North Carolina is home to some of the most beautiful mountain chains in the eastern United States. Nestled in the Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains are plenty of wonderful places to hit the slopes every winter. The best North Carolina skiing is found in mid-winter on a sunny afternoon or a mild, snowy morning at one of these wonderful ski resorts.
Sugar Mountain is North Carolina’s biggest and tallest ski hill. This full-service resort offers some of the best North Carolina skiing for groups and families, equipment rentals, the fun Last Run Lounge for après-ski, lots of places to eat and most importantly, 120 acres of skiable terrain. The trails are divided into 40 percent beginner trails, 40 percent intermediate trails and 20 percent expert trails. There’s also have night skiing, a terrain park for snowboarders, and a tubing park.
Sugar Mountain is suitable for beginner skiers and boarders, with the gentle trail called Easy Street dedicated to any newcomers just getting their footing. Their ski school offers group lessons for anyone eight years old and up, and children can get beginner’s lessons in the Sugar Bear Ski School (age 5-10) and the Polar Bear Snowboard School (ages 7-14). Private lessons are available for all ages. For the experts in the group, Sugar Mountain features a trail called Whoopdedoo, the only double black diamond run in the area.
Situated in Blowing Rock, NC, Appalachian Ski Mountain is a smaller ski resort with 12 runs. It was the first ski hill opened in the area, and it has been operating since 1962. It’s a small hill, but it has some of the best North Carolina skiing for beginners, with lots of lessons for both skiers and snowboarders. Kids can take ski lessons as young as four, and boarding lessons starting at age seven. Appalachian has different beginner classes for every age group and varied levels of lessons to accommodate various skill levels. Whether you’ve never seen snow before or you just want to perfect your turns and stops, they offer a private or group lesson just for you.
Appalachian also has equipment rentals, a terrain park, and even night skiing on every run. Three of the trails are suitable for beginners, six are for intermediate skiers and three are more challenging, so intermediate and expert skiers will have the most variety. There’s also child care available during the day.
There are 16 trails at Cataloochee, located in western North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains, above the town of Maggie Valley. A quarter of the trails are set aside for beginners, another quarter of the trails are suitable for advanced skiers and boarders, and half the trails are classified as intermediate.
The hill has been welcoming families for more than 50 years, and it has one of the better snowmaking systems in the area. Cataloochee is also great for snowboarders, with the Cat Cage Terrain Park available. The Cataloochee Learn to Ski program is one of the best. From warm up stretches to learning how to stop, lessons are especially good for beginners just getting the hang of the slopes.
Beech Mountain is the highest ski area in North Carolina, and that altitude gives it some of the chilliest temperatures in the South and the most natural snowfall. Even in dry winters there is plenty of snow, as Beech Mountain also has 100 percent snowmaking capabilities on all its trails.
Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Beech sits more than 5,500 feet above sea level and has 15 trails and 10 lifts. There are lessons available for all levels at the Snow Sports Learning Center, including racing lessons and children’s programs. Beech Mountain also offers the best North Carolina skiing for special-needs skiers, as it is home to the Adaptive Learn to Ski and Race Clinic, one of the oldest adaptive ski clinics in the country.
Sitting in the heart of the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests in southwestern North Carolina (Cashiers area), Sapphire Valley is one of the most southerly ski resorts in the state. It’s also one of the smallest and most affordable places to ski in the region.
With only two runs — one beginner and one slightly more challenging, and three lifts — there are few crowds and no lines. Snowboarders are welcome on both runs, but there is no terrain park. There are equipment rentals and ski lessons available, but there are no specific programs for children and no childcare available.
Wolf Ridge Ski Resort
The Wolf Ridge Ski Resort is one of western North Carolina’s biggest full-service ski resorts. Located in the Asheville area, it has more than 20 trails – including three black diamond runs – which offer the most variety for expert skiers in the state.
There are five lifts, including two quad chairs, and lodges both at the top and the bottom of the hill. Boarders will like that the Terrain Park at Wolf Ridge was recently expanded. For beginners, there are three training areas and a magic carpet up the Goin’ South run set aside for people taking ski or snowboarding lessons at the Snow Sports School. Incidentally, if you see any information about Wolf Laurel Ski Area, you’re still on the right track; that is the previous name of Wolf Ridge Ski Resort.