Ski Local: Hit The Slopes Close to Home
The mountains may be higher out west, but the Southeast provides some worthy ski areas of its own. And the best part is, you can ditch the pricy plane ticket. Prime skiing is just a short road trip away.
Appalachian Ski Mtn
Blowing Rock, NC
Operating since 1962, this family-owned and run ski resort is perfect for beginners and families with younger kids. Comprised of 12 slopes, it’s smaller than other area resorts and extremely easy to navigate. Trail options include three easy, three intermediate, three difficult, and three freestyle terrain parks.
Their French-Swiss Ski College is a must for beginners. Established in 1969, the ski school has taught more than one million people to ski and snowboard in the Southeast. Ski College instructors have trained folks in military Special Forces and Navy Seals units, so they know their stuff.
Probably my favorite feature of this park is that they don’t blow snow during hours of operation—unless absolutely necessary. One face full of snow spray, and you’ll appreciate this perk, too.
Another plus is that Appalachian Ski Mtn is the only ski resort in North Carolina that offers flex tickets. Your time begins when you buy your ticket, and it’s good for eight hours. Not having to fight crowds within designated time slots makes for a more relaxing ski experience.
Beech Mountain Resort
Beech Mountain, NC
As the highest ski area in the eastern US, Beech Mountain boasts more natural snowfall and chillier temperatures. They offer almost 100 skiable acres–plenty of room to spread out.
Beginners eight and up can take advantage of free lessons Monday through Thursday (with rental purchase—not including holidays). For more in-depth instruction, Snow Kamp is great for families with younger kids (3-5). Older kids (6-14) can take advantage of First Traxx. Camp fees include equipment rental, group lessons, slope pass, lunch, and snacks. These fun and interactive camps are a great way to spark a lifelong love of skiing.
The resort is reminiscent of a charming Bavarian village—which makes for a prime Instagram backdrop. The ski village is home to Beech Mountain Brewing Company, likely the resort’s most popular hangout. They serve a healthy selection of local craft beers for any palate.
Other après ski options include the 5506’ skybar. It’s the highest indoor / outdoor ski bar east of the Mississippi. They partner 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.
Sugar Mountain, NC
With 21 trails and 125 skiable acres, Sugar Mountain claims the title as the largest snow-sports resort in N.C. It’s also home to the only double black diamond run in the area, Whoopdedoo.
Their newest ski lift, the Summit Express, is one of the most sophisticated designed lifts in the world. This super fast, detachable six-seater chairlift zips riders almost a mile to Sugar Mountain’s 5,300-foot peak in just five minutes.
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 enjoy winter here.
Warm up in the Last Run Lounge for après ski and scrumptious fare. This full service bar and restaurant features a cozy fireplace and TVs for those vital sports events you can’t miss.
Residents of the Carolinas shouldn’t discount a road trip to Virginia for some great skiing.
“It’s an easy drive up here,” says Kenny Hess, director of sports and risk management for Massanutten Resort. “You’ll enjoy a four-lane highway the whole way.” Just outside Harrisonburg, Va., Massanutten Resort is a four-season resort with a strong snow sports game. Comprised of three beginner trails, six intermediate trails, and three advanced trails, Massanutten boasts 1,110 feet of vertical—the most in the area.
In addition, they offer two freestyle terrain parks. The CMB Terrain Park features its own lift and is open to snow boards, skis and snowblades. The Easy Street Terrain Park’s smaller features make it ideal for novices.
A real lure for non-skiers is their indoor water park and indoor rec center.
“We offer more non-skiing activities than any other resort in the mid-Atlantic,” says Hess. “Our skating rink, the indoor water park, and our zip line are all open throughout the winter.”
Practice your triple Lutz at the LeClub Recreation Center. The 4,250 square-foot outdoor ice-skating rink provides ample room to spin—or fall, depending on your skill level. If you want to take a seat and enjoy the ride, snow tubing at the Family Adventure Park is a great alternative.
Onsite dining opt-ions include Base Camp, Massanutten’s newest après-ski hangout. Nosh on jalapeño snake bites, varied flatbread pizzas, or a mushroom avocado burger.
With a top-notch terrain park, a fun area for families with young kids, and an exhilarating tubing park, it’s no surprise Wintergreen garners accolades from the likes of Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine and US News & World Report.
The Terrain Park provides more than 40 (often changing) features that let skiers and boarders of varying levels hone their freestyle skills. You’ll encounter everything from tabletops and fun boxes to rainbow rails and down-kinks.
Open winter weekends and holidays, Ridgely’s Fun Park is ideal for the wee ones. Located at Discovery Ridge, the fun park includes a mini-tubing carousel, tunnels, and a gentle hill for tubing. The resort mascot, Ridgely the Bear, might also show up for a photo op.
For a heart-racing tubing adventure, hit The Plunge. You need to be at least 42 inches or taller to ride it, and for good reason. The hill stretches over three football fields, and whisks you down the mountain at speeds up to 30 miles per hour.
No matter which state you decide to include in your outdoor adventures, a road trip this winter is a must. We recommend you hit them both!
Inspired to ski? Visit AAA.com to plan your ski trip or call 800-398-0379 and speak with a AAA Travel Specialist.