My friend and I have been skiing and riding for about 5 years and spend time in Tahoe and last season went to Whistler. This trip to NC was our first skiing adventure in NC and we knew ahead of time to take the ski area for what it was and not try to compare to Western ski resorts.
All in all, we were pretty happy with the Cat. We lucked out though. The day before we bought tickets we dropped by to scope the place out. It was overcast, chilly, snowblowers were running everywhere covering people, visibility was limited. But the next day the sun had come out, the blowers were off, the crowds thinned and the snow turned out to be great, even though only about 1/2 the mountain was open.
Considering it's a small NC ski area, we liked the Cat. It gave us a chance to get our first skiing of the season in so we could work out the rust and we had fun. It was crowded, but not terribly so. The lodge could easily be twice its size to accomodate everyone and I didn't even attempt to try going into the ski shop (too small and crowded). We found the people there to be nice and hospitable - probably because they weren't inundated with a million people that day.
OVERALL - I think the Cat was fine for a quick trip. I wouldn't expect too much from it and I would avoid weekends as much as possible, but I can also believe some of the horror stories I've read here. I can totally imagine them to be true when things get insanely busy. Maggie Valley itself is almost depressing. It should tell you a lot when there isn't a McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks, or other major chain in town - not that I love those places, but it IS an indicator.
I find it really interesting there are such wide variations of experience from the people writing reviews. I'm sure a lot depends on when each person visits a resort, and some is a matter of subjective opinion. I also have to wonder (especially with anonymous postings) how many times management or staff from some of these resorts put up their own glowing reviews of a place seemingly countering what others have just written. I've seen a few reviews that sounded a little too much like the glossy brochures they send out! :-)
Happy skiing and riding to all.