It’s time to wax and sharpen your skis. The slopes are starting to open in the mountains of North Carolina, thanks to a cold blast that trailed Hurricane Nicole last week. Resorts in the High Country have fired up the snowmaking machines with hopes of keeping the action going until spring.
“Those elevations are among the highest east of the Rockies, and winter temperatures align perfectly for state-of-the-art snowmaking,” said Wit Tuttell, executive director of Visit North Carolina.
Out of the state’s six ski areas, Sugar Mountain Resort and Cataloochee Ski Area are already open for business, and Appalachian Ski Mtn. and Beech Mountain Resort are currently planning to open this weekend. With more openings on the horizon, here is a run down of where you can hit the slopes in North Carolina.
The North Carolina High Country’s first ski area, Appalachian Ski Mtn. is known for its beginner-friendly terrain. It’s the home of the French Swiss Ski College, the South’s largest independent ski school; Burton Learn to Ride; and SKIwee. This season brings a new RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) ticketing system to streamline the experience. The resort also boasts the App Terrain Park with three separate terrain parks with up to 60 rails, boxes, tabletops and other features.
Peak elevation: 4,000 feet
Vertical drop: 365 feet
Lifts: 2 quads, 1 double, 1 surface, 2 conveyors
Other activities: Ice skating
Off the slopes: Lodge with restaurant, ski shop, gift shop and locker room
Other: Jackets, bib pants gloves and goggles are available for rent
At 5,506 feet, Beech Mountain is the highest ski area in the East. For 2022-23, the resorts terrain park has been converted into a beginner, but two new parks have been established in other areas. Other upgrades include a new Doppelmayr quad chairlift (replacing a double) and a new all-weather snowmaking system for the tubing park. Beech offers the Ski and Ride School; Burton Learn to Ride, Traxx and Snow Kamp for children. After a day of skiing, check out the central alpine village, the 5506′ Skybar, and a resident brewery.
Peak elevation: 5,506 feet.
Vertical drop: 830 feet.
Lifts: 4 quads, 2 doubles, 2 carpet conveyors
Other activities: Tubing
Off the slopes: The resort’s alpine village offers food and beverage including Beech Mountain Brewing Co., First Chair Coffee Shop, multiple fire pits, retail and equipment rental
Other: Bibs and coats are available for rent
At the edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cataloochee opened in 1961 to become North Carolina’s first ski area. It features one of the region’s longest seasons in the region, with help from its advanced snowmaking system. Cataloochee offers lessons at the Ski & Ride Center and CAT Trackers for kids.
Peak elevation: 5,400 feet
Vertical drop: 740 feet
Lifts: 1 double, 1 triple, 1 quad, 3 conveyors
Other activities: Tube World in Maggie Valley
Off the slopes: Lodge with fireplace, restaurant, lounge and on-mountain shop
Other: Bibs and jackets are available for rent
Sapphire Valley Ski Area is part of a 5,700-acre, four-season resort. It’s popular with families and beginners who want lessons. Target opening is Dec. 17, and the well-known Great Outhouse Races take place on Feb. 18..
Peak elevation: 3,400 feet
Vertical drop: 200 feet
Lifts: 1 quad, 2 carpet conveyors
Other activities: Frozen Falls Tube Park and the Vordach Zip Line
Off the slopes: Base lodge park and fire pit plus the Slopeside Tavern, Mica’s Restaurant and Pub, and The Fix Restaurant and Bar
With 125 skiable acres, Sugar Mountain is North Carolina’s largest winter resort, and it features the state’s only double black diamond slope, as well as a high-speed, detachable, six-passenger chairlift. Joining the lineup of lifts for 2022-23: Oma’s Meadow chairlift, a high-speed, detachable, four-passenger Doppelmayr lift that cuts travel time from nine minutes to just over two. Lessons are available at the adult and children’s Snowsports Schools.
Peak elevation: 5,300 feet
Vertical drop: 1,200 feet
Lifts: 1 fixed-grip quad, 2 doubles, 1 high-speed six-pack, 2 high-speed quads, 1 surface, 1 carpet conveyor
Other activities: Skating, tubing and snowshoeing
Off the slopes: Base lodge with two cafeterias, the Last Run Lounge with full-service bar, locker room and shop
Other: Clothing rentals are available
Thirty miles north of Asheville off scenic Interstate 26, Wolf Ridge sits just inside Pisgah National Forest. The resort’s Snow Sports School offers group and private lessons for beginner to intermediate skiers and snowboarders. Travelers will find updated lighting for night skiing, and on busy days, a shuttle van will run from parking areas to the lodge. Opening date to be announced soon.
Peak elevation: 4,700 feet
Vertical drop: 700 feet
Lifts: 1 quad, 1 double and 2 surface lifts
Off the slopes: Base lodge with three large fireplaces, gift shop and food service
Other activities: Tubing
Cover photo courtesy of Getty Images