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.
If you like your skiing and riding laced with the sounds of country music, you've come to the right place: Tennessee.
There aren't a lot of choices vying for your ski vacation business here. In fact, there's only one: Ober Gatlinburg. But, if you're seeking a family resort tucked into the Great Smoky Mountains near the border with North Carolina, an hour southeast of Knoxville, this one will do just fine.
But, back to the country music. Nashville (Music City USA) is four-hour drive, while Bristol (the "birthplace of country music) is 2:19 hours away. But even better: Ober Gatlinburg is only 20 minutes from Dolly Parton's Dollywood at Pigeon Forge.
The ski area is on the edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with incredible mountain scenery. Operators realized the alpine location had one drawback – the access up and down Mt. Harrison. So, they installed the Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway way back in 1973. Two tram cars carry passengers from ample parking in Gatlinburg 2.1 miles to the ski area.
The tramway has transported millions of passengers. Service runs every 20 minutes from downtown Gatlinburg. Once at the top, enjoy the "base facilities" of this upside down resort (one of several in the U.S.) and ski down the mountain from there.
Ober Gatlinburg has 10 ski trails served by 2 quad chairlifts, a double and a surface lift, a summit elevation of 3,300 feet, vertical drop of 500 feet, 100 percent snowmaking coverage, and night skiing on all trails.
The longest run is 5,000 feet, just under a mile, and terrain is weighted toward beginner/intermediate skiers and riders. There is a snow tubing park as well that's lots of fun for everyone. There is a high quality ski school offering lessons for all levels of skiers and snowboarders. No terrain park here.
Understand that Ober Gatlinburg is a hugely popular year-round resort. Winter activities are focused, of course, on skiing and snowboarding, with plenty of snow tubing, ice skating and even ice bumper cars adding to the fun. You can enjoy snow tubing here, as well.
But, if you love the atmosphere, come back in the warmer months and enjoy the Ski Mountain Coaster alpine slide, scenic chairlift rides, wildlife encounter, carousel, rock climbing wall, summer tubing, water rafting and much more.
There are a number of ways to save money in the Smokies. Renting a cabin in the mountains is much more economical than separate hotel rooms if you’re planning to visit with a bigger group or with a large family. Lodging can be split between the group, and all your friends or family can be under one roof! Cabins can come with a wide variety of amenities, from game rooms to home theaters, to sometimes even indoor pools or private mini golf courses.
One of the best perks is cabins generally come with fully equipped kitchens so you and your family or group don't have to go out to eat all the time. With plenty of options for area groceries, prepping and cooking meals in your cabin kitchen will help you save money.
Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg offer discount attraction tickets in a variety of places. Get personal recommendations from staff at Welcome Centers or Chambers of Commerce. Ask about discounts to area attractions and chances are they’ll have some coupon booklets. Area grocery stores offer brochure racks, and these are a great source of attraction coupons and discount codes as well. Did we mention your smart phone? And remember, the Smoky Mountains is a no-fee National Park offering 800 miles to explore.
Sure. Ober Gatlinburg is a superb family destination and with the temperatures below freezing for a couple of nights, you'll find fresh snow. The resort normally begins to make snow in early to mid-December just as soon as favorable temperatures arrive. On average, the new season begins in early-mid December and often can last to mid-March.
There is just one ski resort in Tennessee, as explained above. But, Ober Gatlinburg is well worth a visit in wintertime.
The Great Smoky Mountains are a sprawling mountain range along the Tennessee-North Carolina border. The range is a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts including skiers and snowboarders and those enjoying other skiing mountain sports. There are no park fees, either.
Tennessee, because of its location in the southeastern U.S., exists in a humid subtropical climate. Don't let that word -- "tropical" -- throw you. Yes, it snows in Tennessee. Snowstorms frequent the Tennessee Smoky Mountains. Tennessee receives snowfall in January and February. However, the months of March, April, and December can receive a fair share. Tennessee’s Gatlinburg Mountain, for example, gets at least an inch of snow, giving it an average of 9 inches in snowfall a year. It’s somewhat of a dry type of chill with not much moisture in the air. The high temperatures during the season are likely to be in the mid-to-high 40 degrees F.
Oh, yes. The Village of Gatlinburg offers picture-perfect scenery, shopping and more. The small resort town, commonly referred to as the “Gateway to the Smoky Mountains,” lies at the foot of Mt. LeConte and was called White Oaks Flats during the 19th century. There are plenty of comfortable accommodations including hotels, motels, cabins, chalets and B&Bs, plus lots of restaurants. The Peddler Steakhouse and Cherokee Grill both get great reviews from customers.
Pigeon Forge is the home of Dolly Parton’s Appalachian-themed park a short drive from Gatlinburg. The park consists of rides, an adjoining water park and a museum of her costumes and memorabilia. The city’s other attractions include country music revues like the Smoky Mountain Opry, dinner theaters such as Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede and outlet malls. Visitors can hop on a trolley at over 100 stops throughout Pigeon Forge. You can get on and off the trolley as many times as you'd like throughout the day. You'll find lodging options here similar to Gatlinburg, but generally a bit less expensive.
OK, so it's not Aspen or Vail, but who cares? There's just one choice for family ski vacations in Tennessee and luckily, it's a great choice. Give it a try for something different this winter. Warning: Visiting here may become addictive as summertime can be even more inviting than winter.