By Harley Nefe
In the heart of Beech Mountain, families are welcoming back winter by enjoying a youth sledding hill that is open daily from early December through early March for residents and visitors alike to have some winter fun in the snow.
Sledding conditions are a result of natural winter precipitation and are enhanced by snow gun made snow when needed. Therefore, the opportunity for sledding lasts throughout the winter season.
“The sledding hill is functional,” said Armando Garcia, Town of Beech Mountain’s Visitor Center Administration Assistant. “It has a whole lot of snow on it right now.”
Due to the recent snowfall and flurries the past few days, the sledding hill has a decent amount of snow on it and a good base from the man-made snow.
Located next to the Visitor Center at 403 Beech Mountain Parkway, the hill provides free sledding opportunities designed for children 12 and under. The hill is steep enough for the older kids to have fun while also having gentler sloping areas for younger children.
“In order to accommodate all of the visitors because it is super popular and in how we are coming into one of the busiest weeks between Christmas and New Years, the town has set up a second sledding hill now,” Garcia said.
The Town of Beech Mountain opened a second, slightly bigger sledding hill across the street from the original hill.
The sledding hills are operated by the Beech Mountain Parks and Recreation Department with safety personnel on duty between the hours of 1-5 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on weekends and select holidays, weather permitting.
“But pretty much, as long as it’s daylight, we let people out there play and have some fun,” Garcia said.
However, if people choose to visit the sledding hills outside of the hours of operation, it is not supervised, and they are sledding at their own risk. Parents are strongly encouraged to supervise their children, and are allowed to ride with younger kids.
“As long as it’s daylight and people want to be out there having fun, they can,” Garcia said.
Plastic sleds are required to utilize the areas. Folks may bring their own, or they are available for rent or purchase at stores within walking distance of the sledding hills. Garcia said right next door to the hill, people can rent sleds out for $5 a day.
Parking is available for people across the street near the Brick Oven Pizzeria (which serves hot chocolate), while Wi-FI and warm restrooms are available in the Visitor Center.
Many families make a day of it on the mountain by sledding at the hill, then warming up and learning about other things do at the Visitor Center, and eating a meal at one of the Beech Mountain’s restaurants.
Residents and visitors are also encouraged to call (800) 468-5506 to receive live updates on sledding conditions.
“We provide real-time updates from the sledding hill,” said Beech Mountain Tourism Director Kate Gavenus. “All we have to do is look out the window.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sledding hills are operating with new restrictions in place. For the 2020/2021 sled season, there is a limited capacity of 50 persons for each of the hills, including sledders, spectators and staff. Social distancing measures and masks are also mandatory for all users.