanket the mountain in snow.

“SMI is an industry leader in snowmaking machines, and these new Super Polecats excel in all snowmaking temperature conditions,” explained Talia Freeman, Beech Mountain Resort marketing manager. “Our system has the ability to pump approximately 3,500 gallons of water per minute to convert to snow. We can produce snow at temperatures up to 36 degrees with the right humidity.”

Beech Tree Bar and Grille will host a New Year's Eve celebration with musical guests Uncle Mountain and River Whyless, with drink specials and champagne toast (for ages 21 and older) from 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. this Saturday, Dec. 31. Safe rides will be provided all night within the town of Beech Mountain. Cost to attend the event is $15.

Beech Mountain Resort will also be hosting late-night ice skating sessions from 10 p.m. until midnight at a cost of $10 per person. Other activities will include games, prizes, music and food in Munchies Arcade adjacent to the ice rink.

Beech Mountain Resort will offer ski packages for as low as $88 per person on New Year's Eve, which includes lodging, a day or twilight ticket, a ticket to the New Year's Eve celebration and shuttle rides to and from Beech Mountain Resort. For more information, call (828) 387-2011, extension 208.
Looking ahead, Jan. 7 and 8, 2012, is Winterfest 2012 at Beech. In cooperation with the town of Beech Mountain, Beech Mountain Resort will present a number of events throughout the weekend to celebrate the winter season.

The town of Beech Mountain will host the N.C. State Championship Snowshoe Race on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012. That same day, events at Beech Mountain Resort will include the annual Bathing Beauty competition, held at 11 a.m. on the Play Yard slope; the Village Rail Jam, which will begin at 4:30 p.m. in Beech Tree Village; and live music at Beech Tree Bar and Grille from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.

On Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012, Beech will offer the Cardboard Box Derby’s Visual Competition, beginning at 12:30 p.m., before the Cardboard Box Derby Race begins at 2:30 p.m. The Slopestyle Competition will be held at Beech Mountain Resort’s Terrain Park, and the Roots Ride Shop Fashion Show will start at 4:30 p.m.

Huge sales on apparel and equipment will be held throughout the weekend. The latest ski and snowboard equipment demos will also be featured. Other attractions, including a live ice-sculpting demonstration and figure skating demonstrations, are also part of Winterfest 2012.

Hawksnest Resort
(828) 963-6561
Status: OPEN (Friday)

The largest snow-tubing park on the East Coast, Hawksnest, offered great conditions over the Christmas weekend, managing to sell out most tubing sessions on Sunday and Monday, Dec. 25 and 26.

According to staff, “expected rain may hinder sessions on Tuesday (Dec. 27), but that is the only iffy day of the week,” meaning Hawksnest is looking good for being open New Year’s weekend.

Through this weekend, Hawksnest expects to offer sessions at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. daily, according to staff. Sessions are priced at $30 apiece through this Saturday, Dec. 31. Hawksnest’s zipline course is also open, by reservation.

Sugar Mountain Resort
(828) 898-4521
Status: OPEN

As of presstime, Sugar Mountain Resort features a six- to 24-inch base of manmade powder, with six of 20 slopes open and six of 11 lifts in use.

Snow-tubing is currently closed, ice skating is open and night skiing is available.

High Country bluegrass staples Boss Hawg will perform live at Sugar this Wednesday and Friday, Dec. 28 and 30, from 4 to 6 p.m. each day.

A New Year's mountain-style celebration featuring live music by The Johnson Brothers will take place this Saturday, Dec. 31, at Sugar. The torchlight parade and fireworks at midnight are free of charge to the public.

Tickets cost $45 and $80, with prices listed for couples and with the higher price including seating. For more information, call (828) 898-4521, extension 233.

And mark your calendar for Jan. 7, 2012, when National Winter Trails Day returns to Sugar Mountain Resort. For the 17th year, Sugar offers children and adults new to snowsports the chance to try snowshoeing for free during National Winter Trails Day, with sessions offered at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Jan. 7’s program features a one-hour tour and snowshoe rental. Adult tours are for ages 12 or older, and children’s tours are for 8- to 11-year-olds. Interested parties can signup at Sugar’s Ski/Snowboard School on Jan. 7.

Go play in the snow.

Other Helpful Links

Jonas Ridge Snow-Tubing
(828) 733-4155

N.C. Ski Areas Association

High Country Host Ski Website

Ski NC

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