Hit the High Country Slopes
Boone is the gateway to the ‘Ski Capital of the South’By Renee C. Gannon
Photo courtesy of Appalachian Ski Mountain
Many winter sports enthusiasts head to the “mile high” ski towns in Colorado, surrounded by the epic peaks of the Rocky Mountains. While the High Country of western North Carolina may not be Colorado, the region holds its own considerable charm.
Elevations of up to 6,000 feet provide the winter weather needed to satisfy a range of skiing capabilities, as well as activities such as snowtubing, snowshoeing, ice skating and shopping — all within a few hours from most parts of NC to less than a day’s drive from the farthest eastern points of the state.
Boone anchors the High Country, and is within 45 minutes of ski areas and snowtubing. From the many locally owned cabins, inns, motels and chain hotels to the new downtown boutique hotel, The Horton (thehorton.com), visitors to the area use this Watauga County town as a jumping off point to winter adventure. With high-tech snowmaking capabilities to help Mother Nature, the ski areas stay white from November to March.
Appalachian Ski Mountain
This family-owned-and-operated ski resort opened in 1962, the first ski area in the High Country. The French Swiss Ski College prepares beginners and even experienced skiers with tips and techniques for tackling the 10 slopes and 2 terrain parks. ASM offers apparel rental for folks who would rather rent gloves, bibs, jackets and helmets. For non-skiers, a refrigerated outdoor ice arena awaits. The 46,000-square-foot, Bavarian-style base lodge offers a slopeside restaurant, panoramic observation deck and free Wi-Fi internet service.
For more than 50 years, Beech Mountain Ski Resort has provided ski trails for both beginners and experts. At 5,506 feet in elevation, Beech Mountain is the highest ski resort in eastern North America and boasts 16 slopes and 7 lifts; the longest vertical drop is 830 feet and the longest run travels one mile, plenty of room for skiers and snowboarders. Take time to enjoy a little “après-ski” at SkyBar at the top of lifts 5 and 6 (elevation 5,506 feet). Beech Mountain also rents snowshoes to venture onto the 20 miles of trails the town maintains. Other non-ski activities include snowtubing and ice skating, and sledding on the hill near town hall. A restaurant and brewery are also on-site (beechmountainbrewingco.com).
The 2019/2020 season marks the 50th year that Sugar Mountain has provided winter fun at 5,300 feet. The resort offers 21 slopes (from beginner green to double black diamond) and a terrain park, accessible by multiple ski lifts, including a high-speed, six-passenger lift. The lift capacity reaches 11,270 people per hour, giving everyone plenty of time to ski along the total 5 miles of trails. Sugar Mountain also offers snowshoe rentals as well as onsite snowtubing and ice skating, and has an on-site restaurant that overlooks the ski area.
Originally opened in 1966 as a ski resort, Hawksnest converted to all snow tubing in 2008, and added a 20-stop zipline course that’s open year-round. The abandoned ski lift towers and chairs watch from behind the base lodge as children and adults climb onto large tubes and zip, twirl and spin down more than 30 snow-covered tubing lanes, located in four separate areas and ranging from 400 to 1,000 feet in length. Above the tubers, ziplines carry those brave enough to bear the cold wind along cables reaching up to 2,000 feet long.
Boone & the High Country
exploreboone.com | 800-852-9506
Snowy adventures across our state