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2016-17 Ski Season Underway: Sugar Opened Today & App Ski Opens Tuesday, Beech Friday; Jeff Collins First in Line To Hit the Slopes

Sugar Mountain Ski Resort opened on Monday, meaning the 2016-17 ski season is officially underway in the High Country. Photos by Ken Ketchie

By Jesse Wood

The first resort in the High Country to open for the 2016-17 winter season, Sugar Mountain Ski Resort opened for skiing and snowboarding on Monday morning after a weekend of making snow amidst gusty winds.

“The wind gave us a hard time,” Sugar Mountain Resort President Gunther Jochl said on Monday morning just before a couple snowboarders enjoyed the first rides of the season. “The temperatures were great. Had we not had so much wind, we’d have more snow. But we’re great. It’s in good shape.”

Sugar Mountain spent more than 40 hours making snow since the middle of the night on Friday/Saturday and by Monday morning, several slopes from the top of Sugar Mountain’s 5,300-foot summit to the bottom are covered and open.

Sugar Mountain Ski Resort features a base up to 18 inches as of first thing Monday. The Summit Express is operating and servicing the Northridge, Switchback, Upper and Lower Flying Mile slopes. The beginner’s magic carpet area is also open.

Jochl added, “We’re trying to have Easy Street [slope] open later, too. That would be unbelievable to have top to bottom Easy Street and the Carpet and says a lot to how much we added [in such a short time], but we have to do some real good water management because it is dry.”

Among the first people to ride down Sugar Mountain were Jeff Collins, co-owner of Peabody’s Wine and Beer Merchants, and his son. In fact, the older Collins was the first one to ride the chair lift up to the top. After they rode down the mountain, Collins exclaimed, “Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.”

“We are both skiers. My son skis on the Sugar Mountain Ski Team,” Collins said before going down the mountain. “We’ll do a few runs [but] I have to go to work at some point.”

Two Watauga High School students, Marcus and Wiley, skipped class for a bit to enjoy the first runs of the season. “I am just glad to be out there,” Marcus said. “A good start, a good base. Almost a foot. That’s pretty good. Get a few good turns in before App opens tomorrow. Get a good warm-up in and get my legs adjusted and get ready for the park tomorrow.”

Full-day sessions at Sugar Mountain Ski Resort run from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Half-day sessions run from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Night sessions begin Tuesday. Ice skating, which is available, kicked off the season on Friday and the tubing park will open as soon as weather permits.

Pretty soon, all the ski resorts in the High Country will be open.

Appalachian Ski Mtn. plans to open on Tuesday. The resort in Blowing Rock has been making snow all weekend and are more than ready to get the season underway.

This will be Appalachian Ski Mtn.’s 55th season, and to celebrate the start of ski season, the first 100 guests to the ticket cashier window on the opening day, which is tentatively set for Tuesday, will receive a free ski ticket.

Beech Mountain Resort, which has been making snow since Saturday, is opening on Friday, according to Beech Mountain Resort spokesperson Talia Freeman. Currently, snowmaking crews are working “around the clock to ensure the best possible conditions for opening day,” according to the resort’s latest update.

On Monday, Hawksnest Tubing owner Lenny Cottom said, “Looks like we will be open this Friday for snowtubing and zipline.  Friday and Saturday’s sessions will be 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday 10 a.m., 12 p.m., and 2 p.m.



Snowcat moving snow just before the first rides down the mountain.
Chairlift operator cleans off the chair lift in anticipation for the first riders.


Sugar Mountain Ski Resort President Gunther Jochl riding up to the top.




Peabody’s Wine and Beer Merchants co-owner Jeff Collins was the first to ride the chair lift to the summit.
Jeff Collins was the first to ride the chair lift to the summit.


WHS students Marcus and Wiley



Sugar Mountain Ski Resort President Gunther Jochl
Sugar Mountain Ski Resort President Gunther Jochl
Sugar Mountain Ski Resort President Gunther Jochl
Another happy skier on the way to the slopes.