- Overall Rating 2
- Family Friendly 3
- All Mtn. Terrain 2
- Terrain Park 0
- Nightlife 5
Pros: There are plenty of things to do nearby rather than ski.
Cons: It's probably the most dangerous place I've ever skied.
Recommended For: Single/Newlyweds
Date Visited: Feb 1, 2005
I really like the town of Gatlinburg. I've been visiting Gatlinburg for my whole life, over 40 years. I proposed to my wife in Gatlinburg and we spend a couple of weekends there every year. My kids absolutely love it and we have favorite activities that we cannot fail to do whenever we are there, kind of like traditions. It's the first place I ever skied, too. That experience with a bunch of friends when I was 15 is still as fond a memory today as it was back then. I loved it...because I didn't know any better. I recognize that there are lots of people who love it for the same reasons I did when I was just getting started on skis.
I've gotten to be a better skier over the years. I've skied all over the country and in Canada. After going back to Ober Gatlinburg I can say pretty confidently that it is the most dangerous place I've ever skied. Not just because of the terrain but because of the inexperienced people. I know every skier has to learn somewhere but Ober Gatlinburg is so narrow at the bottom there's just nowhere for anybody to get out of the way of some out-of-control and overconfident Floridian (of which there are many).
Firstly, the runs all funnel down to the same spot which happens to be the beginner area. The upper runs are narrow and usually difficult due to snow conditions making them off-limits to all but the more experienced skiers. This relegates the beginners to a very few runs at the bottom of the hill. Picture it: you have all of these beginners on this small slope and then you have more experienced folks who are just trying to wind their way through and get back on the chair. Then you have all of these people who were beginners yesterday but now can manage to stay upright but can't turn or stop trying to get through this mess, too. Add snow conditions that are usually icy (they can't help it, it's the climate) and you've got a situation!
The runs all stack vertically on top of each other. There are several runs which are named separately on the map but are actually just one "long" run. It always seems crowded to me for that reason. And not just crowded, but crowded with novices who don't know what to do because they eschewed the lesson and went straight to the lift.
I haven't had to deal with ski rental personnel since 1986 so I can't speak as to what that experience is like at Ober Gatlinburg, but the ticketing folks I've met seemed nice enough. The lift attendants seemed capable the last time I was there, although not terribly friendly.
I have always gotten there early enough in the day that I haven't had to ride the tram so I can't complain about that as others have. I understand the challenges the operators face with the climate being what it is, but that doesn't change the fact that it is the way it is: usually crowded with beginners on icy snow conditions.
I'd love to be able to like skiing at Ober Gatlinburg. It's the closest place to where I live that offers skiing and I even have a place in Knoxville to stay for free. I just can't enjoy skiing there.
I understand that it's the southernmost place to ski that has as many other activities to attract folks who want to experience snow but rarely get to do so. I get it. At the same time I'll never take my kids skiing there. We'll stay downtown and go to the Ripley's museum or something.