When people think of snow skiing, they don’t usually think about the south, but some great Alpine skiing can be found in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. The Appalachian mountains may not be as grandiose as their western counterparts, but they are still pretty special, and winter sports abound. Ski enthusiasts from all around flock to North Carolina for winter fun and adventure.
“Skiing in the south is a big deal,” says Rick Crisler, a local resident of 50 years, ski enthusiast, and instructor. “Ski aficionados are impressed with what they find when they get here.” He says that each resort has its own special character and distinction, but all offer great winter fun on the North Carolina slopes. From bunny slopes to the highest peak and vertical drop, there is skiing and snowboarding for all levels of ability.
The resorts on our list are all within 2.5 hours of Charlotte and 2 hours of Asheville.
With a summit of 5,506 feet, Beech Mountain Resort is the highest ski resort east of the Rocky Mountains. Skiers and snowboarders of all abilities love Beech Mountain. The 95-skiable acres have 17 trails ranging from easy to difficult. Beech has the four best top-to-bottom runs and two freestyle runs. You can view the trail map here.
Eight different lifts include new quad and double-chair lifts. The upgraded lifts keep visitors moving, so crowds and lines are rare here. The resort’s snow-making capabilities are some of the best and cover 100 percent of the terrain.
Beech Mountain has four restaurants, two sport shops, and a full rental facility. 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 a large fireplace.
Where To Stay
Various lodging options can be found in the town of Beech Mountain, less than 2 miles from the resort. More lodging and dining options are in Banner Elk (5.3 miles), Boone (22 miles), and Blowing Rock (29 miles).
Appalachian Ski Mountain, Blowing Rock
Located conveniently between Blowing Rock and Boone, Appalachian Ski Mtn. is the closest resort to Charlotte, Winston-Salem, and Raleigh. Sitting at 4,000 feet, it’s the lowest North Carolina ski resort. It is also the smallest in terms of skiable acreage, only 27 acres, but it is a local and visitor favorite alike. They have perfected the art of snowmaking at App, giving them the ability to have a longer-than-average ski season.
The first ski area in Northwestern North Carolina, it is renowned for teaching beginners and families how to ski since 1962. The resort is home to the French-Swiss Ski College, the South’s largest independent ski school.
Most ski resorts have separate day and night sessions. Appalachian Ski Mtn. is the only North Carolina ski resort that offers a Flex Ski Ticket, meaning that you can buy one ticket for 8 hours and start anytime you choose. They also are the only resort that has late-night skiing until midnight on selected dates.
Guests can stay warm in the resort’s 46,000-square-foot, Bavarian-style lodge with its 200-foot observation deck. Inside is a restaurant with a fireplace overlooking the slopes, ski shop, gift shop, and TV lounge. Visitors can also enjoy ice skating on the outdoor rink.
Where To Stay
Appalachian Ski Mtn. offers slope-side lodging on-site. Four ski-in/ski-out chalets are within walking distance of the lodge. They also offer limited overnight RV parking with 30-amp electrical hook-ups. The cost is very reasonable at around $20 per night. Blowing Rock and Boone are both within minutes of the slopes (3.5 miles), where there are multiple options for lodging and dining.
Skiers most enjoy the “big mountain” experience at Sugar Mountain Resort. Boasting 125-acres of skiable terrain at 5,300 feet, it has the state’s largest ski area and most varied terrain, including an impressive vertical drop of 1,200 feet. There are more advanced runs here than anywhere else in the region.
Skiers will enjoy getting to the top of Sugar’s 21 slopes on the upgraded high-speed detachable six-passenger and four-passenger chairlifts, along with the fixed-grip double and triple lifts, handle-tow, and magic carpets. Fifteen of the slopes are lighted for night skiing and snowboarding. Snow conditions vary from season to season, but all of the slopes have modern snowmaking capabilities.
