While the size and skiing of North Carolina resorts aren’t comparable to resorts in the West, the state’s western mountains is home to a handful of ski areas that are great for scratch the skiing itch or trying skiing for the first time. We’ve asked around and compiled the best ski resorts in North Carolina!
Due to COVID-19, safety measures were put in place by the State of North Carolina which impacted the 20/21 ski season. These included mandatory mask-wearing in public places, physical distancing and reduced capacity for indoor and outdoor dining. In Avery County which is home to Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountain, increased sanitization and disinfection protocols were implemented and lift tickets were required to be purchased in advance. Such restrictions are not anticipated to continue into the 21/22 winter season.
Not only does Sugar Mountain have the largest ski area and vertical drop in the state but it also has the best and most varied terrain. There’s more advanced runs here than anywhere else in the region. Unreliable natural snow means varying snow conditions here, though the resort is continually improving its snowmaking efforts. There are plenty of other things to do including tubing, snowshoeing, and skating on a 10,000 sqft ice rink. Quicker to get to from major cities than Beech Mountain, and with better terrain than Appalachian, it’s no surprise that Sugar Mountain can draw big crowds. There are slopeside condos and homes as well as hotels in the village, plus an even more options in Banner Elk.
With a summit of 5,505 ft, Beech Mountain takes the crown for highest ski resort in the East! While the 17 runs are short you can ski into the night with lighting and snowmaking covering all the terrain. The upgraded chairlifts keep visitors moving, so crowds and lines are rare. Even the buildings have been renovated over the years. There’s also a tubing park as well as a skating rink. Enjoy a drink at the mountaintop glass roundhouse skybar or head down to the unique Beech Mountain Brewing Company in the village, a two-level taproom with large fireplace. Other eating, drinking and accommodation options can be found in the town of Beech Mountain and Banner Elk.
Mere minutes from Interstate 26 and just 40 minutes from Asheville, Wolf Ridge Ski Resort is the easiest destination on our list to reach making it an easy day or weekend trip. Along with convenience and reasonable prices, this small resort can get crowded quickly. Night skiing is available across the 15 runs and there’s a tubing hill less than 1 mi away. You’ll find comfortable town homes and cabins conveniently near the resort, and there’s even an enclosed heated pool. For more lodging and dining options, head to Asheville. That’s also where you’ll need to go for a drink since Wolf Ridge doesn’t have a bar.
Cataloochee, with its panoramic views of the famous Great Smoky Mountain National Park, boasts snowmaking efforts that result in one of the region’s longest ski seasons. Its convenient access from Asheville as well as towns in Tennessee and South Carolina can sometimes make for crowded conditions, especially since there are only 50 ac of skiable terrain. But with the great value – including free skiing for seniors – you can hardly blame all those people for coming! All 18 runs are covered by lights and snowmaking, though the local climate means that despite the staff’s best efforts the snow quality can vary. The charming little town of Maggie Valley nearby offers a range of lodging and restaurant options with a few local bars to enjoy.
With its benign terrain, low prices, welcoming atmosphere and relatively easy access from Winston-Salem and Charlotte, Appalachian Ski Mountain is a good place for beginners to take up the sport. The resort’s 27 ac of skiable area mean novices can’t get too lost or too far out of their depth. Of course, it doesn’t offer as much for advanced or expert skiers, though there are three terrain parks for freestylers. Like most of the rest of the resorts in the area, snowmaking covers all the skiable terrain, and the mountain is also lit for light skiing. There are lodging options including cabin rentals next to the slopes and an even broader selection in nearby Blowing Rock.