March 10, 2020

North Carolina Skiing - A Review


Needless to say, we have totally embraced the proximity to ski resorts and have loved trying out new slopes.  I have had many people ask me recently, "So which one did you like the best?".  Read on to hear my's not as clear cut as you would think!

This review is solely based on my (our) personal opinions and is a reflection of one day/night experience at the resort.  With that being said, I have listed the Boone area resorts in the order that we visited them.

We visited Beech Mountain on December 7, 2019 during the "early season" pricing.  It was the first time we were taking our son skiing and opted for a half day lift ticket which is either 9am-1pm or 1pm-5 pm.  We chose the morning session and the weather was sunny and around 40 degrees and just beautiful.

When we arrived the resort wasn't that busy and check in was very quick and easy.  We purchased our lift tickets outside and then headed inside to fill out the rental agreements and get our rentals (skis, boots, helmet, poles).  There was no extra charge for helmets - score!  Again, the rental area was very spacious and it wasn't very busy, so we were in and out very quickly.   

Because we were just teaching our son to ski we started out in the play yard/bunny slope area.  We didn't sign up for ski school and found the "learning hill" to be very small.  There wasn't much room to actually get the feel of skiing.  After about 45 minutes we just decided to head to the chair lift and take him up to the greens (beginner slopes) so that he had longer runs to get the hang of it.

The lifts were nice, but were a little hard to get to.  The main lift that we were using that day was uphill from the play yard/lodge.  With a very inexperience skier it made for some tough transitions.  Many times we just had Everett take his skis off and walk to the lift.  Now that he is more experienced, he could most likely get there pretty easily, but that first time was a bit touch and go.

Once he was on the greens and had longer runs to work with it took him about two times down to finally get the feel for it.  About two hours into our day it's like it just clicked!  I stayed with him on the greens for the majority of the day and by the end of the session he was skiing totally independently.  The greens at Beech were very wide and great for beginning skiers.

Mike headed to the top a few times and said the view was amazing.  He loved the long runs from the summit.

All in all it was an amazing day.  Everett fell in love with skiing in those 4 hours and we finished our day with a beer at Beech Mountain Brewing onsite.  The mountain is gorgeous and the resort is very spacious and well maintained.

Appalachian Ski Mountain-  

We visited App on a whim when we found out about the "Sunday Night Specials" they offer, which is $10 lift tickets the first Sunday of the month.  We still had to pay for rentals, but Hilty was free since she is 4 years old (many resorts offer that discount for children)  and I think we all skied for right around $100 - which is amazing!

We actually weren't going to get her a lift ticket at all, but she really wanted to try it (she won't be left out) and we figured, at such a reduced price, why not?  

We purchased tickets and filled out all of our rental information online the day before and it was SUCH A TIME SAVER.  We also got to start an hour early because we ordered online 24 hours in advance.  Be sure to read the fine print to get all the deals!

Even though it was Super Bowl Sunday, it was very busy but also very well organized.  Because everything was already ordered online the ticket line went very quickly and rentals went even quicker.  There were lots of signs telling us where to go and it was very efficient.  

We headed out and Hilty did great!  I will say App is a very small resort compared to the others.  The slopes aren't very long runs, but the bunny slope/beginner hill (which is considered a green slope there) was very long and great to learn on.  The more difficult slopes were just ok.  The gift shop was very convenient and we even purchased straps for H so she could go on the blues with us.

Everyone was very nice and the resort is very cute, in a retro kind of way.  We had a blast, but due to the short runs would probably opt for another resort for a full day of skiing.

Sugar Mountain Resort- 

We visited Sugar Mountain on March 8 during their late season with March Madness pricing (about 25% off regular pricing).  We opted for a Saturday half day session, which is only offered in the afternoon from 12:30-4:30 (no morning option).  The weather was beautiful and the resort was PACKED.

We always try to get to the slopes about an hour before our time to ski just because it can take a while to get tickets/rentals.  I'm so glad we did because the sign in/rentals took forever.  I was less than impressed and it made our time at Sugar start off a little rocky.

There is no option to purchase tickets ahead of time online and the rental area was very small, not many benches to sit down, and there was no signage to tell you where to go first.  There were two locations to get skis, but no signs to direct anyone.  It was pretty chaotic - mainly because it was so busy.  If it hadn't been so busy our experience would probably have been a little better.  Maybe.

That being said, if we had our own ski equipment, or had rented off site, and only had to buy lift tickets, we wouldn't have had to endure the long lines.  Maybe an option for next year, and something to keep in mind.  Even though we arrived about 45 minutes early, we ended up actually getting on the slopes about 30 minutes after our allotted time started.  Frustrating!

