Thousands of skiers and snowboarders will fill the slopes of North Carolina’s high country over the upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. Next to Presidents Day – Feb. 16 this year – it’s the busiest time for an industry that has an economic impact of more than $140 million to the state.
Despite wide swings in temperatures this year, it’s been a good season so far, said Rick Bussey, part-owner at Wolf Ridge Ski Resort north of Asheville in Mars Hill.
“November got cold and looked like winter and we were all excited,” he said. “Then warm weather came in and it rained a lot. Everybody was making snow as best we could. Then it got real cold. Hopefully, for all the slopes, this is the beginning of real winter.”
• Most state resorts reported on Sunday an average snow base of at least 36 inches, or far more in many cases.
• To find conditionsand number of open lifts and slopes, go to www.goskinc.com.
• For a list of slopes an easy drive from Charlotte, visitcharlotteobserver.com/travel
. Nonskiers looking for an adventure over the three-day weekend will find them in the Observer’swinter road trip guide
, on our travel site.
If you’re heading to the slopes this winter, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Ski schools popular
Kim Jochl, vice president and marketing director at Sugar Mountain Resort east of Banner Elk, has seen the faces of adults and children at the resort’s ski and snowboarding schools. Children are sometimes apprehensive before they get on the slopes for the first time. Jochl said that when they get suited up they walk like fictional character Herman Munster because they’re so stiff. After they ski a little and build confidence “they say ‘that’s fun. Let’s do it again.’ ” she said.
When the weather turns warm or rainy, snow-making crews spread stockpiled machine-made snow over decreasing snow base areas. During warm and rainy days over the Christmas holidays, the Sugar Mountain Resort relied on stockpiles, 12 to 15 feet high, scattered at strategic points around the slopes. The snow piles aren’t obvious to most skiers because they blend in with the terrain.
The perfect day?
For skiing or snowboarding it’s clear and 25 degrees. Talia Freeman, marketing director at Beech Mountain Resort, calls it a “bluebird day” because conditions are chilly and there’s “blue sky with no clouds.”
Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley, which opened in 1961 as North Carolina’s first ski resort, continues to expand. Vice president and general manager Chris Bates said the resort has a new trail he described as “a great intermediate run.”
Also, Cataloochee, in partnership with Elan Skis, is offering a Slide in 5 package that includes lift tickets, ski rentals and lessons for any five-day twilight or night sessions during the season. Participants who complete all five lessons will receive a free set of Elan skies branded with the Cataloochee logo.