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North Carolina Ski Area Guide -- Very Complete

  • Appalachian Ski Mountain, Blowing Rock • 22 skiable acres on 365' vertical
    Specs: Summit elevation: 4000'; Base elevation: 3635'. 5 Lifts: 2 quads, 1 double, 2 surface. Uphill Capacity: 5650/hr. Terrain Mix: 22-45-33. Longest Run: 2700'. Season: usually November through late March. Night Skiing 7 days. Rentals. Annual Snowfall: 60". Snowmaking: 100%.
    The SKInny: You're in the south now, baby. The mountain is 4,000 feet of beauty, the ski trails are 360 feet of, uh, something. Have to remember that the next closest skiing is behind a boat on Lake Marion...you could do both on the same day if you were so inclined, so let's give Appalachian a break. The atmosphere here is decidedly friendly and low-key. It will give novices a thrill, and it's better than water skiing. Considering that pricing is substantially lower than many other Dixie ski resorts, Appalachian represents a great value for the infrequent or developing skier.


  • Ski Beech, Beech • 90 skiable acres on 830' vertical
    Specs: Summit elevation: 5505'; Base elevation: 4675'. 10 Lifts: 1 quad, 6 doubles, 1 j-bar, 1 rope tow, 1 paddle lift. Uphill Capacity: 8,300/hr. Terrain Mix: 30-40-30. Longest Run: 5,280'. Season: usually November through March. Night skiing 7 days. Rentals. Annual Snowfall: 80". Snowmaking: 100%.
    The SKInny: Beech may be the best known in NC, most popular, etc. Its claim to fame is being the "highest" in the east, but hey, it's all about vertical...Beech is on the low end of mid-sized eastern resorts. Can be quite crowded on weekends, which usually means slow going on the lifts, bodies and equipment strewn about the trails, you get the idea. The accomplished skier will put this third or fourth in ranking NC.
    Signature Trail: Oz Run.


  • Cataloochee, Maggie Valley • 25 skiable acres on 740' vertical
    Specs: Summit elevation: 5400'; Base elevation: 4660'. 4 Lifts: 1 quad, 1 triple, 1 double, 1 rope tow. Uphill Capacity: 2000/hr. Terrain Mix: 25-50-25. Longest Run: 10,560'. Season: usually November through mid-March, 7 days. Night Skiing Tues-Sat. Rentals. Annual Snowfall: 48". Snowmaking: 100%.
    The SKInny: Very few runs. Terrain is great on the handful Cataloochee has, but hotshots and wanderers will positively be bored out of their skulls. Rarely crowded, better conditions than most banana belt ski areas. In fact, of the truly "deep south" ski areas, well, (let me re-word that) Cataloochee is the southernmost "decent" ski area in the country. We pick on these places, but you know, every ski area on this page deserves an "A" for effort. And, truth be told, "The Cat" is often the first in the east to open! Shh, don't tell Vermont about that. And when all is said and done, this is a fun ski area.
    Signature Trail: Omigosh.


  • Hawksnest Resort has discontinued skiing operations.


  • Sapphire Valley, Brevard • 7 skiable acres on 200' vertical
    Specs: Summit elevation: 4800'; Base elevation: 4600'. 2 Lifts: 1 double, 1 surface. Uphill Capacity: 1,400/hr. Terrain Mix: 50-50-0. Longest Run: 1600'. Season: usually January through mid-March, Weds-Sun. Night Skiing. Rentals. Annual Snowfall: 30". Snowmaking: 100%.
    The SKInny: This is a resort that happens to offer skiing. We thumb our noses at this sort of thing, but fact is, we wish more resorts had skiing in the mix. From little friendly places like Sapphire come the skiers who move on to bigger mountains...all of the smaller areas on this page play an important role.


  • Scaly Mountain has currently suspended skiing operations.


  • Sugar Mountain, Banner Elk • 115 skiable acres on 1200' vertical
    Specs: Summit elevation: 5300'; Base elevation: 4100'. 8 Lifts: 1 triple, 4 doubles, 3 surface. Uphill Capacity: 8,800/hr. Terrain Mix: 40-40-20. Longest Run: 7920'. Season: usually November through mid-March. Night Skiing 7 days. Rentals. Annual Snowfall: 78". Snowmaking: 100%.
    lesson at Sugar Mountain circa 1970Sugar Mountain, circa 1970. Ski school appears to be using some type of Graduated Length Method instruction.
    The SKInny: Mid-sized resort with biggest vertical south of Snowshoe, WV -- some will say Sugar is more challenging. Often crowded, but seems to have good variety and a pleasant skiing environment considering the sheer volume of people that visit. Like any Dixie ski area, you'll want to weigh your desire to ski very carefully when conditions are rough. Not a favorite of wanderers, but hotshots can turn it up a notch here. As a result, you'll see some of the South's best skiers at Sugar. Also had good programs for beginners. Easily the best in NC, and they know it.
    Signature Trail: Boulder Dash


