By Jesse Wood
Nov. 20, 2014. When Kim Jochl of Sugar Mountain Resort first descended Gunther’s Way, the new slope that opened on Thursday morning, she said the run took her back to when she was competing with the U.S. Alpine Ski Team in the ‘80s and early ‘90s.
“It’s a wonderful, challenging run with some difficult pitches that I missed when skiing in the Southeast. The two steep pitches on Gunther’s Way really brought me back to when I skied long ago and competed at ski areas with bigger mountains,” Jochl said. “I got that feeling back again. It was very rewarding.”
In addition to challenging, the new slope, which includes a view of Grandfather Mountain, has been described as bold, impressive and a lot of fun.
The slope is 150-feet wide, 2,900-feet long and boasts a vertical drop of 700 feet that “alternates between swooping descents on gradual terraces and then steep, challenging plummets,” as described by renowned author and winter sport enthusiast Randy Johnson in a previous story.
Jeff Johnson, who operates Edge of the World Sports in Banner Elk, was among the first snowboarders to take off at the top of Gunther’s Way. Johnson, Tim Ollis and AJ Dulin were at the top of the mountain when it opened on Thursday morning at 8 a.m.
“I think it’s the most fun run in the area. It has some difficult pitches and it’s a unique, fun run that has some steepness to it,” Johnson said. “We had a lot of fun on it today, just lapping it all morning.”
With the help of a new 1,000 gallon per minute vertical water pump and Mother Nature’s frigid temperatures the ten new SMI snow-making machines have been diligently pumping powdery, white snow around the clock. And everyone noticed.
Johnson said he was particularly impressed with the amount of snow coverage and praised Sugar Mountain Resort for making this happen and being able to open such a quality product this early in the season.
“Even on the sides of the trail, we were able to play a little bit,” Johnson said. “It has a lot of unique features. It’s a cool trail.”
Matt Leonard, manager at Ski Country Sports, was also among the first batch of skiers to descend Gunther’s Way. Leonard also said there isn’t slope in the Southeast that compares to Gunther’s Way.
“The terrain is pretty awesome. There is really nothing else like that in the Southeast. It’s wide, pretty steep and pretty long, so you can get some good turns in,” Leonard said.
Before opening the slope, Sugar Mountain Resort owner Gunther Jochl and his wife, Kim, held a ribbon cutting and popped a couple bottles of non-alcoholic champagne. Among those that turned out for the ribbon cutting were the Jochls and their daughter Olivia, Market President for the Boone BB&T Jonathan Lubkemann, Sugar Mountain Ski Resort Manager Erich Schmidinger and his daughter Ava, Sean ‘Stumpy’ McKey, Banner Elk Dentist Dr. John Johnson and his wife, Jeff Johnson of Edge of the World, and snowboarders Tim Ollis and AJ Dulin.
Gunther told those in attendance that Gunther’s Way was the result of a lot of hard work and significant investment.
He thanked everyone for their efforts in making this happen and then said, “Let’s go skiing.”
As it should be, Gunther was the first one down Gunther’s Way.