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North Carolina’s High Country: A Winter Wonderland For All Ages

Winter in the High Country is magical. It’s absolutely my favorite time of year in a region that is already recognized as a premier year-round destination for families and individuals of every age and interest. While spring, summer and fall offer their own natural treasures and seasonal gifts, it’s the winter months (January, February and March) that truly distinguish this area as not only a scenic wonderland, but as a dynamic hotbed for outdoor sports and spirited festivities.

GREAT WINTER TOWNS

It’s fitting that an area known for its natural diversity and variety of attractions would feature several unique towns—each quite different from (yet complementary of) the others. Best of all, each is just a stone’s throw from the others, which makes hoping from town to town as convenient as it is inviting.

  • Blowing Rock: This is the quintessential mountain town: quaint, romantic, friendly, and eternally inviting. It is always aglow with activity, beckoning visitors with its postcard charm and an array of restaurants, pubs, curio shops and boutiques. It was recently voted one of America’s Prettiest Winter Towns by Travel + Leisure Magazine.
  • Boone: Just down the road from Blowing Rock is the hip university town of Boone—home to the Appalachian State Mountaineers. Boone has the energy and electricity of a college town, coupled with the nearby attractions of a major resort destination. Adventure Sports Magazine has called it “the ultimate outdoor adventure destination in the Southeast.”
  • Banner Elk: Located in Avery County—the heart of ski country—Banner Elk is a bustling, upscale community that boasts a wealth of outdoor recreational opportunities that visitors can enjoy year-round. Banner Elk is also recognized as “The Ski Capitol of the South,” attracting thousands of visitors each winter to its picturesque resorts, posh accommodations and world-class restaurants.

 

SKI MECCA

Often the first thing that comes to mind when people think of the High Country is skiing. It’s combination of ideal climate, optimal altitude, and scenic Appalachian slopes makes for some of the most exhilarating, thrilling and family-centered skiing in the country. Visitors and locals have a number of top-notch resorts to choose from.

  • Sugar Mountain Resort
    • Located in Banner Elk
    • 115 skiable acres
    • Multiple lift options (including the two longest in NC)
    • Can lift-transport up to 8,800 skiers an hour
    • Features 20 slopes and trails, 4 tubing runs
    • Has a vertical drop of 1,200 feet
    • Features skiing, tubing and ice skating
    • Snowmaking capability
    • Rental equipment
  • Beech Mountain, North Carolina
    • Located 10 miles north of Sugar
    • The highest town in Eastern America: elevation 5,500 feet
    • Vertical rise 830 feet
    • Averages 84.6 inches of snow a season
    • Has 15 slopes, 10 lifts
    • Can lift-transport 9,300 skiers per hour
    • Features skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, snowshoeing, sledding, and après ski
    • Offers skiing and snowboarding lessons
    • Summer activities include mountain biking, disc golf, scenic lift rides
    • Snowmaking capability
  • Appalachian Ski Mountain
    • Located in Blowing Rock
    • The High Country’s first official ski area (opened in 1962)
    • Features 12 ski slopes and multiple lifts
    • Longest run is ½ mile
    • Offers 3 terrain parks, 450 Snowboard rentals
    • Indoor Ice Arena
    • Has 46,000-square foot Bavarian-style lodge
    • Children’s programs available
    • Home to French Swiss Ski College, the Southeast’s largest independent Ski School

 

WINTER CELEBRATIONS

Winter in the High Country is not a time to hibernate. It’s an invitation to get outside with friends and family to embrace the beauty and recreational variety that these snow-draped mountains bestow. Above all, winter here is a time for communal celebration and festivities, best exemplified by the annual Blowing Rock Winterfest (January 23-26, 2014). The 4-day festival is packed with events, music, wine/food exhibits, and family attractions. Highlights include:

  • The Polar Plunge in Chetola Lake (Sat. 1/25)…not for the meek!
  • Winterfeast (Thus. 1/23) featuring delicious cuisine by the area’s most celebrated chefs
  • Winter Ales Craft Beer Tasting (Thus. 1/23) at Foggy Rock Restaurant
  • Appalachian Ski Mountain Event (Fri. 1/24) from 5:00 p.m. til midnight
  • Blue-Pop Bela Fleck Tribute Band (Fri. 1/24) Canyons
  • BRMC Wine Auction & Tasting (Sat. 1/25) 4:00 at The Historic Green Park Inn (sponsored by Blue Ridge Mountain Club)
  • Chili Challenge Cook-off featuring live roots music by Mountain Radio
  • Family and Kid-friendly activities (Sat. 1/25) hayrides, ice carvings, crafts, games and more
  • Winterfest Meltdown with Buck Haggard Band (Sat. 1/25) 9:30 at Canyons
  • Winterfest Brunch Specials (Sun. 1/26) at various Blowing Rock restaurants

Note: The celebration doesn’t stop with Winterfest. Other winter highlights include:

  • Appalachian Ski Mountain Family Day (Feb 17)
  • Totally 80s Retro Ski Weekend at Beech Mountain (Feb. 21-23)
  • Sugar Bear’s Birthday Blast at Sugar Mountain (March 9)
  • Blowing Rock’s 125th Birthday Celebration (March 11).

 

Come For A Tour While You’re Here

With so much going on this winter in the High Country it is a great time to swing by Blue Ridge Mountain Club (BRMC) for a personal Discovery Tour.

Located just a few miles off The Parkway, between Blowing Rock and Boone, BRMC presents a living experience that is as elevated as the panoramic mountain views on every side. Schedule your tour today by visiting BlueRidgeMountainClub.com or calling 828.295.8667.

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