Southern Snow Scene
That wasn't the report I was expecting to file. But after a trip to Appalachian Ski Mountain this past weekend, and after speaking with a Sugar Mountain Ski School instructor on Monday, "busy" is the apt - and welcome - descriptor of recent activity at our local ski slopes.
Mid-March is upon us, a time usually reserved for dreams of spring, not forays into winter sports, yet both locals and visitors seem to be out in droves enjoying the last act of our annual snowsport play.
The instructors at Sugar didn't even have time for a lunch break on Monday; there was a line for lift tickets at App; and Ski Beech's end of season party on Sunday seemed to be just the opposite, as enthusiasm for fun in the snow trumped the reality that the season was snowplowing to a halt - exactly 100 days after it began.
"It's spring corn in the morning and then mashed potatoes at night," a Sugar Mountain employee said to me, grinning, referring to typical late-season snow conditions found in our area. "You should come out," he added, grabbing his skis for another run.
And then it occurred to me - it's not, and has never been, just about the conditions. The snow is simply a template for making memories with family and friends - even strangers. Whether it's spring corn and mashed potatoes, or the largest powder pounding in a decade, what fun is any of it without travelers on the journey? We are blessed simply to have the option to ride, ski, skate and tube in our own backyard, and how soon we forget that people from all over the country and world look forward every year to gathering and playing among our slopes - even if they can't make it until mid-March.
It wasn't because I had a longing desire to ski "the mashed potatoes," and it certainly wasn't because I was feeling better from my mid-winter bout with the flu, but I took that instructor - a stranger until then - up on his offer. Because he was right; because it wasn't about the conditions. And - even though it was a bumpier ride than the smooth turns of December - the skiing was enjoyable, the company was top-notch, and I discovered plenty of reasons to love the High Country, all over again.
Go play in the snow - and make some memories. The season isn't over yet.
Around the Slopes...
As of Monday, March 14, Sugar Mountain Resort is reporting a 20- to 70-inch base, with 15-of-20 slopes open and four-of-11 lifts open; and Appalachian Ski Mountain and Appalachian Terrain Park sit with 30- to 66-inch bases, with 12-of-12 slopes open and five-of-six lifts open.
Night sessions are available at Sugar Mountain Resort and Appalachian Ski Mountain. Ice skating is available at Appalachian Ski Mountain, but is closed for the season at Sugar Mountain Resort. Snow tubing is closed for the season at Sugar Mountain Resort, according to http://www.skisugar.com.
Ski Beech at Beech Mountain Resort officially closed for the 2010-11 winter season on Sunday, March 13, after 100 days in operation.
Although snow tubing at Hawksnest Resort is dependant on Mother Nature for the remainder of the season, the resort will offer daily zipline tours throughout the spring, summer and fall. Four-cable zipline tours cost $45 per person, and 10-cable tours cost $75 per person. Call (828) 963-6561 for reservations. If weather allows Hawksnest to continue to offer snow tubing, sessions will take place on the weekends at 10 a.m., 12 p.m. and 2 p.m.; call (828) 963-6561 to see if the resort is open for snow tubing.
Late-season, discounted rates are now available at both Appalachian Ski Mountain and Sugar Mountain Resort.
At App, adults and students will now pay $47 per eight-hour flex ticket for Saturdays, Sundays and holidays; $29 for weekday eight-hour flex tickets; $54 for Super Sessions (9 a.m. to 10 p.m.) on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays; $38 for weekday Super Sessions; $23 for night sessions on Fridays, Saturdays and holidays; and $18 for weekday night sessions. Further discounts are available for juniors and seniors; for a full list, click to http://www.appskimtn.com/plan-your-trip/rates/ski-tickets/.
At Sugar, adults will now pay $30 for full-day tickets Monday through Friday; $50 for full-day tickets on Saturdays and Sundays; $23 for half-day tickets Monday through Friday; $38 for half-day tickets on Saturdays and Sundays; $18 for night sessions Monday through Thursday and on Sundays; and $23 for night sessions on Saturdays. Further discounts are available for juniors, as well as for rental equipment; for a full list, click to http://www.skisugar.com/rates/.
A busy weekend awaits visitors to Appalachian Ski Mountain and Appalachian Terrain Park. The final Ladies Park Night of the season takes place this Friday, March 18, and the slopestyle finals of App's Shred for the Cup Series is slated for this Saturday, March 19.
This Friday for the Ladies Park Night, App's Terrain Park Crew will construct a setup with features specifically tailored so that females of all skill levels can learn and progress their style. The event is open to both skiers and snowboarders - females only - and will begin at 7 p.m., offering an open, flexible format. Like always, App's Trick Tip Advisors will be scattered around the park offering helpful tutelage. At the end of the session, organizers will hand out prizes to participants. The event is free with the purchase of a lift ticket.
The final event in App's Shred for the Cup Series will take place this Saturday, March 19. This Saturday's slopestyle final is open to both skiers and snowboarders, men and women, with categories for beginner, intermediate and advanced skill levels. Once points are tallied from this Saturday's event, and then added to points gained throughout the series, a winner of the coveted "Cup" will be determined and crowned. If you are not in the running for the Cup, don't fret, plenty of prizes are available for participants.
Appalachian's Meltdown Games are planned for Saturday and Sunday, March 26 and 27. An annually popular event, the games include The Impossible Box Contest, Cardboard Box Derby, ski and snowboard Big Air and Trash Bag Downhill Race on Saturday, and the K2 Pop This! High Ollie Contest, Pond Skim and Chinese Downhill on Sunday. For more information, click to http://www.appskimtn.com/2011/03/meltdown-games/.
Appalachian's 2010-11 season is slated to end at 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 27. Take note: Appalachian has skied through its closing day for the last 10 years.
Boss Hawg brings its High Country bluegrass to the snow this Saturday, March 19, when it plays from 4 to 6 p.m. at Sugar Mountain Resort's base lodge.
Beginning at 9 a.m. this Sunday, March 20, Easter will come early to Sugar Mountain Resort when it hosts its annual Easter Egg Hunt on its slopes. Encouraged to dress in their Easter best, children will join Sugar Bear and Sweetie Bear in search of hundreds of prize-filled eggs that will be scattered on the Lower Flying Mile ski slope. Parents will be able to view the hunt from the lodge. In addition to a host of fun prizes, one egg will contain a 2011-12 Sugar season pass and one egg will contain a $100 Scott gift card. The event is free for all children age 12 and under with a valid lift ticket.
While you are at Sugar for the hunt, be sure to stop by Sugar's apparel shop, where the 2012 Spyder Sample Sale is still under way. For the sale, Spyder's 2012 sample line is discounted by 50 percent off retail price, and any remaining 2011 gear is slashed by 60 percent.
Go play in the snow.
March 19-Boss Hawg Performs, Sugar Mountain Resort
March 19-Shred for the Cup Slopestyle Finals, Appalachian Ski Mountain
March 20-Easter Egg Hunt, Sugar Mountain Resort
March 26 and 27-Meltdown Games, Appalachian Ski Mountain
Last day of the season-Boss Hawg Concert, 4 to 6 p.m., Sugar Mountain Resort