By Jesse Wood
Jan. 4, 2013. It’s cold, and Beech Mountain’s youth sledding hill has been covered in snow for days because of winter weather and snow guns. Check out this article High Country Press published last year for the skinny on sledding in the High Country.
A Downhill Thrill – Sledding in the High Country
Sledding in the High Country is fun. The learning curve is minimal—just straddle a sled, avoid rock outcroppings and be sure to stop before road- and waterways. Many of the hills—or mountains—in the area are worthy of sledding, but the vast majority is on private property.
High Country Press knows of at least three popular public sledding hills for you to achieve some speed—the hill across from Horn in the West in Boone; a hill at Moses Cone Park along the Blue Ridge Parkway; and the youth sledding hill atop Beech Mountain.
Wit Tuttle works and resides in Raleigh but visits the High Country each winter so his two kids can sled at Beech Mountain’s free youth sledding hill.
“They just love the experience. It’s neat to get up there and experience real winter. So different a geography and climate, though it’s only a few hours away,” said Tuttle, who happens to be the director of tourism marketing for the N.C. Division of Tourism and Sports Development.
Tuttle added that he sees many people sledding on hills all over the High Country but enjoys Beech’s hill because it has restrooms nearby and is monitored by employees of Buckeye Recreation Center.
Also, the sledding hill atop Beech has a snow gun. As former Beech Mountain Chamber President Jim Brooks said, the snow gun makes it possible for people to sled when “you can’t sled anywhere else in the state.”
The base of the hill is at an elevation of 5,065 feet, and hay bales and safety mats lay before the hill slopes into a creek. Aside from acting as a buffer, the hay bales also provide a place for parents and guardians to sit and watch.
“The thing about that hill—it doesn’t look so steep from down at the bottom. Go up to the top, and it’s actually steeper than it needs to be,” said Brooks, who estimated that the town’s sledding hill is about 15 years old.
Every day in winter, John Troxler of the Beech Mountain Chamber looks out his window and sees several dozens of children plowing through the snow with their sleds.
“Even hundreds of people, especially during a holiday weekend. It’s very popular and something that gives a little variety for people with younger children,” Troxler said.
The hill is open seven days a week, and the operating hours are Monday through Friday from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. and weekends and holidays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The Beech Mountain youth sledding hill is popular among kids when school is out and is restricted to kids 12 and under. Sleds with metal runners are not allowed. The operation hours are weather permitting. For current conditions, call 800-468-5506
For those who would like a more rugged sledding adventure, the terrain of the High Country offers other possibilities.
The terrain on either side of the Blue Ridge Parkway offers easy access to a vast amount of public land that may be suitable for sledding, though a vast portion of the federal land in the High Country is covered with trees, rhododendrons and boulders.
One popular sledding hill along the Blue Ridge Parkway is at Moses Cone Park in Blowing Rock. The Watauga County Tourism Development Authority wrote on its website that the hill’s “multiple faces offers runs from easy to edgy.”
The hill is located where N.C. 221, Shulls Mill Road, Flannery Fork Farms Road and the Blue Ridge Parkway intersect one another. Parking is located along the access road to the Blue Ridge Parkway’s maintenance facility. For more information, click to www.exploreboonearea.com.
The slope across the street from Horn in the West, also known as Strawberry Hill, is a doozie. It’s in town; it’s steep; and most of the area is clear of trees and rocks; though beware of the road at the bottom. On many a snowy day when ASU classes are cancelled and Watauga County Schools are closed, dozens of students prevail on their sleds down the hill, and chasing their breath, they slog up the hill for another downhill thrill.
Places to Purchase Sleds
Looking for a sled this winter? Check out these local stores—where you will find a variety of sleds—from those worth hanging on the wall to those that “are made to be destroyed,” as Lisa Adams of the Mast General Store in Boone said. Snow Toys in Banner Elk, for example, has more than 350 sleds in 12 varieties in stock.
Hatchet Jack’s and Trading Post: 109 Aho Road, Blowing Rock, 828-295-6433
Sunset Tees and Hattery: 1117 Main Street, Blowing Rock, 828-295-9326
Mast General Store: 630 King Street, Boone, 828-262-0000; and 2918 Broadstone Road, Banner Elk, 828-963-6511
Fred’s General Mercantile: 501 Beech Mountain Parkway, Beech Mountain, 828-387-4838
Beach Meadows Ski Shop: 405 Beech Mountain Parkway, Beech Mountain, 828-387-4777
Snow Toys: 1757 Tynecastle Highway, Banner Elk, 828-898-4199
Ski Country Sports: 3149 Tynecastle Highway, Banner Elk, 828-898-9786
1ST Tracks: 1380 N.C. 105, Boone, 828-264-7368
Village Hardware: 312 Green Street, Blowing Rock, 828-295-9023
The Sled’s Sister—Tubing in the High Country
Both sledding and tubing are similar, and that means both are easy to learn and very fun. The High Country has several resorts that offer visitors the chance to experience the winter season without standing on skis or a snowboard. Make sure to call the resort ahead of time for up-to-date snow conditions.
Hawksnest in Seven Devils offers 20 tubing lanes that range from 400 to 1,000 feet in length. Each session is just under two hours long. For more information, click to www.hawksnesttubing.com or call 1-800-822-HAWK.
Sugar Mountain Resort in Sugar Mountain has tubing lanes that are 700 feet long. Each tubing session is just under two hours long. For more information or up-to-date snow conditions, click to www.skisugar.com/tubing or call 828-898-4521.
Jonas Ridge Snow Tubing has six tubing lanes and staff photographers and is located on N.C. 181 in Jonas Ridge. For more information, click to www.jonasridgesnowtube.com or call 828-733-4155.