What: Snow Skiing, Snowboarding, Tubing (call first for availability) and Ice Skating
Where: Beech Mountain, NC
When: Dec. – March
Cost: Lift Tickets begin at $20 for a half day lift/ $30 for a full day (more for weekends and holidays)
Ski Rentals begin at $16 (more for snowboard rentals and weekend /holidays)
Check the Visitors center or your lodging rental office for discount coupons. We found a $10 night lift ticket coupon (Mon. – Thurs.) at the Visitors Center.
Photos: For photos visit Field Trips with Sue on Facebook
According to locals, the North Carolina high country has had more snow this December than anyone can remember. That’s great news for Beech Mtn., one of North Carolina’s ski resorts with 15 trails (nine full runs) and 95 skiable acres. There are eight lifts including a high-speed quad lift to the top of the mountain. Beech Mtn. is the highest ski area in the Eastern US with a peak elevation of 5,506 ft. It’s also a great place to enjoy some real wintertime fun without having to hop a plan out West.
I haven’t been skiing since college and my children have never even seen a good snowfall, much less a ski slope. Beech Mtn. was a fabulous introduction to skiing and snowboarding and the perfect level for our family. My boys are eager to go again, and so am I.
Renting Skis at Beech Mountain
If you are renting skis from Beech Mtn., get there a bit early for the session so you’ll have time to fill out the forms and get your rentals adjusted. During busy times, there may be a wait for rentals, as each set of skis must be adjusted for the skier. Be patient and build in a bit of time. Skis are selected and adjusted based on height and weight, so for safety reasons, put down what you weigh, not what you wish you weighed. It may be cheaper to rent equipment elsewhere and bring it, however, the resort staff is only allowed to make adjustments to equipment they rent, so if you run into issues, you could be out of luck. Lockers are available for shoes, boots or other items you don’t want to take on the slopes. Locker rental rates are $7 for a small and $10 for a large. A large locker held five sets of boots easily and could probably handle a small cooler if you wanted to pack a lunch too.
Ski Lessons at Beech Mountain
If you’ve never skied, or aren’t comfortable skiing, I’d recommend a lesson. The cost is $22 for an hour (or $52 for a private lesson) and it is money well spent. I’m positive my boys wouldn’t have enjoyed skiing and snowboarding as much without the lesson. At the end of the session, instructors give a recommendation on the trails suitable for your ability. The ski school is run by Scott Boutilier, a former ski racer and professional skier. Scott spent a decade as the head coach of the Appalachian State Ski team and coached them to nine conference championships. He now manages the Snowsports Learning Center. Also good to note, Scott doesn’t recommend snowboarding for those 6 and under. He said size and coordination at that age make it very difficult for kids to be successful at snowboarding.
If you are a skier and your kids (ages 3 – 12) are just learning, consider signing them up for the Youth Learning Center. The program is $80 and runs 8:30 – 3:30 pm and includes slope pass, complete equipment package, instruction, hot lunch and adult supervision –best of all, it gives you time to ski at your ability for a while before hitting the slopes with a young, less experienced skier. Nursery services are also available for children ages 6 months to 3 years.
The slopes at Beech Mountain
The first day we skied, the snow was perfect. Nice base with powder on top. There had been a good snow before we got there and the mountain has more than nine snow machines (SMI Super PoleCat guns, if that means anything to you). The second day, the weather was warmer and the snow was a bit soft in some places near the bottom. Since I haven’t skied in more years than I want to admit, I didn’t try any of the black diamond slopes. The blue slopes were as fast as you want with fairly even terrain. It wasn’t that crowded, so the lines for the lift were short and in some instances, we just skied right on. The boys pretty much stayed in the play yard testing their new snowboarding and skiing skills (Thank goodness I didn’t go through the expense and hassle to go out West for them to stay on the bunny slope!). We did take them up the easy slope once. They would have been fine with a ski instructor, but I’m not a good teacher and two of the three ended up back in the play yard – which was perfectly fine with them. Since all trails (except Oz) lead back to the main area, it was easy to split up, yet still feel connected.
Ski Sessions at Beech Mountain
There are three ski sessions. A full day runs from 9 am – 4:30 pm., more than enough time for a novice skier to get their fill. Half-Day tickets are available for either 9 – 12:30 pm or 1 – 4 pm. If you aren’t sure about skiing, purchase a half-day ticket for 9 – 12:30 and if you want to continue, go to guest services and upgrade the lift ticket to a full-day pass. Twilight skiing is from 1 – 10 pm. The mountain closes down each day from 4:30 – 6:00 pm for grooming; it’s also the perfect time for skiers to grab a bite to eat in the cafeteria style View Haus or the full service Beech Tree Bar and Grille. I was told the busiest session is 9 – 12:30 pm – so if you want to avoid crowds, maybe try Twilight.
What to Wear
It may go without saying, but for any winter activity, the most important thing to remember is dress in layers, making sure the outer layer is waterproof. Skiing, snowboarding or any winter activity is no fun when you are cold and/or wet. Wool socks are a great investment, as are waterproof (NOT water resistant) boots and gloves. If you don’t want to purchase ski clothes and you can’t borrow what you need, Beech Mtn. offers limited clothing rental including bibs and coats for $14 each or $20 for both.
Skiing is the real draw at Beech Mtn., but there are other activities for the non-skier in the Beech Mountain Village including ice skating, as well as limited shopping. Ice Skating is $15 for two hours of skating (skate rental included).