By Jesse Wood
On a warm Sunday afternoon in late October, an estimated 200 people attended the grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Appalachian Ski Mtn. Welcome Center in Blowing Rock.
In September, the welcome center and the accompanying High Country Host Visitor Center officially opened to the public at the ski resort’s main entrance, the intersection of Edmisten Road and U.S. 321.
The decision to build this welcome center came about a couple years ago after resort management learned that the 40-year-old ASM billboard across the street would be torn down to make way for an access road to the eventual Foley Center at Chestnut Ridge, which recently held a grand opening of its own.
“That’s what this is all about is the sign,” Appalachian Ski Mtn. General Manager Brad Moretz said at the event on Sunday.
The reception featured a performance from the Carolina Snowbelles and remarks from a number of High Country officials, including Blowing Rock Tourism Development Authority Executive Director Tracy Brown, Blowing Rock Mayor J.B. Lawrence, Boone Mayor Rennie Brantz, High Country Host Marketing Director Candice Cook and App Ski Mtn. co-owner Reba Moretz.
“We thank you so much for the impact [Appalachian Ski Mtn.] has had on our community, and I know this will be a great place to welcome all kinds of tourists to the High Country as they stop in to get direction to their favorite restaurants and favorite places to stay,” Mayor Lawrence said. “We’ll move forward into a new era in Blowing Rock with this visitor center here.”
Boone Mayor Rennie Brantz noted the resort and its new center and sign “contributes to the character of the mountain region,” and Cook of High Country Host touted the location, which is within view of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the “great connector of the five counties in the High Country region.”
“We are so glad, the Moretz family shares our vision of tourism in the area,” Cook said. “We’ve already seen our numbers double since we’ve been here and expect an even greater impact moving forward.”
ASM General Manager Brad Moretz noted that the U.S. 321 intersection at the Blue Ridge Parkway in Blowing Rock was the second-busiest intersection along the 468-mile scenic route and provided a couple historical anecdotes.
“It wasn’t always that way,” Moretz said. “A longtime Edmisten Road resident told me in 1961 when he was a child … that he could play in the road all day and not see a car all day long. The first year the ski area operated a reporter from a publication that’s not around anymore, the Charlotte News, described our entrance road as a snaky dirt road.”
He also spent a good bit of his time thanking dozens of folks that supported this project, which had its fair share of hurdles in the form of regulation such as the sign plans that the Blowing Rock Town Council initially returned to the planning board and the resort’s antique snow cat that was initially met with a violation notice.
“So many friends made this project possible [offering] advice, time, talents, creativity, and physical and moral support at many meetings and hearings to arrive at this day,” Moretz said.
Moretz thanked a bunch of companies, boards and individuals in his remarks and the event’s program. There were too many contractors and suppliers associated with the project’s construction to thank in his remarks, but he did single out architect Larry Greene, landscape architect Ron Cutlip, stonemason Roy Kannup and craftsman Gaines Kiker,
He also acknowledged former App State chancellors in attendance John Thomas, Frank Borkowski and Ken Peacock. Current App State Chancellor Sheri Everts also attended the event.
Moretz thanked Yadkin Bank, which financed the project, and the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, which held off on construction of a portion of its Foley Center project, so that the ski resort would be able to utilize its billboard for one last winter.
The afternoon’s remarks that generated the most applause, however, were from Reba Moretz, the matriarch of the Moretz family, who read a poem covering the history of the resort. Read the entire poem below.
A LITTLE HISTORY – A LITTLE MYSTERY
A Poem by Reba Moretz
Fifty-four years ago
When it began to snow,
Summer birds were fleeing
And thoughts turned to skiing.
Blowing Rock Ski Lodge was begun
To create jobs and winter fun.
Then in nineteen sixty eight
Winter was coming late.
Instead of romances
There were problems with finances.
So the ski area was sold
And new owners to behold.
Much to his astonishment
Grady took over the management.
The name had to be changed.
That was quickly arranged.
“Appalachian Ski Mtn” was selected
And no one at all objected.
Grady worked hard for many years
And learned to shift all the gears.
He added French drains
For melting snow and rains.
He added more ski runs
And then more snow guns.
He added more space
Making it a better place.
The road had to be paved
And our staff had to be shaved.
A big snow cat was needed
So our expenses were exceeded.
Grady wanted a ski school
That would follow every rule.
Jim Cottrell was hired
And he has never retired.
Jim’s been the very best.
He’s passed every test.
He’s taught over a million to ski.
The record is there to see.
Today Brad is the App Ski Mtn. President
And he is a Ski Mtn. resident.
He cares for every detail
If the electricity doesn’t fail.
He carefully selects our staff
Never any “riff raff”.
The retail shops are Brenda’s thing
She can always make the cash registers ring.
She matches every color and fits every size
So no customer leaves with a bad surprise.
She keeps inventory up to date
And orders more before it’s too late.
Now with Brad, Brenda, John & Jen involved
They can help get many problems solved.
I am so proud all our family loves to ski,
That is, all except Grady & me.
We never had a chance to learn
Because we always had the money to earn.
Now to bring you up to date
Before it’s too late.
Since the hospital is moving from town
Our fifty year old billboard had to come down.
When DOT paved the road to Chestnut Ridge
They replaced our billboard with a bridge.
Because of our proximity
We were given no amenity.
Being near a Scenic Byway
We could have no sign at the highway.
So Brad made great plans for a Welcome Center,
And a beautiful sign to show tourists the road to enter.
We had a little opposition
From people in a top position.
We thought our sign was fine.
They thought it out of line.
We wanted it taller.
They wanted it smaller.
So Brad cut down the size
To make it better in their eyes.
We all finally did agree
On the beautiful sign you now see.
We are proud of the final production,
In spite of this slight reduction.
The building was another matter
That made us even sadder.
Our orange color wasn’t on their list
But on that we had to insist.
There was just one other issue.
You’d better grab a tissue.
No one even dreamed our little snow cat
Would ever, ever cause a spat.
Then Brad was told it wasn’t approved
And it might just have to be removed.
It so perfectly fit the space
That nothing else could replace.
Our little snow cat is quite unique.
It’s a real collectable antique,
A part of our fifty four year history,
Any objection is just a mystery.
Finally the Board of Adjustment met with us
And they ended all the fuss.
Our little snow cat we get to keep
So no more do we have to weep.
Now, this Welcome Center is nearly complete
And everything looks so neat.
High Country Host has moved in.
Their work is to begin.
They are ready to spread the news
And help visitors find beautiful views.
The staff is there for this reason.
To bring tourists here each season.
Whether it’s sunshine, rain or snow
We want lots of traffic to flow.
Blowing Rock, Banner Elk or Boone,
These visitors can’t come too soon.
We hope they spend lots of money
And have good times with their “honey”.
All around us is natural beauty.
To share this is our duty.
We have many wonderful places to eat
With food you just cannot beat.
You can choose beef, veggies or stew
And enjoy a little mountain brew.
Taste some of our wines
Fresh from mountain vines.
We have the very best
To that we can certainly attest.
Whether it is winter, spring, summer or fall
The High Country has it all.
We thank each of you for coming our way
And sharing our special Grand Opening Day.
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