A story retold leads to High Country skiing

By Sam Calhoun (sam.calhoun@averyjournal.com)

Article Published: Nov. 26, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
A story retold leads to High Country skiing

Speaking of manmade snow, isn't it late November? Shouldn't we be skiing now, Mother Nature?

Photo by Rob Moore

Marye Brigham's nightly ritual was to settle into sleep by paging through Reader's Digest.

It was the 1950s. Birmingham, Ala. And so goes the story that, one night, during her nightly ritual, Marye stumbled upon a short story about a frustrated farmer in Massachusetts.

You see, this farmer, ever the entrepreneur, had engineered a device to spray an air and water mixture on his plants in an attempt to keep his precious stock from freezing overnight.

Instead of saving his plants, however, he woke up to find inches and inches of fresh manmade snow.
Though experiments with manmade snow had begun at a small slope in the town of Hot Springs, Va., at a resort called The Homestead, the accidental snow story was breaking news to Marye's husband, Dr. Thomas Brigham.

The farmer's inadvertent invention had piqued Dr. Brigham's interest. Everyone who loves High Country skiing owe thanks to Marye's reading habits. For Marye's retelling of that farmer's story to her husband that night set in motion the dreaming that would bring skiing to Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain.

Within one decade, by 1960, Brigham decided on Avery County to beta test his idea for a Southern ski slope, after researching elevations and temperatures in locales across Alabama, northern Georgia and southern and western North Carolina.

On July 29, 1961, Brigham bought 300 acres atop Beech Mountain from Bill Elder. By 1965, development began, and by Christmas 1967, people were skiing on Beech Mountain. Two years later, in 1969, Brigham and a host of partners developed 3,000 acres on neighboring Sugar Mountain, giving our region a new ski slope on Dec. 26, 1969.

Thank you, Dr. Brigham, and thank you to the other High Country ski visionaries.
Go play in our manmade snow.

Around the Slopes ...

Speaking of manmade snow, isn't it late November? Shouldn't we be skiing now, Mother Nature? History says yes; the fact that I have yet to require long johns on a daily basis says no - let's see what our mountains are saying.

"We're trying to blow snow this Thursday (Nov. 25) because we hope to be open by this weekend," said Bryant Rogers, an all-weather zipline guide at Hawksnest Resort. "But of course, we are at the mercy of the weather, so we'll see."

Though high temperatures are forecast to remain in the 50s through most of the week, temps will drop considerably this Friday, Nov. 26, ushering in lows in the 20s for most of the weekend. Mother Nature is finally edging toward cooperation.

Until temperatures dip, Ryan Costin, general manager of Ski Beech at Beech Mountain Resort, and his staff are "anxiously anticipating opening," he said on Monday, Nov. 22. "We are sitting here ready to make snow," said Costin. "As soon as we can we are trying to be open."

"We are trying to get back open by this weekend, but it depends on the weather - the weather has just been very unpredictable, but we're trying," said Kim Jochl, marketing director for Sugar Mountain Resort.

Like others in the industry, Jochl is banking on cooler weather arriving this weekend, but assured locals and Thanksgiving vacationers that Sugar Mountain Resort's ice skating rink will be open by this Thursday, Nov. 25, if not by today.

"We've been making ice for quite awhile getting (the ice skating rink) ready ... so I encourage guests to call ahead or check our website," Jochl said.

"We're getting closer every day (to opening)," said Brad Moretz, general manager of Appalachian Ski Mountain. "It looks like we'll have cold weather this weekend and we'll start making snow as soon as it gets cold enough."

When Appalachian Ski Mountain does open, the first 100 skiers and snowboarders to congregate at App's ticket window will receive free lift tickets for the day. Also note that for the upcoming winter, Appalachian's slopes will be open continuously from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and customers can now purchase an eight-hour flex ticket (starts when you buy it), which replaces the traditional seven-hour 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. ticket.

On Saturday, Dec. 4, Appalachian Ski Mountain will celebrate its 49th anniversary by offering visitors $5 lift tickets for the day. "It is a chance for people to come out, get a great deal on a ticket and help us celebrate," Moretz added.

Go play in the snow.

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