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Southern Snow Scene

By Sam Calhoun (

Article Published: Jan. 6, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Southern Snow Scene

Winterfest 2011 hits Ski Beech this weekend.

Photo by Kyle Beckmann

"Ninety two inches?!" he said, stopping my recap of local base depths.

His pretension so often felt in these long-distance calls fell flat, he became silent - could it be that he was impressed? "No," I thought, "He's from Montana."

"How much do you guys have?" I asked, in silent celebration.

"We got 24 inches from the last storm," he triumphed. "But our base depths at Big Sky are between 44 and 66 inches," he deflated.

Those who have left the South for the snowier peaks of the Great American West may have a more laid-back lifestyle, yet they are touchy and sensitive about their snow depths, slope superiority and, quite often, organic food.

I, on the other hand, have felt like an ambassador of sorts for the Southern snow scene for much of the past decade, assuring the non-believers from Montana, Colorado, Utah, California and Idaho that, yes, our ski slopes are to be respected; yes, it does snow here; yes, we actually live in the mountains as opposed to near the mountains (here's looking at you, Missoula, Mont.); yes, our prowess at the manmade snow game is on par with the West's "real" stuff; and yes, hippies have gone into the restaurant business here, as well.

Nonetheless, our ample snow depths at our four snowsports resorts come as a surprise to these Westerners when they take a break from sipping their chai tea to listen. And I couldn't feel more proud, more proprietary when I stumble upon a chance to remind them of the gifts we enjoy in the East.

We, the ranks of the Southern snow scene, are aware of the oxymoronic nature of snow-capped mountains nestled within a region known more for heat and humidity than snow and cold, and we welcome the irony with open arms, snowsport equipment and a warming acceptance of the outsiders who come and play among our peaks. Besides, the south has never afforded itself pretension concerning its ski industry; we take each winter as a blessing, treat each visitor as our family and attack the slopes after every big snow as if it was the last.

Go play in the snow.

Around the Slopes...

"Conditions are just excellent out there; I went skiing this morning," said Kim Jochl, marketing director for Sugar Mountain Resort, on Monday. "All the slopes are open, ice skating is open, tubing is open, and we've had good crowds," she said, adding that attendance at the resort during the holiday week was "very good."

The 16th annual National Winter Trails Day will take place at Sugar Mountain Resort this Saturday, Jan. 8. The one-day national event offers children and adults new to snowsports a chance to try snowshoeing for free. Free one-hour snowshoe guided tours include snowshoes, and are available at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Jan. 8. Adult tours are for ages 12 and up, and children's tours are for 8 to 11 year olds. Participants should meet at the ski/snowboard school building at least 15 minutes prior to tour time; participation is limited and is first come, first served.

From 4 to 6 p.m. this Saturday, Jan. 8, local bluegrass pickers Boss Hawg will play an acoustic set in Sugar's base lodge.

This Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 8 and 9, Sugar will play host to a Crescent Ski Council Competition. The series of adult ski races pits teams from other locales - Raleigh, Atlanta, Tennessee, South Carolina, etc. - against each other on our local slopes.

And mark your calendar for Sugar's Septuagenarian Party, which will be held at 12 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 11, in Sugar's Last Run Lounge. The party is for all of our agile elders above age 70, who enjoy the privilege of complimentary ski passes to Sugar Mountain Resort.

Got a favorite recipe that you cook up after a long day on the slopes? Well, head to the store, grab some ingredients, and manifest your tasty creation for entrance into the inaugural Beech Mountain Chili, Chowder, Soups and Stews Cook-Off, which headlines Winterfest 2011 at Ski Beech at Beech Mountain Resort this weekend. Winterfest is a family-oriented celebration of all things winter, and takes place this Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 8 and 9, atop Beech. The Cook-Off takes place in Beech's View Haus from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday, and is open to anyone willing to cook up their favorite "cold day foods" to enter into a friendly competition. The Cook-Off carries a $10 entry fee, and winners will receive various prizes. Preregistration is available at Buckeye Recreation Center this week, but participants can register on the day-of at the View Haus.

