Snow and Tell
With Sugar Mountain Resort already open for the season, it’s
only a matter of time until other North Carolina winter sports resorts open their slopes, rinks and
tube runs to visitors eager for seasonal fun.
With upgraded snowmaking and slope-grooming equipment, resorts are ready for four months of action on the highest ski peak east of the Rockies, the gentlest of beginner slopes and everything in between.
Opening day typically falls a week or so before Thanksgiving.
With the coldest climates and highest elevations in the South, the western mountains have become a regional destination for winter sports. Temperatures drop three to four degrees for every 1,000-foot rise in elevation, so ski areas can often support snowmaking even when it’s sweater weather at lower elevations.
North Carolina’s ski season usually lasts until late March, providing a wintertime economic boost to local economies.
According to a study on the 2009-10 season commissioned by the Ski Areas Association, the overall economic value of the ski resort industry was $146 million. The average expenditure per person per ski trip within North Carolina was $131.70.
Nearly half of the 672,000 ski visitors came from other states.
Here’s a rundown on what awaits this season at North Carolina’s ski areas and other winter sports resorts.
Appalachian Ski Mountain
At a glance: 27 acres of skiable terrain with 12 slopes and trails (three beginner, three intermediate, three advanced, three freestyle terrain areas). Peak elevation: 4,000 feet. Vertical drop: 365 feet. Longest run: 2,640 feet. Lifts include a double and two quads. The resort also features a Zamboni-maintained ice rink.
New this year: Additional snowmaking on two slopes; expanded schedule for Midnight Blast, the region’s only late-night skiing and riding.
Mark the calendar: 52nd anniversary weekend Dec. 7 to 8, featuring $5 Day Ski tickets; Skiing with Santa Dec. 24; Family Day Feb. 17, 2014; Winter Meltdown Games March 22 and 23, 2014.
Connect: http://www.appskimtn.com, http://www.appterrainpark.com; (828) 295-7828.
Beech Mountain Resort
At a glance: 95 acres of skiable terrain with 15 slopes and trails (three beginner, six intermediate, four advanced, two freestyle terrain areas). Peak elevation: 5,506 feet — higher than any slope east of the Rockies. Vertical drop: 830 feet. Longest run: one mile. Lifts include four doubles, a quad and a high-speed quad with a panoramic vista. With a village ice rink and the Beech Mountain Adaptive Snowsports Center for kids and adults with disabilities.
New this year: A glass-walled sky bar at the summit with food and beverage service; “Learn to Ski Month” offer with $45 lesson/rental/lift ticket package; continuous hours without session breaks: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, Saturday and holidays; 12 new SMI Super Pole Cat guns, upping the total to 40 added in the last four years.
Mark the calendar: New Year’s Eve Bash Dec. 31; WinterFest Weekend Jan. 10 to 12, 2014; Totally ’80s Retro Ski Weekend Feb. 21 to 23, 2014.
Connect: http://www.beechmountainresort.com; (800) 438-2093
Sugar Mountain Resort
At a glance: 115 acres of skiable area with 20 slopes and trails (seven beginner, nine intermediate, three advanced, one freestyle terrain area). Peak elevation: 5,300 feet. Vertical drop: 1,200 feet. Longest run: 1.5 miles. Lifts include four doubles and one triple. The resort features a 700-foot, multilane tube run, ice, guided snowshoe tours and public racing program.
New this year: Newly replaced snowmaking pipes on the Big Red slope and added hydrants to cover the Big Red slope quicker. Sugar Mountain Resort is in the process of cutting a new slope that will be ready for the 2014-15 season.
Mark the calendar: Santa at Sugar, on the slopes Dec. 14 to 24; SugarFest 2013, with Olympic figure skating silver medalist Paul Wylie and Olympic alpine skiing gold medalist Diann Roffe Dec. 13 to 15.
Connect: http://www.skisugar.com; (828) 898-4521.
MORE WINTER PLAY
Hawksnest Snow Tubing and Zipline Course
Hawksnest Resort is a family-friendly winter area that’s home to the largest snow tubing park on the East Coast, as well as the longest zipline tour in the nation. The tubing park is comprised of four areas and more than 20 lighted lanes ranging from 400 to 1,000 feet in length. The zipline course features 20 cables (including “Mega Zips”) covering more than four miles and is open year round.
Connect: http://www.hawksnesttubing.com; (828) 963-6561, (800) 822-4295.
Jonas Ridge Snow Tubing Park
Take your tube to the top of the hill and hold on for an exhilarating ride down one of the six lanes at Jonas Ridge Snow Tubing Park. After tubing, warm up inside by the fireplace or watch from an observation deck. The park also offers night tubing.
Connect: http://www.jonasridgesnowtube.com; (828) 733-4155.
Beech Mountain Sledding Hill
The town of Beech Mountain maintains a free sledding hill for children 12 and younger (parents can ride with smaller children), next to Town Hall. A combination of natural and manmade snow keeps the conditions right. Plastic sleds are required.
Connect: http://www.beechmtn.com; (828) 387-9283.
For more information on destinations, accommodations and trip planning, visit http://www.visitnc.com.