Hello, Winter! Snowy Destinations + Fun Adventures
From black diamond ski runs, to sitting indoors by a roaring fire, we have all our snowy must-do’s in the South. Most visitors to the South don’t think of snow when conjuring up images of sweet iced tea and fried chicken. However, there are so many peaks and valleys loaded to the brim with snow during the winter season. Here are all the best suggestions for a fast (or relaxed) snowy experience. Just don’t forget your mittens!
Out west, the mountains may be higher and the resorts bigger, but the Southeast offers some worthwhile ski areas of its own. Best of all, you don’t have to endure a checkpoint at the airport to get to any of these places from Atlanta. Just hop in the car in the morning and you can catch the last few lifts up the mountain by the end of the day.
If you’ve never skied east of the Mississippi, don’t be alarmed by those noisy things that look and sound like monster-oscillating fans spewing white powder from the sides of the slopes. They are making artificial snow when the natural snow doesn’t show. It is common around these parts, and those snow-making machines can actually churn out some good powder when the temps fall a few degrees below freezing. This season you’ll find that the spirit of winter is just as alive in the Appalachians as it is in the Rockies.
Snow Tubing Fun
There are three terrific snow-tubing spots in North Carolina and Georgia. Families who enjoy sledding in the snow will be thrilled by snow tubing because it combines the thrill of a great slide with a little extra bounce. It’s pure, good old-fashioned family fun.
Sugar Mountain Here’s the scoop: Sugar Mountain is the most popular snow tubing location. Finding a great place to go snow tubing in the southern most states is not impossible thanks to cool temperatures and snow making equipment. While the slide speed might be slightly slower than a run in Vermont, the squeals and laughter will be just as intense. The Resort offers multiple snowy choices so no one will be left out. The multi-lane tubing facility features 700-foot runs in tandem with a conveyor lift return and is open for tubing both day and night with snow making equipment ready when needed. The resort complex spans 115 acres of ski and snowboard terrain with a 1,200-foot vertical drop. Bonus: Additional winter activities include family-friendly ice skating and wholesome snowshoeing adventures. skisugar.com/tubing
Hawksnest The snow adventure area at Hawksnest, near Boone, is the largest snow tubing area in the eastern U.S. It offers eager participants of all ages a choice of four areas and twenty tubing channels spanning from 400 to 1,000 feet in length with a thrilling vertical descent of more than ten stories. The areas are equipped with lighting so night tubing with faster run times is an option. An efficient conveyor system makes the return to the top effortless. Because the resort has one hundred percent snowmaking ability, there is no chance of disappointment. Bonus: Even during snowy months, it is possible to enjoy a zip line outing. The impressive course network includes a suspension bridge, 19 separate cables, and four mega cables with linking routes spanning more than four miles. Hawksnesttubing.com
Avalanche Alley at Stone Mountain During the coldest months of the year, Stone Mountain creates its own snowy mountain experience without the help of Mother Nature. The result is impressive. Guests to the mountain have the chance to slide down the famous Memorial Lawn on fresh snow (weather permitting). The highlight of Snow Mountain is a 400-foot tubing hill, which offers an energizing family tube ride known as the Avalanche. For the youngest snow bunnies, SnoBoggans are available on smaller snow hills for a mini-tubing adventure. stonemountainpark.com
With the Farmer’s Almanac predicting a long, cold, snowy winter ahead of us, many Southerners will be daydreaming of winter sports. It’s been almost a decade since the last ski resort in Georgia shut its doors, but many have never given up their love of the slopes. The southeast still hosts a number of ski resorts within a day’s drive of Atlanta, if you don’t mind a little man-made snow.
Wolf Ridge Ski Resort Close to Asheville and just off I-26, at 4,000 to 4,700-foot elevation, this resort quickly made a name for itself with its easy accessibility and 82 acres of skiable terrain that can supplement natural snow with man-made snow across its grounds. With five lifts and 22 slopes, Wolf Ridge offers three diamond courses. Night skiing is available on all of Wolf Ridge’s slopes. The mountain contains The Lodge Grill for dining and the Scenic Wolf Resort for lodging. skiwolfridgenc.com
Sugar Mountain Resort Sugar Mountain Resort primarily hosts slopes for beginners and intermediate levels. This large 4,100 to 5,300-foot elevation resort features 20 trails, seven lifts and a one and a half mile run. The resort team has the ability to make snow across the entire complex of slopes, which are almost entirely beginner and intermediate levels. There are a few advanced slopes for the daredevils in your home. The resort also has a snow-tubing area, ice skating rink, and snowboarding park. The peak of the mountain is a mile high, offering a view that will stop you in your tracks, before skiing back down to the lift. Sugar Mountain has snowmaking ability for all of its slopes, a rare thing for a resort of its size. Skisugar.com
Ober Gatlinburg Resort Tennessee has one of the things that snowboarders crave - some of the biggest mountains in this part of the country. With peaks that rise over 6,000 feet, Tennessee's mountains are larger than those in skiing states such as Vermont and New Hampshire. Though its warmer climate and low elevation, compared with places such as the Rockies, limits the amount of snow, snowboarders will find great opportunities. Tennessee's sole ski resort is Ober Gatlinburg, offering eight ski trails and a terrain park. It has a peak elevation of 3,300 feet and a vertical drop of 600 feet. The terrain park features rails, boxes and tabletops. Runs are serviced by one quad, two double chairlifts, and a tow lift. Terrain is covered by 100 percent snowmaking. Bonus: Ober Gatlinburg rents out all the equipment you need including skis, snowboards, boots, helmets, and clothing. The Gatlinburg Snowsports Center is a member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America and offers beginner and private lessons. obergatlinburg.com
Wintergreen Resort If you want long-range, Blue Ridge Mountain views, sumptuous luxury, and thrilling recreation to go with your skiing and snowboarding, then Wintergreen Resort has it all. They boast 24 trails and an award-winning snowmaking system. The resort is located in the heart of Central Virginia adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway, just 90 minutes from Richmond, and approximately three hours from Washington, D.C. and North Carolina. wintergreenresort.com
Snowshoe Mountain Offering the most natural snowfall, skiable terrain and largest vertical drop in the region, Snowshoe Mountain is a bit farther north from Atlanta than the other areas mentioned here, but it is the closest thing to a Rocky Mountain-sized ski resort to be found in the Southern states. Moreover, just like those fancy places out west, Snowshoe has slopes on more than one mountain. Many lodging and dining options are available inside the resort. snowshoemtn.com
Wisp Resort There isn’t a more impressive snowmaking plant than the one at Wisp Resort. You would have to see it to believe it. They offer 34 trails and they are the only ski area in the region with an actual bowl – Bobcat Bowl, which ope ns with natural snowfall. They are the only ski area with an artificial whitewater center on top of the mountain. They have arguably the best snowmaking plant and snow tubing hill in the region - their off the slope fun is pretty great also. Bonus: Summer activities include three canopy tour zip lines, kayak and paddleboard rentals, mountain biking, segway tours, archery, orienteering, and a mountain coaster. wispresort.com
Get your “schussing” off to a great start, along with the many fun adventures available on a snow-capped mountain. Speedy races to the bottom on skis or a tube will surely have your heart racing if the phenomenal panoramas don’t. No need to stray too far from home - keep those Southern roots right where they are and enjoy your winter at any one of these powdery destinations.