By Nathan Ham
During this time of year, visitors through the holiday season have always played a major role in keeping a stable economy in Watauga and Avery County. Restaurants, ski resorts and hotels need these travelers each winter to survive an otherwise quiet time in the High Country with limited student impact during December and January.
In Avery County especially, a vibrant tourism economy is much-needed at all times of the year.
“Banner Elk has experienced a very lively holiday weekend that will continue through the rest of this week,” said Melynda Pepple, the Executive Director of the Avery County Chamber of Commerce. “The chamber is hearing from our members that the holiday period has been very good so far. We’ve seen lots of people visiting the ski slopes and many other things available in the Avery County area.”
Even prior to the holiday season, businesses in Avery County were noticing an increase in visitors.
“For our county, there were a lot of folks coming up before Christmas coming to get their Christmas trees,” Pepple said.
The Christmas tree market in Northwest North Carolina is one of the largest in the country. In data available from 2018, Ashe County cut the highest number of Christmas trees of any county in the United States with over 1.9 million trees harvested. Alleghany County was sixth with 893,505 trees harvested and Avery County was eighth in the country with 759,838. Only Oregon and Michigan had other counties in the top 10 for Christmas tree production.
Along with choose-and-cut Christmas tree farms, ski resorts, shops, restaurants and lodging areas are all major beneficiaries of a busy holiday season.
“This is an important economic time for Avery County during the holiday season, so it’s always important for people to come and visit us here in the mountains,” Pepple said.