Beyond the Cook-Off, there is no shortage of Winterfest activities to keep children of all ages and tastes satisfied. Beech will look more like a beach this Saturday at noon as the bravest brave frigid temps in the Nestle Bathing Beauty Competition; squadrons of the snowboarding and ski elite will fly, flip and dazzle during the Extreme Snowboard and Ski Village Rail Jam at noon this Saturday, the Edge of the World Big Air Competition at 11 a.m. this Sunday and the Edge of the World Skiercross and Boardercross at 1 p.m. this Sunday; and the creative will test cardboard cruising creations during the much-anticipated and now-famously-hilarious Great Cardboard Box Derby at noon this Sunday. Registration for the Great Cardboard Box Derby takes place between 9 and 11:30 a.m. at Group Sales, and the cost to enter is $25, which includes all-day lift tickets for two pilots.

Beginning this week, regular weekday rates are now in effect Monday through Friday at Appalachian Ski Mountain. Taking a cue from Mother Nature, who is providing near-perfect snowmaking temperatures this week, Appalachian is planning to make snow every night this week. According to staff, "Expect conditions to be fresh and deep throughout the week and into the weekend.

Snowmaking will not begin until late during the night session, and will be shutdown and groomed by 9 a.m. every morning ... as always, snowmaking will not be in progress during skiing hours."

After five nights of offering the popular promotion in December, Appalachian Ski Mountain will again offer Midnight Blast this Friday and Saturday, Jan. 7 and 8. The promotion offers night skiing until midnight - the only such offering in the region - and will continue every Friday and Saturday night in January and February.

Appalachian's second Fresh Friday event takes place this Friday, Jan. 7, with registration from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the registration desk on the upper level of the lodge, and with the "shred sesh" starting at 7 p.m. Featuring distinct terrain park features imported from Germany, Fresh Friday is a free-to-enter jam session on a constantly evolving park setup. Unlike other competitions, entrants hit the park setup as many times as they want and in any order they want; awards are based on standout performances during the session, and there is no first, second or third place.

Appalachian's first Ladies Park Night of the 2010-11 season takes place at 7 p.m. this Saturday, Jan. 8. The event is free with the purchase of a lift ticket. For the two Ladies Park Nights of the season, Appalachian Terrain Park (ATP) will construct a terrain park area with special features specifically designed for learning and progression that will be open to ladies only. "We want women of all ages and abilities, both ski and snowboard, to get together and ride in a laid-back environment among friends," said ATP director Drew Stanley. Featuring a flexible, open format, the nights are about improving park skills, and Stanley has staffed 'trick tip advisors' that will be on hand to answer questions and help with progress. After each night, prizes will be raffled off to participants.

Hawksnest Resort is entering the first full week of 2011 with all 20 of its snow tubing lanes open to guests. According to a representative, conditions at the largest snow tubing resort on the East Coast are "great" and will only improve with this week's and weekend's cold temperatures and snow in the forecast.

Look for results from the 2011 Sugar Mountain Adult Race League (SMARL) in future Southern Snow Scene columns; the series begins on Monday, Jan. 10, and will continue for six consecutive Monday nights through January and February.

Go play in the snow.

Upcoming Events

Every Friday and Saturday in January-Midnight Blast, Appalachian Ski Mountain

Jan. 7-Fresh Friday 2, Appalachian Ski Mountain
Jan. 8-National Winter Trails Day, Sugar Mountain Resort
Jan. 8-Ladies Park Night, Appalachian Ski Mountain
Jan. 8-Boss Hawg Concert, 4 to 6 p.m., Sugar Mountain Resort
Jan. 8 and 9-Winterfest Weekend, Beech Mountain Resort
Jan. 8 and 9-Crescent Ski Council Competition, Sugar Mountain Resort
Jan. 11-Septuagenarian Party, Sugar Mountain Resort
Jan. 16-Boardercross Series Race, Beech Mountain Resort
Jan. 16 and 17-College Race, Sugar Mountain Resort
Jan. 22-Boss Hawg Concert, 4 to 6 p.m., Sugar Mountain Resort
Jan. 23-High Country Junior Race Series Giant Slalom, Sugar Mountain Resort
Jan. 30-High Country Race Series Boardercross Race, Beech Mountain Resort

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