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Businesses Making Best of ‘Interesting Situation’ With Summer-Like Weather

Visitors to the High Country are soaking up the sunshine in short-sleeve, record-breaking warm weather and fishing at Grandfather Trout Farm on Tuesday. Photos by Ken Ketchie

By Jesse Wood

The High Country is packed with visitors and families this holiday season that would, in a typical winter, be on the slopes and tubing lanes enjoying a sunny, chilly day at the resorts.

But on Tuesday, they aren’t playing in the snow. They are fishing at the Grandfather Trout Farm, dining on the deck of The Bayou in Banner Elk, searching for gems at Foggy Mountain Gem Mine along N.C. 105 and ice skating at Sugar Mountain Resort.

And many of them are wearing shorts as the last patches of snow at Sugar Mountain Resort lingers after torrential rains that dropped nearly 2.5 inches in the High Country over the previous 24 hours.

“Oh Lord, It’s like Fourth of July or worse,” said Bill Wilkinson, owner of Grandfather Trout Farm in Foscoe, who had to order more fish for folks to catch in the pond that is located near the Watauga River.

Speaking over the phone on Tuesday, Wilkinson said that he had a waiting list of folks wanting to fish because he ran out of rods and reels earlier in the day. He said that most of the folks had initially made plans to come to the High Country to ski.

“They can’t do much else. They are here and they are not skiing, but they are looking for things to do,” Wilkinson said. “Everyone is making the best of Mother Nature.”

Tuesday was another record-breaking warm day, according to RaysWeather.com. At around noon, the temperature reached as high as 65.9 degrees in Boone. The previous record was 64 degrees.

Record breaking high temperatures have occurred several times in the past several days, and RaysWeather.com notes that Tuesday’s record breaking weather is the last for 2015.

Which is good news for the ski resorts. The temperature is expected to dip below freezing as early as either Thursday night or Friday morning.

But in the meantime, folks at Sugar Mountain Resort are taking part in the chair lift rides or ice skating. Sugar Mountain Resort co-owner Kim Jochl said that ice skating had been “strong” for the company’s bottom line in light of the weather.

Yesterday, Jochl mentioned that Sugar was doing what it could to “entertain people” who visited the area over the weekend – despite the uncooperative weather.

“We are trying to move forward and offer things for people to do,” Jochl said.

Fortunately, the rain stopped. If it’s not going to be cold enough to ski, it might as well be dry enough to enjoy yourself outside, such as having a beer on the deck of the The Bayou or ice skating or fishing or gem mining or any number of activities that are fun to do in the High Country.

“If we can’t have ski weather, then I appreciate the good weather because it allows people to come out, sit on our deck, bring their pets, play some corn hole, eat some good food and have a good time,” said Winston Ammann, co-owner of The Bayou. “We’re making the very best of an interesting situation.”

*Jessica Isaacs contributed to this story

Photos of Grandfather Trout Farm & Gem Mine on Tuesday








Folks standing outside The Peddling Pig in Tynecastle

Folks dining and drinking at The Bayou in Banner ElkFIXE_0736




Folks ice skating at Sugar Mountain ResortFIXE_0702