North Carolina Skiing & Snowboarding – Know What to Expect

Guide to North Carolina Ski Resorts

As winter gets into high gear, adventurers from all around the south are putting their snow ski racks on their cars, tuning up their skis and pulling out their snowboards in anticipation of a weekend snow ski trip on the slopes of North Carolina.

“The best conditions for skiers and snowboarders exist when there is a healthy combination of natural snow and the man-made stuff.”

The NC ski report promises to be a good one this year. The temperatures have remained consistently cold, and Mother Nature is being generous with the real snow so, ski conditions are perfect to snow ski. North Carolina skiing will be a blast this season. Some of the highest peaks in the Blue Ridge Mountains are located in the northwest corner of North Carolina, standing guard over the quaint little resort town of Banner Elk in Avery county.

skiing beach mountain
skiing Beech Mountain

Just east of the continental divide is Grandfather Mountain, the highest peak in the Blue Ridge, and to the northwest of Banner Elk looms Beech Mountain, which boasts of being the most upper ski area in eastern North America. Sure Mount Mitchell is higher, but it’s in the Black Mountains, a subrange of the Blue Ridge, and there’s no snow skiing there.  Although the elevation is high, and our slopes are vast and challenging, North Carolina skiing does have its ups and downs.

This is still the south, and annual snowfall isn’t anywhere near that of New England, where, unlike the North Carolina lakes, lake effect snows keep the ski slopes blanketed pretty much all through the winter. The best scenario for natural snow in the NC mountains is when moisture from an Atlantic storm system collides with a polar jet stream dipping far into the southeast Appalachians – a situation that happens far too seldom to run a profitable ski resort throughout the season.

Undaunted by Mother Nature, the fine folks of this northwestern part of North Carolina looked at the vast mountain slopes and their lack of natural snow and decided to do remedy the situation. North Carolina skiing in resorts like Sugar Mountain, Beech Mountain, and even Hawksnest snow ski resort became early adopters of snow-making technologies. Today, human-made snow supplements real snow even in regions of the most substantial natural snowfalls.

In North Carolina, the roar of the snow guns reverberates throughout the valley any time the temperature dips around freezing. Thanks to modern snowmaking machines, the North Carolina ski and snow resorts can stay open throughout the winter with excellent ski conditions – as long as it freezes, of course. The optimal snow conditions for skiers and snowboarders exist when there is a healthy combination of natural snow and the human-made stuff. When this occurs, skiers and snowboarders on our vast mountain trails have an experience that rivals any of the east coast ski resorts.

For the times when North Carolina weather, aka Mother Nature, isn’t so helpful, some snow skiing conditions arise that every NC visitor should be made aware of.

As the season progresses, daytime temperatures rise above freezing, and the sun shines stronger on the slopes. In these conditions, snow (human-made or not) will tend to melt, providing for a wet, slushy skiing experience – in itself something to handle.

Signs of this condition include a sudden slowing down and an inability to make a successful turn or cut. A well-waxed ski may allow you to glide more easily through this “slush puddle,” but it’s best not even to try turning.

Of course, the proper snow ski clothes can make a big difference in the way you can handle these adverse conditions.

On the other hand, as nighttime temperatures fall below freezing, and the snow blowing starts, the snow that melted to slush during the day now turns to ice. The ice patches can be very dangerous, and cause you to speed up uncontrollably, feeling kind of like you’re slipping out from under your feet you on a frozen pond.

A well-tuned pair of skis with sharp edges digging into the ice is your best bet for slowing down. Patches of ice can sometimes hide under cover of freshly blown snow, which can be a surprise. Any large pieces of ice are usually well marked, and snowcats can help break up the ice, grooming the surface to make for a safer, more enjoyable skiing experience. Repetitive days and nights of these conditions can cause large patches of ice, and will eventually lead to the closing of trails (and the entire slope) as the season progresses.

To be sure, these conditions exist at all snow ski resorts and are a natural progression of the season. It just seems to be more exaggerated in the south!

The North Carolina Ski Patrol vigilantly checks all trails, marking bare spots and patches of ice, and will not hesitate to close trails where hazardous conditions persist. State-of-the-art snow grooming equipment and the ability to generate a fresh cover of snow gives the North Carolina ski resorts just the edge they need to provide for a more uniform surface condition, allowing for a fun, longer and safer ski season.

Banner Elk, NC Ski Resorts

Banner Elk is an outdoor haven that features a variety of hunting, fishing, and camping opportunities. Visitors to this North Carolina destination also enjoy several accommodation choices as well as restaurants, shopping, and more. The annual Wolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk is the local equivalent of Groundhog Day, with residents using a caterpillar to determine the length and severity of the remaining winter months. Regardless of the length of the season, skiing is a popular activity during the winter months, with nearby Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountain offering a variety of terrain for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels. The Beech Mountain and Seven Devils resorts also include golf courses for visitors to enjoy in the warmer months.

When the snow hits, head for the slopes! These listings for ski hills, ski resorts, and snowboard terrain parks in Banner Elk, North Carolina, can help you find what you are seeking. Start planning your Banner Elk ski and snowboard vacation here by using the detailed descriptions, maps, and reviews.

Sugar Mountain Resort
The resort chairlifts are capable of transporting up to 8,800 people per hour up the hill. The slopes lay upon 115 skiable acres. Night skiing is also available. Located at the resort are a cafeteria and lounge. Also provided are Snowshoe Guided Tours. The vertical drop of the hill is 1,200 feet.

Hawknest Resort – The Winter Resort
Enjoy skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing in the Snow Tubing Park. This resort is the only one in North Carolina that is open all week. The resort is open for 17 hours on Fridays. Located in the resort is a ski shop, which sells goggles, gloves, sunglasses, and T-shirts.

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