  • Wolf Laurel Ski Area, Mars Hill • 54 skiable acres on 650' vertical
    Specs: Summit elevation: 4600'; Base elevation: 3950'. 5 Lifts: 1 quad, 1 double, 3 surface. Uphill Capacity: 4500/hr. Terrain Mix: 12-44-44. Longest Run: 5280'. Season: usually December through mid-March. Night Skiing. Rentals. Annual Snowfall: 50". Snowmaking: 100%.
    The SKInny: Like a wolf, it's feast or famine. Great skiing, low prices, small crowds, lousy conditions, inept grooming, clunky infrastructure are the hallmark of Wolf Laurel. Friendly atmosphere, icy or mushy snow. Good place for novices to improve their game. Also, we like the mid station thing; young skiers can bail out at mid-station, ski a few, then do the top. It's a good confidence builder for the kids. Snow conditions seem to be the result of a throwback attitude -- skiing like it used to be. (It may be that they're just tightwads and don't want to blow a lot of snow) But when conditions are on, it really goes, arguably the best skiing in the state. Alright, alright, we complain about conditions all over the south. We don't ever want to discourage you from skiing Wolf Laurel -- or any ski area for that matter -- no matter what the snow conditions might be. Wolf Laurel is often compared to Vermont's Mad River Glen, but a better comparison might be Magic Mountain: Oh how great it could be.
    Signature Trail: The Bowl (when it's open)



Additional Links

Here's the granddaddy of all North Carolina ski websites, SkiNorthCarolina.com. Once you've used our state-specific information, this should be your next click if you're sole interest is NC ski areas.

This site, DC Ski, has quite a few members who frequent the sweet tea ski circuit. Great online community.

Use this to get Lift Tickets at Discount: There is a "clearinghouse" of sorts that many ski areas use to raise cash by selling discount tickets in advance, called Liftopia . If you haven't used this service, it is usually best to know for certain that you are going on a specific date. The deeply discounted tickets must be purchased in advance; generally up to two days out. The sticking point is that some ski resorts only make a limited number of tickets available to Liftopia for any given day, so they might be sold out if you wait too long...so, as soon as you are absolutely, positively sure that you will be skiing on a certain day, click this link to get deeply discounted tickets . I've used this service many times, usually when I am absolutely certain I will be skiing on a specific date. Some resorts offer "flex" tickets with which you can specify the date, and some have a few different tiers of pricing. In other words, you might be able to get a lift ticket that can be used on different days, but you'll pay a little more for that privilege. You need to have access to a printer to print out your receipt, and you have to take identification with you to the mountain. I've knocked a third off -- even half off -- the price of some tickets. Not every area participates, but it's well worth checking before you head to the slopes.

A tiny portion of your Liftopia purchase helps fund this website, at no added cost.

Key

Lifts We don't consider a ski area's tubing-only lifts as part of the total. Signature Trail Is mostly subjective. Whether it's history, reputation, the view, or degree of difficulty...it's the run you have to do, even if it isn't necessarily the best the resort has to offer.

Finally, a note about ski area statistics: Although it's hard to believe, some ski areas are (gasp!) less than truthful with their numbers. Like the guy who lies about his, uh, shoe size, some ski areas believe that inflated numbers make their resort sound more appealling. When these numbers are obviously questionable, we put a note: (?!) and will attempt to verify the legitimacy of the claim.

Incidentally, "Top Gun" was the signature trail at Hawksnest.

If the ski resort business interests you, I strongly recommend a book by Hal Clifford called Downhill Slide: Why the Corporate Ski Industry is Bad for Skiing, Ski Towns, and the Environment. It provides an inside look at the marketing logic behind clocktower villages, and the dubious practices of the US Forest Service that enables these resorts to be built. Fascinating reading.

Free Ski & Snowboard Stickers!

Show your passion for doing it up and keeping it real with a free "Old School" sticker for your helmet, or your board, or whatever. Just e-mail your mailing address to sticker -at- gondyline -dot- com and say "send me a snowboard sticker" or "send me a ski sticker" or "send me a ski sticker and a board sticker for my sister" or whatever. If you say "please" we'll send two. They look like this:

Ski Movies for Mere Mortals

Did you ever feel like those big money ski movies are often a big let-down? You get all pumped up for the new release from some ski film company, and it's mostly incredible footage of guys jumping out of helicopters and shredding down some un-named mountain on the far side of the globe. They're neck deep in powder, skiing lines that you'll never, ever see. If you want ski movies you could actually relate to, a bunch of guys called The Meatheads, from Burlington, VT have made a series of "Ski The East" films. They film at real resorts like Sugarloaf, Blue Mountain, Big Boulder, Mount Snow, Ski Sundown, Stowe, Jay, Mountain Creek, Killington, Sunday River...urban locations ranging from Virginia to Quebec...mogul skiing with The Hammer and Radio Ron...and backcountry throughout New York, New England, and the Chic Chocs. It's simply fantastic -- and since it's the same terrain we can get to, it's inspirational!

Their most popular current release is No Matter What , which received the ski equivalent of an Oscar for the Jay Peak powder segment, filmed during 2012 of all things. One that is probably their best is from a year ago, called Prime Cut . Another favorite is Wanderland: An East Coast Ski Thriller. All Meatheads DVDs have hours of "bonus" footage, so it's like getting three ski movies for the price of one. The links go to Amazon.com, which enables you to order and return if you don't like them. And a small percentage of the sale helps us pay the expenses of this website, at no extra cost to you.

Here's a preview, courtesy Youtube...