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Warming Up to Winter

By Sam Calhoun (

Article Published: Dec. 15, 2011 | Modified: Dec. 15, 2011
Warming Up to Winter

U.S. National Super G Champion Keely Kelleher shares tips with skiers taking part in last weekend’s pre-season ski clinics at Sugar Mountain Resort.

Photo by Justin Grimes

I haven’t worn long johns yet this ski season.

My friend skied in a T-shirt earlier this week.

It’s probably kind of warm outside as you’re reading this.

But there are hundreds of locals and visitors at our local High Country snowsports resorts right now skiing, snowboarding and snow-tubing on quality conditions – and that’s a beautiful thing.

December weather is often temperamental, and despite the fluctuations, we’ve witnessed a solid SugarFest and successful opening days at Beech and Appalachian.

Our peers out West haven’t been so lucky. With record-low snowfall on the season – just barely 30 inches so far in Summit County, Colo. – most terrain remains closed throughout the famed ski country.

But we have snow-guns. And highly trained snowmakers. And night skiing. And Southern hospitality, I might add.

So, we shall ski, board and tube through the warmth, and wait happily – sans long johns – for more of Mother Nature’s assistance.

Rest assured, the temperatures will plummet, the natural and manmade snow will fall, fresh tracks will be made, and I’ll be putting the long johns back on very soon.
Go play in the snow.

Around the Slopes

(828) 898-4521
Status: OPEN

As of presstime, Sugar Mountain Resort features an 8- to 30-inch base of wet and frozen granular, with six-of-20 slopes open and six-of-11 lifts in use.

Snow-tubing and ice skating are both open. Night skiing is available.

Sugar’s unfailing dedication to delivering what it promises showed this past weekend for SugarFest 2011.

“As we all know, on Wednesday, Dec. 7, only grass and a few leftover patches of snow covered the slopes of Sugar Mountain Resort,” marketing director Kim Jochl said. “With cold temperatures beginning Wednesday and throughout the weekend, miraculously, the Sugar Mountain crew was able to reopen with a six- to 24-inch base, which only got deeper as the weekend progressed.

“Seven slopes and four lifts (were open) in plenty of time for SugarFest,” she said. “And SugarFest went well – it was good, solid attendance, and we had positive feedback.”

Sugar president Gunther Jochl and wife Kim welcomed a host of snowsport champions to their resort for the festival, including 2010 U.S. National Super G champion Keely Kelleher and Olympic medalists Diann Rolfe and Paul Wylie. Kelleher and Rolfe hosted a ski clinic, and Wylie gave a performance and tips on the ice-skating rink.

“With start-ups to the season like this one, events like SugarFest are all the more important to Sugar Mountain and the surrounding business community this time of year,” Kim Jochl said. “SugarFest is an event that gives the consumer an extra push – especially when conditions aren’t perfect – to head to the mountain for a day or weekend of skiing.”

Visitors to Sugar this week may have noticed jolly old St. Nick carving down the Flying Mile, visiting with good girls and boys. Santa, himself, will be skiing at the resort from now until Dec. 24.

Following Santa’s departure, Sugar will turn its attention toward New Year’s Eve. To start, Sugar has invited Boss Hawg to play some bluegrass from 4 to 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 30, and then will host a New Year’s celebration on Saturday, Dec. 31, featuring live music from The Johnson Brothers, fireworks and a torchlight parade. Call (828) 898-4521, extension 233, to make reservations.

Note that Sugar’s holiday lift ticket rates apply Dec. 19 through 30; click to for more info.

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

Hawksnest Resort will open its snow-tubing park – the largest snow-tubing park on the East Coast – this Friday, Dec. 16, according to staff.

Sessions this Friday will be offered at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. for $25 each. Sessions this Saturday, Dec. 17, will be offered at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. for $30 apiece.
For those into a chillier ride, Hawksnest is still open for zipline tours by reservation.

(828) 387-2011
Status: OPEN

As of presstime, Beech Mountain Resort features an 8- to 20-inch groomed base, with five of 15 trails open and three of seven lifts available.

Ice skating is currently closed.

Night skiing (6 to 10 p.m.) begins this Friday, Dec. 16, at Beech, just in time for the Christmas crowds. Also this Friday, Beech Tree Bar and Grille opens for the season, featuring a new menu and new TVs throughout. Look to find some food and beverage specials this weekend.

Beech will host the grand opening of its newest addition, Roots Ride Shop, beginning at 4:30 p.m. this 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.

Note that Beech’s holiday lift ticket rates apply Dec. 19 through Jan. 1, 2012; click to for more info.

Beech will offer a non-denominational Christmas Eve serve around its ice rink at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 24 – bring a jacket. One week later, Beech will ring in the New Year with a live cover band, drink specials, champagne toasts and shuttle service for guests. And mark your calendars for Beech’s Winterfest 2012, taking place from Jan. 5 to 8, 2012 – more information coming soon.

(828) 295-7828
Status: OPEN

As of presstime, Appalachian Ski Mountain and Appalachian’s two terrain parks – Appaljack and Appal Jam – feature 15- to 28-inch groomed bases, with 10 of 12 slopes open and three of five lifts servicing customers.

Ice skating is currently open. Night skiing is available.

Appalachian officially launched its 50th season on Saturday, Dec. 10, welcoming its first 100 riders with free lift tickets and offering four slopes (Upper Big Appal, Lower Big Appal, Appaljack and Appaltizer) and three lifts to its guests. Blue skies and frigid temps didn’t deter the hundreds that attended, and kudos should be passed along to the App Terrain Park crew for having 10 features available for riders at Appaljack Terrain Park.

App’s terrifically popular Fresh Fridays Jam Session Series begins this Friday, Dec. 16, offering a “fresh” approach to terrain park competition with awards for “standout” performances.

Santa will make an appearance on the slopes between 1 and 4 p.m. on Dec. 24. Appalachian will be closed for the night session on Christmas Eve and closed for both day and night sessions on Christmas Day.

Before App hosts its annual NYE celebration, the resort will resurrect last year’s success, Midnight Blast. Harkening back to the High Country skiing days of old, Midnight Blast sessions – which will be offered every night from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, 2012 – allow skiers and snowboarders on the slopes until midnight … way past their bedtime.

Note that Appalachian’s holiday lift ticket rates apply Dec. 19 through Jan. 1, 2012; click to for more info.
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

Ski column archives

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