Senses come alive atop the mountain. Eyes adjust as the sun’s rays bounce off a linen-white, fresh blanket of snow. Chilled oxygen burns the lungs. The air seems to smell cleaner at 5,000 feet. Ski tips hang over the edge of the slope, causing the chest to swell. The heart accelerates as fingers tighten around poles, toes clench inside boots, and the body propels forward. It’s a new day, a new run, and you’re king of this mountain. Let’s hit it.
Archaeological findings point to man making his way across snow using skis some 6,000 years ago. Luckily, today’s skier straps on boards to chase fun, not food. And the sport is no longer relegated to Eurasia’s arctic regions, but can be found less than two hours from Greenville. With an eye on outdoor recreation, enthusiasts started building ski areas in North Carolina in the 1960s. Today, six resorts operate from November through early April, as weather permits.
Widowmaker, Boulder Dash, Upper Omigosh—resorts just across the border feature trails serving an array of abilities, snaking through the Smokies and High Country of North Carolina. “The first time I ever went skiing was with my Scout Troop to Appalachian [Ski Mountain],” shares Eastside businessman Jerry Hunter. “When I became a father, going to Western North Carolina was a good way for my young sons to learn. You can go up and back in the same day, or spend the night and have a couple of days to ski.” His sons are now much older, and the family still hits the slopes, alternating between Beech, Sugar, and Beaver Creek in Colorado. “Out West is like Disney in the Rockies,” Jerry jokes. “It’s very expensive. Going to North Carolina is profoundly more convenient and immensely more affordable.”
Skiers will find one of the best deals of this season at Beech Mountain, which is celebrating 50 years of downhill schussing. The resort is offering throwback pricing for select night sessions. The same price as opening day half a century ago: $9 a lift ticket. “It’s an exciting year for us,” reveals General Manager Ryan Costin. “We want people to spend as much time outside enjoying activities as they possibly can.”
Back in the winter of 1967–68, Beech was the first regional resort to introduce skiers to a Swiss Bavarian Village, and it still does today, with the highest lift-served slopes on the East Coast. “That continues to be one of our strongest assets,” explains Costin. “A unique facility at 5,506 feet in elevation. A layout where you can navigate the village and experience all the wintertime activities we have here.”
Something happens to the brain, tangling at timberline with the raw elements. Perhaps it’s the feel of communing with clouds, or the rush of the wind filling your ears upon descent. A certain swagger comes from conquering waves of fresh and packed powder, using three-inch wide boards strapped to your feet. Flying downhill at 30–40 miles an hour, adrenaline and fresh air unite for an intoxicating mix. The run-out hits too soon. The tips of your nose and toes are frozen, yet the soul burns for another run. You’ve got to have it. You’ve got to do it again. More than 54 million Americans ventured to the slopes last year in search of that high. Now it’s your turn to grab the crisp, pine-scented euphoria.
Hit the Slopes
Local resorts offer easy ski access, gear rentals included:
Mountain, Blowing Rock, NC
Home of the South’s largest independent ski school.
365 ft. vertical drop /12 slopes / 3 terrain parks
From Greenville: 2 hours 40 minutes
Beech Mountain, NC
Highest lift-operated ski terrain in the eastern U.S.
830 ft. vertical drop / 17 slopes / terrain park
From Greenville: 2 hours 50 minutes
Maggie Valley, NC
North Carolina’s first ski area.
740 ft. vertical drop / 18 slopes / terrain park
From Greenville: 1 hour 50 minutes
Sapphire Valley, NC
Closest to Greenville.
200 ft. vertical drop / 2 slopes
From Greenville: 1 hour 35 minutes
Largest winter resort in Mid-Atlantic Region.
800 ft. vertical drop / 41 trails
From Greenville: 7 hours
Sugar Mountain, NC
North Carolina’s largest winter resort.
1200 ft. vertical drop / 21 slopes / terrain park
From Greenville: 2 hours 32 minutes
Mars Hill, NC
Sits inside Pisgah National Forest.
700 ft. vertical drop / 15 slopes / terrain park
From Greenville: 1 hour 55 minutes
Closest in WV to Greenville.
600 ft. vertical drop / 27 slopes / 2 terrain parks
From Greenville: 4 hours 30 minutes