I’m ashamed to admit it has taken me almost 18 years of living in the Carolinas before experiencing the banquet of skiing options in North Carolina’s High Country. After a few days of soaking up the area’s varied lures, I can safely say it certainly won’t be another 18 years before I return. My recent visit included a little skiing at each of the following three resorts.
Appalachian Ski Mountain – Blowing Rock, NC
Operating since 1962, this family-owned and run ski resort is ideal for beginners and families with younger kids. With 12 runs, it’s smaller than other area resorts and extremely easy to navigate.
Newbies should seriously take advantage of the French-Swiss Ski College. Established in 1969, the college is the most comprehensive ski school in the Southeast. Ski College instructors have trained folks in military special forces, Seals units, and members of the secret service, so they know their stuff.
For more advanced skiers and snowboarders, they provide the App Terrain Park. Changing up the terrain park’s more than 70 features provides riders a challenge with every visit.
One of my favorite aspects of this park is that they don’t blow snow during hours of operation. One face full of snow spray, and you’ll appreciate this feature, too. Appalachian Ski Mountain is also the only ski resort in North Carolina to offer flex tickets. Your time begins when you buy your ticket, and it’s good for eight hours. When you don’t have to fight crowds in certain time slots, it makes for a more relaxing ski vacation.
Beech Mountain Resort – Beech Mountain, NC
Because it’s the highest ski area in the eastern US, Beech Mountain boasts a more natural snow fall and chillier temperatures. Ideal elements for optimum skiing conditions. And with 99 skiable acres, there’s plenty of room to spread out. The resort is reminiscent of a charming Bavarian village – which makes for a prime Instagram backdrop.
Beginners eight and up can take advantage of free lessons Monday through Thursday (with rental purchase). In addition, they offer Snow Kamp for kids ages 3 to 5 and First Traxx for kids ages 6-14. Camp fees include equipment rental, group lessons, lunch, and snacks. These fun and interactive camps are a great way to ease kids into a lifelong love of skiing.
Located in the ski village, the recently remodeled Beech Mountain Brewing Company serves up seriously tasty local craft beers. They’ve merged with Blind Squirrel Brewery, and offer a healthy list of beers for any palate. My favorites were the Belgian Tripel and the Patroller Porter.
Other après ski options include the 5506’ skybar. It’s the highest indoor / outdoor ski bar east of the Mississippi. They’ve newly partnered with popular local coffee shop Bald Guy Brew, so take advantage of those specialty espresso drinks and fair trade coffees. Oh, and if they happen to be serving the Jamaican Jerk and Bean Soup in the View Haus when you visit, order two bowls.
There’s also still time to take advantage of Beech Mountain’s Skiing 101 package to celebrate national Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month. The package includes a beginner lesson, helmet and equipment rental, lift ticket, and one night of lodging in town.
Sugar Mountain – Banner Elk, NC
With 21 trails and 125 skiable acres, Sugar Mountain claims the title as the largest ski resort in NC. It’s also home to the only double black diamond run in the area, Whoopdedoo. Their newest slope, Gunther’s Way, provides challenges for both blue and black level skiers. It’s 150 wide and 2,900 feet long and includes a 700-foot vertical.
A sundry of rental properties are dotted along Sugar Mountain with easy access to shuttle service. Some are perched right at the resort’s main entrance. How’s that for convenience?
Non-skiers can opt for a one-hour snowshoe tour on select days. Just sign up at the Ski/Snowboard School. Outdoor ice skating and tubing are other fun ways to pass the time.
Warm up in the Last Run Lounge for Après ski and scrumptious fare. This full service bar and restaurant also features a cozy fireplace and TVs for those important sports events you don’t want to miss. Try the French Dip sandwich. The bread is crazy good.
Not a skier or snowboarder? Ice skating, snowshoeing, and tubing are plentiful at the above ski resorts. Or, visit the largest snow tubing park in the southeast. Located in Seven Devils, Hawksnest Snow Tubing Park offers 30 lanes from 400 to 1,000 feet long. Zip lining is also a fun option for visitors. This four-platform ride boasts scenic vistas of the park and surrounding mountains.
If you go…
Drinks and Bites
Lost Province Brewery. Located in Boone, their beers are ridiculously good and constantly evolving. And the food? Oh my. Best fried okra I’ve ever eaten, and I positively swooned over the Fun Guy wood fired pizza. I’ve also heard the Nutella Elvis pizza is a worthy choice.
Mile High Tavern. Situated in Beech Mountain, they offer the most craft beers on tap in the High Country. From quick bites like fried pickle chips and pot stickers to more substantial fare like homemade chili and baked wings (their blueberry BBQ is on point), food is freshly prepared and locally sourced. I’m anxious to return in warmer weather so I can sit at the Fire Bar for an extended period of time.
Casa Rustica. Founded and run by the Pedroni family since 1981, this cozy gem in Boone shares tried and true Italian favorites and an extensive wine list. Knowledgable waitstaff guide you with wine choices to complement your meal. I recommend the Fried Calamari and the Piato Di Mare. Save room for dessert. Leave the gun. Take the Cannoli.
White Wolf Lodge. These cozy chalets are situated on Beech Mountain. They also offer ski rentals and a gift shop. You should absolutely buy a pound of their homemade fudge. Or four.
Pinnacle Inn Resort. Also in Beech Mountain, their free in-condo Wi-Fi is a big selling point for me. An indoor heated pool, dry sauna, two indoor hot tubs, and a steam room make for pretty sweet post-ski recovery time.
Fairfield Inn & Suites. For folks who prefer a hotel atmosphere, this is a great option. Conveniently located near all the great stuff you want to hit while you’re in Boone.
There’s so much more to the High Country area than what I was able to share here. Check out VisitNC.com for more ideas to add to your “must do” list while visiting.