Once on the slopes, again, mixed reviews, probably having to do with the huge crowds.  The chair lift lines were a mess.  Again, no signs or ropes to show people where to go.  Especially on the lift headed for the greens, which is full of mostly inexperienced skiers.  Leading into the lift it was also downhill which made it very hard for many skiers to maneuver.  

One last gripe and then the positives...the snow blowers were killing us!  They had almost every snowblower going full blast and as we were skiing down, we would get blasted in the face.  There were times we literally couldn't see where we were going because the snow blowers were blowing directly onto the slopes and into our faces.  Our jackets were soaked while waiting in the chair lift lines and I was over it!  I'm sure there was a reason why they had them on, but it was brutal, and loud, and I was annoyed...can you tell?!?!

I did like the length and number of the green and blue slopes.  There were plenty of green runs for us to warm up on and they were very wide for new skiers.  Again, it was very busy, so with fewer people on a less busy day it would have been great!  The play yard/bunny hill was again, pretty long, but very crowded.  Hilty did well and even started dodging people that had fallen or were just standing there. 

Once we all headed to the top to do the blues it was awesome.  The runs were very long and the views were beautiful.  We finished our day smiling and watching the snow plows smooth out the slopes for night skiing (the slopes are closed down from 4:30-6pm).

So with all that said - which is best?

Basked on Google reviews - this is how they rank online-

In all actuality it really depends on what kind of skier you are and what aspects of a ski resort are important to you and your crew.  

Here's how we ranked them:


Location (from Gastonia/Charlotte area) - Appalachian 
App is only a 1.5 hour drive from our house, where as Sugar is 2 hours and Beech is about 2.5 hours with very, very windy mountain roads.

Check in/Signage - Appalachian 
Hands down, the online purchasing was the most efficient check-in and rental process we have had!  App also has an online chat available on their website to help with any questions.  Beech also has an online option, however we didn't use it and had no problem when we got there because it wasn't busy.

Rentals - Appalachian
Again, with the rental information put in online before we arrived, they just printed out our info for us to give to the employees.  There were also very detailed signs in all of the rental areas so everyone knew exactly were to go to get their gear.

Beginner Slopes (Greens) - Beech/Sugar
This is a toss up - they were both similar and both good.  Beech would edge out Sugar just a bit due to the crowds, but without crowds they would be very even in my view.

Advanced Slopes (Blues/Blacks) - Beech/Sugar
I didn't do any blues at Beech since I was with Everett on the little slopes his first time skiing, but Mike did and he again said that both Beech and Sugar were very similar and nice and long.  I did like the blues on Sugar - minus the snowblowers in our faces.

Length of Slopes - Beech/Sugar
Beech and Sugar have great longer runs, App's slopes are very short compared to the other two.

Maintenance/Care of Slopes - Beech
Sugar was a close second, but Beech was just beautiful and nice and the resort was very spacious and spread out. 

Quality and Accessibility of Chair lifts - Appalachian
App's chair lifts were by far the easiest to get to!  The other resorts either had pretty steep inclines or declines to get there which makes it tough with kids in tow!

Lodge/Food/Snacks - Beech 
The lodge at Beech was nice and spacious and there was even a separate area in the "Beech Mountain Village" that offered a brewery on site with a huge fire pit and lots of outdoor seating away from the main lodge.  The ice skating rink was nearby as well.  This was more of a "hang out spot" with gorgeous views which was so nice after a day of skiing!

Price -  Appalachian
I mean, you just can't argue with $10 lift tickets!!!

My personal favorite?   
Beech Mountain

I don't know if it is because we rented a condo for the weekend and had more time to explore the resort and the surroundings instead of just skiing and driving home in one day, or if it was because it was less crowded, but I loved Beech Mountain.  It's beautiful, well maintained and is the perfect little mountain town with quaint shops and eateries all around.  Two thumbs up from me!

*Money saving tips-

---Look for discounts/specials on the website.  There are many discounts for "early" and "late" season.

---Many ski resorts offer free lift tickets for children 4 and under with a paying adult.

---Weekday and night skiing are generally more inexpensive

---Rent skis/gear from an off site location.  Many times these places have better deals than the resort and then you only have to buy your lift ticket when you arrive, money and time saver.

Looking forward to next season, we are hoping to try out a few other, new to us spots, in the Asheville area (Wolf Ridge, Cataloochie, Sapphire Valley, Wolf Laurel)  and possibly some in Virginia/West Virginia (Wintergreen, Snowshoe)!

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