By Nathan Ham
The holiday season has turned out to be a good one for area ski resorts with some of the biggest crowds they have seen making the trip to the slopes during their time off.
Skiers have continued showing up through this week and the resorts are expecting more good turnouts this weekend.
“This year was busier for us than last year, I feel like it’s been one of the busiest holiday seasons. We’ve had record numbers this year,” said Talia Freeman, the Director of Marketing at Beech Mountain.
Crowds gathered from all parts of the country and even some from outside the United States this weekend at Beech Mountain.
“There is a very diverse crowd and a lot of different cultures of people. We’ve had people from all over the southeast, people from Kentucky, Florida, Cuba, a lot of people from Texas. It’s been pretty neat to see a lot of people from the different states and countries they’re coming in from,” Freeman said.
Temperatures have been a little warmer than average this week, but Freeman says that has not kept people away from coming out to enjoy a day of skiing.
“We’ve been able to make a good amount of snow and we have a lot of people out here skiing. It looks like we’re going to get some cold temperatures Saturday so we should have a good window for snowmaking there. We’re excited about that,” Freeman said.
At Sugar Mountain, they too had the chance to enjoy a big turnout to close out 2018 and head into 2019.
“The holiday season was good, the weather has been fantastic and we made lots of snow,” said Gunther Jochl, the owner of Sugar Mountain Resort. “We have a good base for what we have open top to bottom and we took advantage of every second we’ve had to make snow and it’s paying off.”
Jochl also noted the positive impact that the big crowds have had on other businesses and restaurants in Banner Elk.
“I’m very happy for us and all of the businesses around here because everyone benefits. We’ve been waiting all summer to get this thing cranking so the holiday season has been pretty good,” said Jochl.
Drew Stanley at Appalachian Ski Mountain felt like they also had a great turnout of people happy to be on the slopes.
“We had a fantastic holiday season. We were fortunate enough to make plenty of snow earlier in November and December and have had good coverage. We saw a bunch of people having fun,” Stanley said.
Appalachian Ski Mountain has a couple of special events happening this weekend. The first event in the Shred for the Cup Series will be happening on Sunday as riders show up for the Rail Jam.
“Weather for this looks to be a little on the mild side but it looks perfect being calm and sunny,” said Stanley.
The first Sunday of each month is the half-night monthly special where skiers can buy a half-night ticket from 7:30-10 p.m. for just $10. Skiers that purchase their tickets online will get an extra hour for free, essentially being able to ski from 6:30-10 p.m. for $10, one of the better skiing deals that App Ski Mountain has to offer according to Stanley.
Despite the warmer temperatures and the rain that continues to linger around the High Country this week, Stanley said that the coverage is still really good considering the current weather conditions.
Friday’s Current Conditions at the Ski Resorts
5 trails, 3 lifts open with 32-46 inch base
Open trails are Upper Shawneehaw, Lower Shawneehaw, Crossover, Freestyle and Play Yard
Tubing is currently closed
Ice skating is open
10 trails, 4 lifts open with 26-54 inch base
Open trails are Gunther’s Way, Northridge, Switchback, Upper Flying Mile, Big Birch, Lower Flying Mile, Easy Street, Tiny Tim, Magic Carpet and School Yard
Tubing is open
Ice skating is open
Appalachian Ski Mountain
9 trails, 5 lifts open with 33-61 inch base
Open trails are Appaltizer, Avery’s Appal, Candied Appal, Strudel, Orchard Run, Lower Big Appal, Upper Big Appal, Appaljack and Appal Jam.