In the past few years, North Carolina’s Beech Mountain Resort has positioned itself to be a powerhouse in the realm of four season outdoor recreation. Beech went all in with downhill and cross-country mountain biking, becoming one of the best places to gravity ride on the East Coast — and this is saying something in a state as well known for singletrack as it is for basketball. The mountain hosted the Gravity Nationals in 2011 and 2012 and was the scene for the Collegiate Nationals in 2013, hosting the best college riders from around the nation (and by around the nation, we mainly mean Colorado). With the recent development of the Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park, Beech Mountain and the greater Boone area is rapidly capitalizing on the growth of mountain biking and downhill riding in particular.
Despite this influx of biking infrastructure, however, Beech Mountain Resort remains a skier’s mountain. Conveniently nestled on a sliver of land surrounded by national forest just north of Linville, Beech is the highest ski area in the eastern U.S. with an elevation of 5,506 feet at the summit, with 95 skiable acres, 830 feet of vertical, and 16 trails served by 7 lifts. The mile-high elevation means if there is snow in the area, it is falling at Beech, but this is still North Carolina so the battle against Mother Nature is constant. For the 2013-14 ski season, Beech has made significant improvements to its snowmaking capabilities, says the mountain’s Talia Freeman.
“This summer we added an additional 12 new SMI Super PoleCat snow guns,” she said. “That ups our snowmaking system to 40 total SMI guns, so this gives us a pretty sophisticated snowmaking system. This is the largest modification of our snowmaking capabilities that we’ve ever had and it completely replaced our old compressor system.”
Beech boasts snowmaking on 100 percent of their trails, so if the temperature cooperates, the slopes will be open.
Speaking of open slopes, another big change at Beech for this year involves a scheduling change. Previously, Beech closed to groom the slopes between the day session and night session, but no more. The slopes will be open from 9am to 9pm on weekdays and 9am to 10pm on weekends.
“We think that the streamline hours will allow us to provide a longer and more enjoyable experience for our customer base,” said Freeman. “We aren’t doing a session break anymore. It will be a nice addition for our customer base.”
This will allow more skiers and boarders shred one of Beech’s terrain parks designed by Director of Operations Ric Wilkinson, now in his second year at the helm. Freeman says big improvements were made in that department last season, and this year Beech features two parks – one advanced and the other a progression park where youngsters can learn new tricks. Freeman also says there is a continuing commitment at the mountain to get first timers and local kids on the slopes through learn to ride programs and clinics throughout the year.
On the events and amenities side, Beech is bringing back its very popular Totally 80’s Retro Weekend at the end of February featuring parties, costume contests, and a banked slalom race. There is also a new facility at the top of the mountain: a skybar/lounge/snackshack called 5,506.
“It’s a really cool facility. The deck in front of the lounge area is about 2,200 square feet, it’s really large. The view up there is incredible. It’s kind of like a little glass round house, so we’ll have food and drinks and snacks up there, and then the viewing deck is really cool. It will be a nice addition to the top of the mountain and something we can use year-round.”
There’s that term again: year-round. Beech may be expanding its clientele into all four seasons, but with the improvements geared toward the winter, Beech remains committed to skiers and boarders. They know where their bread is buttered.