Travel: Geaux Skiing

Head to the mountains this Mardi Gras
One Woman Carrying Ski On Mountain

Travelers this time of year are usually looking to escape Carnival. While there’s not much to escape from this year, there’s still the invigorating slopes for those looking to getaway. Many New Orleanians head west to the Rockies, but great skiing and other winter attractions exist to the east in North Carolina — and many times it’s more affordable. 

Three major ski resorts lie within 50 miles of each other in North Carolina’s High Country, about a five-hour drive from Atlanta, and all offer different experiences. In fact, North Carolina owns the highest ski areas and the largest snow tubing on the East Coast. 

Visitors may learn from some of the best at the French Swiss Ski College at Appalachian Ski Mountain, where more than 1 million people have learned to ski since 1969. For those who look to raise their blood pressure, there’s the challenging ski runs of Boulder Dash and Whoopdedoo at Sugar Mountain, not to mention ice skating and snowshoeing. Beech Mountain Resort and its surrounding town of Beech Mountain lies at 5,506 feet, the highest town and ski area on the East Coast. At Beach Mountain, it’s not uncommon for visitors to see snow almost year-round.

“I’ve actually seen snow on this mountain every month but August,” said Kate Gavenus, director of Beech Mountain’s Tourism and Economic Development.

North Carolina ski resorts receive adequate snow during their season from late November through March, but manmade snow is added when necessary. And because skiing’s an outdoors sport, and resorts such as Beech Mountain regulate admission through their website for social distancing, skiing’s a safe winter activity.

To check ski conditions and obtain information on winter sports, visit the North Carolina Ski Areas Association at GoSkiNC.com.


DO

Take in the numerous winter activities in the North Carolina mountains, such as skiing, snow tubing, hiking and ziplining. If you first need to learn, visit the experts at French Swiss Ski College at Appalachian Mountain or take in a group lesson at Beech for only $25. 

Hawksnest Snow Tubing in Seven Devils offers more than 30 tube lanes with moving carpets that bring you back to the top — no climbing to roll back down! It’s the largest tubing park on the East Coast, plus the attraction features the longest zipline in the eastern U.S. 

Beech Mountain Resort, offers skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and tubing, and much more for all ages.

STAY

The High Country offers a wide variety of accommodations. There’s only private cabin and house rentals and two hotels in Beech Mountain. Chalets rent as low as $250 plus fees for a two-night stay. A few corporate hotel chains exist by Sugar Mountain, but rentals are available there as well.

Chetola Resort at Blowing Rock resort offers cozy dining in Timberlack’s, once an elaborate mansion that’s now named for Bob Timberlack, one of North Carolina’s most famous artists. The full-service spa and indoor pool add to the relaxation experience. Blowing Rock with its quaint shops is a short walk and there’s still plenty of outdoors fun nearby.

EAT

After a day of winter sports, relax and take in the expansive view at Skybar at the top of Beech Mountain. Another place to restore energy is Beech Mountain Brewing Company, one of the only American breweries owned and operated by a ski resort. If the process of brewing interests, the brewing company offers tours. 

A cozy spot to enjoy dishes such as trout pecan or sesame pork chops is the Alpen restaurant and Bar in Beech Mountain, part of the Beech Alpen Inn. For something more casual, try the Famous Brick Oven Pizzeria, which doubles as an arcade with mini-golf and outdoor fire pits.