Ski Beech proves Southerners know a thing or two about snow.
By Hope S. Philbrick
“Skiing turned wintertime ‘from a dreary period of indoor living into an outdoor recreational fairyland’.”
—promotional booklet for the Snow Carnival of the South, 1971
Southerners’ reactions to snow flurries typically elicit scowls and howls from folks living in other parts of the U.S. where winter is a harsher reality (yes, just weeks ago two inches of snow brought Atlanta to a standstill).
But snow accumulation in the mountains of North Carolina doesn’t drive folks indoors; it lures crowds to its slopes.
“The runs at Beech Mountain Resort are comparable to those at Lutsen,” said my Minnesota-born husband, who didn’t quite believe me when I told him I’d discovered some excellent skiing facilities in North Carolina—a state that borders our current home state of Georgia. In search of ideal ski conditions, he’s traveled the world.
One day on the slopes at Beech persuaded Dean that we don’t need to travel far north, west or overseas in order for him to enjoy his favorite sport. In fact, gasp!, North Carolina just may have Minnesota beat: “The runs are at a higher elevation,” he noted, “which means they can have better snow conditions.” He said that the Beech runs are long, wide, offer varied terrain, and the lifts are easy to access. The 830-foot vertical rise reminded him of Vermont.
At 5,506-feet above sea level, Beech Mountain is home to the highest ski resort east of the Rocky Mountains. With 16 total trails and 10 lifts, Beech Mountain Resort boasts terrain suited to beginner as well as expert skiers plus two freestyle terrain areas for snowboarders.
While my husband seems to have snow in his veins, I don’t ski. So while he swooshed around in the cold, I contented myself with sipping hot chocolate—that may have been enhanced with a shot of Bailey’s—at the new Skybar. Located at the top of a lift inside a glassed-in yurt, it’s a warm haven with 360-degree views. Later, I toured the new Beech Mountain Brewing Co. facility in the Alpine Village. The new brewery is turning out some tasty beers, including the Blind Squirrel Nut Brown Ale.
Beyond skiing and drinking, the resort also offers a 7,000-square-foot outdoor skating arena and winter guided hikes on eight different trails. The Alpine Village boasts four restaurants, four retail shops, an outdoor fire pit, and Wi-Fi service.
It’s a place to enjoy serious winter fun.
Where To Stay…
Accommodation options abound in this town that relies on tourism. We opted for a two-bedroom condo in the heart of town at Klonteska. The condo boasted upscale finishes including hardwood floors, granite countertops, a fully-equipped kitchen, flat-screen TVs in the living room and both bedrooms, and one of the two bathrooms had a whirlpool tub. It was located just a short walk from Fred’s and a short drive from the slopes. Rates from $90/night.
Curious about another lodging option? Try 4 Seasons at Beech.
Where To Eat…
Fred’s Backside Deli
This casual deli is located at Fred’s General Mercantile, which is the heartbeat of town and is open 365 days a year—which comes in real handy if roads start icing but your condo is within walking distance! Fred’s celebrated 35 years of business on February 9, 2014; it first opened that date in 1979 and has been open every day since. The general store sells just about everything, upholding the motto, “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” The service here is casual (you’ll be eating with plastic forks and filling your own beverages), and the food simple. But simple is satisfying when you’re hungry. Really, how fussy do you really need your eggs or cheeseburger to be?
Valle de Bravo
This new restaurant brings Mexican flavor to the Beech Mountain dining scene, and based on the popularity of the place it’s what locals have been craving. If you judge a Mexican restaurant based on whether or not you’re presented a complimentary basket of chips and salsa soon after you’re seated, this place will not disappoint. The menu offers combination plates of traditional items as well as a few more creative entrées. The full-service bar serves up margaritas, Mexican beers and more. Ole!
Beech Mountain, N.C., sits at an elevation of 5,506 feet, making it the nation’s highest town east of the Rocky Mountains.
Winter snows average 84.6 inches.
Beech Mountain Resort first opened in 1967. It’s always offered a ski school. (2014 rates for adult private lessons from $52/hour; group lessons from $22/hour.)
The town has a full-time population of 350, but visitors swell the number as high as 10,000 during the winter and 5,000 in the summer.
Odds of Encountering Children: Varies. We encountered few youngsters during our two-day visit during a February work week when school was in session.
Beech Mountain Resort
Adult lift/slope rates from $25. Equipment rentals from $16.
— Photo Credits: red coat and leaping skiers by Kristian Jackson; lift over slopes courtesy Beech Mountain TDA; view from slope by Louis Nesbitt; skybar by Craig Distl; condo & restaurants © HSP Media LLC
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