Winter activities at Sugar Mountain Resort include snowshoeing tours, tubing, and skating on a 10,000-square-foot ice rink. Note: Because of its easy access and activities, this resort is very popular and can draw big crowds. Be sure to check availability in advance.
For those wanting even more fun in the snow, Hawksnest Tubing is 7 miles from Sugar Mountain. Boasting 30 tubing lanes, it’s easy to spread out. Extreme adventure seekers can soar over the snow-covered Blue Ridge Mountains on one of two winter zipline tours.
Where To Stay
Sugar Mountain offers an array of lodging options in and around the slopes. There are slope-side condos and rental homes as well as hotels in the village, plus even more options just 4 miles away in Banner Elk.
Wolf Ridge Ski Resort, Mars Hill
North Carolina’s easiest ski destination to reach from any direction, Wolf Ridge Ski Resort, is just 30 miles north of Asheville. Its accessibility makes it perfect for a quick getaway day or weekend trip. Note: This small resort can get crowded quickly.
The top elevation of this 54-acre resort is 4,700 feet. There are 15 trails with four lifts. The double and quad-chair lifts take you to the top of the mountain with a mid-level unloading point on both. Night skiing is available.
The cozy rustic lodge at Wolf Ridge offers three stone fireplaces for guests to warm up by and has a large viewing area of the slopes. There is also a gift shop, rental shop, ski school, and a cafeteria-style grill that offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. There is no bar.
A large snow tubing hill is at a separate location just outside the ski resort. It has a magic carpet lift that transports tubers to the top of the hill and a snack shop.
Where To Stay
Wolf Ridge Resort does not have on-site lodging. However, there are nearby rental cabins in the Wolf Laurel Community. There are hotels within 15 to 22 miles away in Mars Hill and Weaverville. For even more lodging and dining options, you’ll want to head to Asheville.
Cataloochee Ski Area, Maggie Valley
At 5,400 feet, Cataloochee Ski Area offers breathtaking views of the famous Great Smoky Mountains. The higher elevation plus aggressive snowmaking at Cataloochee results in one of the region’s longest ski seasons.
Skiers and snowboarders of all abilities enjoy Cataloochee. The 18 slopes and trails are rated 83 percent beginner and intermediate, and 17 percent advanced or expert. There are double, triple, and quad lifts with mid-level unloading and loading. Ten slopes are lighted for night skiing.
The Ski Area’s convenient access from Asheville (38 miles on I-40) and towns in Tennessee and South Carolina can sometimes make for crowded conditions, especially since there are only 50 acres of skiable terrain. Pre-purchasing tickets online is suggested.
Snow tubing fun can be found at Tube World, located in the town of Maggie Valley, 4 miles from the ski area.
Where To Stay
The charming little town of Maggie Valley nearby offers a range of lodging from rustic cabins to comfortable hotel rooms, plus an array of restaurant options and local bars to enjoy. Check the Ski Area’s listing for lodging in the Maggie Valley and Waynesville area.
Note: Worth mentioning is Sapphire Valley, North Carolina’s southernmost ski area. Located just a few miles from the South Carolina border, it is less than 3 hours from Atlanta. Sapphire is only open on weekends, has one slope, one bunny hill, and one tubing run. However, the ski area is just 90 feet from the parking lot, making it an ideal location for mature or limited ability snow seekers.
All ski resorts on our list carry rental equipment and offer lessons. They all are open 7 days a week from mid-November, or December, depending on weather and snow conditions, until late March. All have night skiing options. Most resorts have discounts and specials. Be sure to check the resort website for information.
Most North Carolina ski resorts suggest NOT using GPS to navigate to their locations, as they are known to give inaccurate routes. Google Maps is the preferred method. You can find resort maps on individual websites. Download beforehand as cellular service can be sketchy in the mountains.
Winter weather conditions in the North Carolina high country can change in an instant. Dress in layers and have (or rent) appropriate gear. Keep in mind that highways can quickly become covered with snow and ice. Plan ahead and be sure to carry chains for your vehicle.
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