If you want to strap on your snow skis but don’t want to travel to Colorado, Utah, or New England, jump in your car and head to North Carolina. The western part of the state has some great ski resorts that are not only affordable, but just a few hours away from Atlanta.
These resorts are perfect for families, beginners, and expert skiers and snowboarders of all ages. You’ll find death-defying vertical slopes or gentle hills for when you inevitably fall. The slopes start opening in November with man-made snow before the real thing arrives and generally stay open until the beginning of March. Be sure to check the weather because warm spells can occasionally close the runs.
Appalachian Ski Mountain
The road that leads to Appalachian Ski Mountain climbs upwards through an unassuming neighborhood dotted with homes until you find yourself atop a mountain overlooking Boone, NC. The old-school style ski resort has two slopes for more seasoned skiers and snowboarders, as well as two areas for beginners. It’s an especially good resort for kids and novices, and the gentle beginner slopes even have travelators to help get you back up the hill. If you don’t own any ski equipment or clothing, don’t worry: the ski shop in the lodge has everything you need for rent. There’s also a cafeteria serving up American family-style fare and a large outdoor deck to watch all the action on the slopes. Keep in mind that the Christmas and New Year’s holidays time are extremely busy. Visit appskimtn.com for reservations.
Sugar Mountain Ski Resort
This resort boasts the largest ski area in the state and draws huge crowds. During last year’s break between Christmas and New Year’s, lift tickets were completely sold out, so be sure to make reservations early. Once inside the resort, you’ll find very steep slopes – including a 1,200-foot vertical drop – and gentle slopes for beginners and intermediates. There are 21 runs over 125 acres and high-speed lifts get you to the summits quickly and efficiently. If you don’t want to ski, be sure to check out the snowshoeing trails, tubing park, and ice-skating rink. The lodge offers food and a large deck overlooking the slopes. And if you’re hungry after skiing, head to the nearby Pedalin’ Pig for some of the best barbecue in the state.
Beech Mountain Ski Resort
If any ski snobs tell you that North Carolina doesn’t have steep or challenging slopes, then direct them to Beech Mountain. At 5,506 feet, Beech has the highest ski area in the eastern United States. There are 17 runs on 95 acres with eight lifts to get you to the top. There’s also an ice-skating rink and tubing park, plus a big Bavarian-style lodge with food and views. At the top of the mountain, another lodge offers drinks and snacks and amazing winter views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Visit beechmountainresort.com for reservations and information. If you’re a fan of “The Wizard of Oz,” Beech Mountain is also home to the old Land of Oz amusement park based on the movie and books. While it’s been closed for decades, it still partially exists and opens to visitors for several weeks in the fall.
Wolf Ridge Ski Resort
Located just 40 minutes north of Asheville, Wolf Ridge is a small resort perfect for beginners and intermediate skiers. Experts might find it a little boring, but if you’re still learning, this is definitely one to visit. There are 14 runs and four lifts, with a vertical drop of 700 feet at the highest slope. The lodge at the base of the slopes offers food and great views. After a day on the slopes, you’re close enough to Asheville for a drive into the city for dinner, shopping, or checking out the famed Biltmore Estate. Visit skiwolfridgenc.com for reservations and information.
Cataloochee Ski Area
Open for more than 50 years, this resort in Maggie Valley is the oldest in the state. Cataloochee has 18 runs and five lifts aimed at beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders. A rustic lodge at the base has a big deck and food service. Like Appalachian Ski Resort, it’s a steep drive to the top, so be prepared when snowy and icy weather sets in. Visit cataloochee.com for more information.