A ski resort with terrain for all levels and closeby lodging, lots of apres ski activities and a good ski school make for great vacations on snow.
Any amount of wind makes winter days seem even cooler than they really are, but so what? Bundle up and enjoy skiing at North Carolina’s ski resorts where the vibe is family-oriented and more of a Western-like experience than, say, the more jagged experiences of its neighbors to the north. So, learning to ski here is ideal. Then, you can ski or ride the tougher stuff here or hop into a modern version of one of Orville and Wilbur’s inventions and be in New England or the Rockies before you know it.
The Asheville Airport is 45 minutes away from the closest skiing. Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley is just 40 miles from downtown. The elevation at 5,400 feet allows for a long season using a state-of-the-art snowmaking system. The nearest airport to Boone is Tri-Cities Regional (TRI) Airport which is 45 miles away. Other nearby airports include Asheville (AVL) (72.9 miles), Charlotte (CLT) (80.5 miles) and Greenville/Spartanburg (GSP) (97.1 miles). But, if you live here, hop in the family car.
You won't lack for opportunities to ski and ride in North Carolina and you can choose from six ski areas and one not far away in Tennessee.
Here’s a brief description of North Carolina’s resorts:
Appalachian Ski Mountain (Blowing Rock): First known as Blowing Rock Ski Lodge when it opened in 1962, the ski area’s name was soon changed to Appalachian Ski Mountain. The area is known for its popular beginner terrain, family-friendly environment, and professional instructors who claim they have taught over a million students. There are 12 slopes (longest is half a mile), 3 terrain parks and 6 lifts (including 3 beginner lifts). The slopes are 100 percent night-lit and fully covered by snowmaking. Best of all: It’s just minutes from Downtown Boone.
Sugar Mountain (Sugar Mountain): This is a year-round mountain resort in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, just 16 miles from Boone, 82 miles from Asheville and 102 from Winston-Salem. Look for 21 slopes over 125 acres of terrain (15 lit for night skiing) served by 9 lifts including high-speed detachable six- and four-passenger lifts. The beginner area includes 2 magic carpets and a handle tow. The Base Lodge and parking are on the same level as the main highway making Sugar easy to reach. There’s plenty of lodging types in the village with convenient shuttle service.
Beech Mountain (Beech Mt.): This is the highest ski area in Eastern America, at 5506 feet, opening in 1957. There are 17 trails and a freestyle terrain park spread over 95 acres served by 8 lifts. Visit the 5506’ Skybar at the top of the mountain. The Alpine Village offers ice skating, game room, coffee shop, retail store, ski repair/rental shop, and a snack shop. Look for major improvements coming over the summer of 2022 with terrain redesign, increased snowmaking capacity and a new Doppelmayer quad chairlift. Slopeside accommodations are available including houses.
Cataloochee Ski Resort (Maggie Valley): The Great Smoky Mountains are home base for this resort. The slopes and trails are a mix of beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. There’s a 740-foot vertical and top elevation is at 5400 feet. The resort's 18 slopes and Cat Cage Terrain Park are great for snowboarders. There is no lodging onsite, but nearby Maggie Valley/Waynesville offers a variety of cabins, motels and cottages.
Wolf Ridge (Mars Hill): How accessible do you want your skiing and riding? Well, Wolf Ridge is only 5 miles from I-26 (Exit 3) and just 30 minutes from Asheville. Discover 15 lighted slopes, with four rated for beginners, nine intermediate, and two as advanced. The elevation is 4,700 feet in the shadow of Big Bald Mountain. You’ll play on 54 acres of skiable terrain with 100 snowmaking capability, and 3 lifts.
Sapphire Valley Resort (Sapphire): Enjoy a 1600-foot main run with a vertical drop of 200 feet serviced by a quad. lift. The beginner slope is 350 feet featuring a magic carpet. Asheville Regional Airport is located 1.5 hours (50 miles) from Sapphire Valley making it the closest airport to the ski area.
Ober Gatlinburg, Tenn. (Gatlinburg). OK, it’s not in North Carolina, but you’re in the general neighborhood. This ski resort and amusement park is 1.5 hours from Cataloochee ski area. Happen to be in Charlotte or flying in? It’s only 197 miles away. It transposes from an amusement park to a ski area after Thanksgiving – the only ski area in Tennessee. It is known for its state-of-the-art snowmaking system. The 2.1-mile ride up the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway lets you take in the panoramic views of the Great Smokies or you can drive up as well. There are 10 trails and a terrain park.
Yes. Banner Elk sits between the two largest ski areas in the state – Sugar Mt. and Beech Mt. This unique location makes Banner Elk a very cool ski town. Stay here and you’ll be near 2 ski areas and closest to the restaurants, coffee shops, breweries and nightlife.
Boone is a cool college and historic town in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western N.C. This is the home of Appalachian State University. There’s a distinct student-town vibe here, while also retaining the ruggedness associated with its past. Think Daniel Boone.
Asheville, more of a bigger city feel, has gained a reputation as a bit of a hipster haven. Architecture buffs will love wandering downtown which features a number of Art Deco buildings. It’s a vibrant place, for sure. Hop on LaZoom, the bright purple buses to learn some interesting and unique facts about the city's founding. Do some shopping at the open-air Grove Market. Check out the ghosts and ghouls on the Haunted Asheville tour.
Skiing and riding at home in North Carolina is generally a good experience and – most certainly – a terrific place to learn to ski or ride. It’s ideal for day trips, long weekends or even a mid-week ski vacation without having to pay for airfare or take long car rides. You won’t go wrong and you’ll be a family hero.