Snowboarding Trip to Beech Mountain North Carolina
If you live on the east coast, love to ski or snowboard, and do not always have the time to head out west to hit the slopes, check out Beech Mountain & Sugar Mountain near Banner Elk, North Carolina. Five days was more than enough time to enjoy several days on the slopes. In fact, you don’t need more than a weekend to have an enjoyable skiing or snowboarding trip to Beech Mountain.
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Beech Mountain, North Carolina
Although I usually do most of our trip planning, my friend, Anna, gets credit for finding the excellent AirBnB for our long weekend in Beech Mountain, North Carolina. Aside from proximity to the ski slopes, the final selection came down to size of the living spaces, size and functionality of the kitchen, and the game room in case we got snowed in. The fireplace and grill also weighed into our decision.
Brad’s home features 5 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms, plus two spacious living areas. The upstairs living area has a beautiful fireplace, and the downstairs living area has a pool table, foosball table, and arcade games. All rooms have large Roku Smart TV’s. There is also plenty of parking for multiple cars, sleds to borrow, and a grill.
The house is located in a quiet area on the Beech Mountain golf course. The view is quite lovely, and we were greeted by unexpected guests, herds of deer, each night of our stay around dusk.
Hitting the Slopes
The main goal of our trip to North Carolina was to get to spend some time snowboarding and skiing. We divided our time between snowboarding in Beech Mountain Resort and Sugar Mountain Resort over a 3 day period. We ended up spending the first and third day at closer Beech Mountain Resort, and going down the mountain to Sugar Mountain Resort on the second day.
Beech Mountain Resort boasts the highest ski area on the East Coast, and has been in operation since 1967. Beech Mountain Resort encompasses 95 skiable acres, and has a peak elevation of 5,506 feet. Base elevation comes in at 4,675 feet, equating to a vertical rise of 830 feet. Beech Mountain Resort has 8 lifts: 6 chair lifts, 1 rope tow, and 1 magic carpet. You will find 17 trails to explore: 3 green trails (easiest terrain), 7 blue trails (more difficult terrain), 4 black diamond trails (most difficult terrain), and 2 freestyle trails. The entire front side of the mountain is equipped with LED sleep lights for night skiing. There is also ice skating and tubing on site, as well as 4 restaurants and 2 sports shops. Beech Mountain Resort is home to Beech Mountain Brewing Company, an actual brewery right there at the base of the slopes. I tried the winter warmer beer called “Old Man” and would recommend it if you are feeling a darker beer after a day on the slopes! Good wings too!
Sugar Mountain Resort began operations in 1969 and encompasses 125 skiable acres. Peak elevation for Sugar Mountain is 5,300 feet and the base elevation is 4,100 providing a vertical drop of 1,200 feet. Sugar Mountain’s longest run is a mile and a half long! To get to the slopes, Sugar Mountain maintains 6 chairlifts, and utilizes 2 magic carpets and a handle tow at the tubing park, terrain park, and beginners area. Sugar Mountain has a total of 21 trails: 7 green trails (easiest terrain), 10 blue trails (intermediate terrain), 1 blue/black trail (difficult terrain), 1 black diamond trail (expert terrain), and 1 double black diamond trail (they don’t even label the difficulty on this one…. good luck??). Of the 21 slopes, 15 are equipped with lighting for night skiing. Sugar Mountain also offers snowshoeing, tubing, and ice skating. When you need a break from the snow, you can check out one of the 2 sports shops, or grab some food at the restaurant, cafeteria, or snack bar. If you end up at the Bar, try the Peppermint Patty (peppermint schnapps & hot chocolate), the hot cider with brandy, and the cheese sticks!
Both Beech Mountain Resort and Sugar Mountain Resort are worth the visit regardless of if you ski or snowboard. Both mountains offer a variety of terrain for all skill levels. Both mountains also offer tubing and ice skating. They are close enough that it is absolutely possible to check out both resorts in a trip to the area while staying at one place. If you must choose between one or the other, I would say Sugar Mountain is the better pick for more advanced skiers or snowboarders. Beech Mountain has more for those of us who are less advanced, and Beech Mountain Brewery is quite nice when you call it quits a litter earlier than your friends. Sugar Mountain also has a nice bar & grill area, but as someone who enjoys trying local beers & wine, I enjoyed Beech Mountain Brewery a little more. I would definitely visit both slopes again, and that isn’t only because I fell on my camera and bruised my ribs on the first day, which limited my endurance on the slopes. Next time, I would also like to check out some of the other activities offered like the snowshoeing, tubing, and ice skating. In general, the Banner Elk, North Carolina area is nice because you have multiple options for winter activities within a short drive.
Off The Slopes
In addition to spending a lot of time on the slopes, we also spent a good bit of time enjoying a cocktail by the fireplace at our AirBnB and sledding in the neighborhood. On our first night, Chris and I were the first to arrive, and ended up snowed in! But you can’t say we didn’t make the best of it with frozen Totino’s pizzas and an amazing bottle of Barbaresco from our Italian wine club, followed by Ben & Jerrys. Once our friends arrived, we took full advantage of the spacious kitchen and cooked most of our meals at the AirBnB. Some of the menu items included eggs, bacon, breakfast burritos, steaks, burgers, and tacos. We also opted for lunch out one day at Bayou Smokehouse & Grill in Banner Elk, NC. We also enjoyed the daily visits from a herd of deer that live nearby, and walks around the golf course by the AirBnB.
Final Thoughts &
I would recommend a trip to Beech Mountain/ Banner Elk, North Carolina to anyone looking to get in a quick skiing or snowboarding trip on the East Coast. Is snowboarding in Beech Mountain as awesome as out west? Not really. Even with feet of actual snow, they constantly have to make snow, and those machines shooting icy snow at your face are not ideal. Annoying? Yes. A deal breaker? No. I would still go back to Beech Mountain Resort and Sugar Mountain Resort. The slopes are great for my less than expert skill level, the price is more budget friendly than out west, and it is an easy drive for us from Atlanta. Not to mention, everyone we encountered was genuinely friendly and helpful. Plus, I still need to check out the snowshoeing, ice skating, and tubing! And I am still a bit bummed out about getting hurt on my first day there and not fully getting to enjoy the entire trip. SO, Yes! I will definitely give snowboarding in Beech Mountain, North Carolina another shot as soon as I can.
In addition, for the next trip, I would love to be able to spend a little more time exploring the local towns, and trying out a couple other restaurants. At the top of the list for next time is Dunn’s Deli and Bodega’s Kitchen & Wine Bar. I would also like to do a wine tasting at Banner Elk Winery.
While I am at it, I would like to mention a few of the local businesses that you should definitely check out if you are planning a trip to the area. We found the staff at these places to be super friendly and helpful, and the products/services offered to be exactly what we needed.
We stopped in Fred’s several times throughout our trip for a few random groceries, a bottle of wine, and firewood. They also have a small ski shop below the grocery store where I purchased an awesome pair of ski goggles! They do offer rental gear and gear tune ups as well.
Our friends needed to rent gear, so we went to Alpine Ski Center for our rentals, as it was closer to our AirBnB. They also sold helmets (something not sold at Fred’s), so Chris and I picked up some helmets, finally! They were super helpful with the gear, and made sure you only paid for the amount of time you planned to use.