If you want to put on your snow skis but don’t want to head to Colorado, Utah, or New England, hop 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 only a few hours 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 when you inevitably fall. The slopes start to open in November with artificial snow before the real snow arrives and generally remain open until the beginning of March. Be sure to check the weather forecast as heat waves can sometimes close the slopes.
Appalachian ski mountain
The road to Appalachian Ski Mountain climbs through an unassuming neighborhood dotted with houses until you find yourself on top of a mountain overlooking Boone, North Carolina. 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 alike, and the gentle beginner slopes even have treadmills to help you up the hill. If you don’t have ski equipment or clothing, don’t panic: the lodge’s ski shop has everything you need to hire. There’s also a cafeteria serving family-style American fare and a large outdoor patio for watching all the action on the slopes. Keep in mind that the Christmas and New Years holidays are extremely busy. Visit appskimtn.com for reservations.
Sugar Mountain Ski Resort
This resort has the largest ski area in the state and draws huge crowds. During last year’s break between Christmas and New Years, lift tickets were completely sold out, so be sure to book early. Once inside the resort, you will find very steep slopes – including a drop of 1,200 feet – and gentle slopes for beginners and intermediates. There are 21 trails on 125 acres, and high-speed ski lifts let you reach the peaks quickly and efficiently. If you don’t want to ski, be sure to check out the snowshoe trails, tube park, and ice rink. The lodge offers food and a large terrace overlooking the slopes. And if you’re hungry after skiing, head to the Pedal pig for some of the best barbecues in the state.
Beech Mountain Ski Resort
If ski snobs tell you North Carolina doesn’t have steep or difficult slopes, then head them to Beech Mountain. At 5,506 feet, Beech has the tallest ski area in the eastern United States. There are 17 trails on 95 acres with eight ski lifts to get you to the top. There’s also an ice rink and tube park, plus a large Bavarian-style lodge with food and views. At the top of the mountain, another lodge offers drinks and snacks and stunning winter views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Visit beechmountainresort.com for reservations and information. If you are a fan of “The Wizard of Oz”, Beech Mountain is also home to the former Land of Oz amusement park based on film and books. Although it has been closed for decades, it still partially exists and opens to visitors for several weeks in the fall.
Woolf Ridge Ski Resort
Located just 40 minutes north of Asheville, Wolf Ridge is a small resort ideal for beginner and intermediate skiers. Experts might find it a bit boring, but if you’re still learning this is definitely a place to visit. There are 14 trails and four ski lifts, with a drop of 700 feet at the highest slope. The lodge at the foot of the slopes offers food and great views. After a day on the slopes, you’re close enough to Asheville to head into town for dining, shopping, or exploring the famous Biltmore Estate. Visit skiwoolridgenc.com for reservations and information.
Cataloochee ski area
Open for over 50 years, this Maggie Valley resort is the oldest in the state. Cataloochee has 18 pistes and five ski lifts for beginners and intermediate skiers and snowboarders. A rustic lodge at the base has a large terrace and a catering service. Like the Appalachian Ski Resort, the road is steep all the way to the top, so be prepared when the snowy and frigid weather sets in. Visit cataloochee.com for more information.