Though the Southeast isn’t necessarily endowed with the waist-deep pow of the West, there’s one bonafide way to get some time on unskiied powder—first tracks. You’ll have to earn your turns, so rise at dawn, catch a glimpse of the slopes basking in the rising sun from your balcony window view at the Pinnacle Inn, then head over to Beech Mountain Resort, your playground for the day.
At 5506 feet, the town of Beech Mountain, N.C., (the highest town east of the Rockies) rises above the surrounding High Country like a frosted jewel. On a clear day, you can see for over 50 miles from your perch on the lift. More often than not, however, the town and its namesake resort are shrouded in winter storms. Great for snow, not-so-great for vista viewing. Bring a balaclava—the wind can be fierce.
After you make a few runs, you’ll probably need to chow down. Huddle up in the basement of Fred’s General Mercantile where the Backside Deli is located. You can watch the snow fall softly out the window over a steaming cup of joe and a pile of eggs and potatoes. If you forgot to bring your balaclava (or any of your other snow apparel), you can walk next door to gear up for the weekend’s adventures.
Once you’re properly fueled, it’s back to the slopes for a full day of shredding. For a small resort, Beech certainly has plenty going on. The Beech Mountain Brewing Company (that’s right, a ski resort with its very own beerskis) is located right at the bottom of the slopes, a convenient place for an après ski scene. Cozy, inviting, and often packed, it’s easy to whittle away hours of your day getting boozed up in your ski pants.
But get back out there—you’ve got plenty of time for a few last runs. If the evening air starts to slow you down, grab a warm-up at the 5506′ Skybar, a glass roundhouse overlooking the slopes. It’s the perfect place to watch the sun go down with cup of local Bald Guy Brew (and a dash or two of Baileys).
For dinner, you can eat right at the resort! The Beech Tree Bar and Grill is a great place to chill out, or if you’re feeling wild perhaps kick it up a notch, over live tunes and good company. If you’re ready to retire for the evening, order a brick oven pizza to go and curl up by the fireplace. It doesn’t get much better than that.
When to go: Head to Beech in late February with your best array of neon-colored ski clothes, or maybe just your camera, for Totally ’80s Ski Weekend. Costume contests, cover bands, dance parties. How can you go wrong?
Mix up your snow-cation by ditching the downhill and heading across the wide open country…not literally, of course.
Cross-country, or Nordic, skiing is the perfect way to explore local trails and enjoy the snow. Should Beech Mountain get a dumping, you can literally ski out your front door and through the area’s Emerald Outback system, a newly revamped eight-mile network of single- and doubletrack trails. You can grab a map at the visitor center in town to help navigate your journey through Narnia.
Which is great, unless you don’t have cross-country skis. To rent a pair, you’ll have to head off the mountain through Banner Elk (make sure you load up on breakfast and caffeine first at the Banner Elk Cafe) south to Pineola Inn, where you can rent skis for $25 a day and even get your first lesson. In the event the snow is really good, which you can monitor through the High Country Nordic Association’s Facebook page, you may want to consider heading north to the town of Boone, where classic hikes like Elk Knob and scenic drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway become epic skis.
A great ski for beginners is to cruise along the old carriage trails at Moses H. Cone Memorial Park. Wide and gradual, these trails are a less-intimidating option for those who are just learning to free the heel. You can follow the trail to the top for views of the mountains and the grand Cone Manor that overlooks them.
Top off the outing with a boat full of Mexican goodness from Coyote Kitchen. Staples here include coconut rice, fried plantains, and sweet potatoes. Add a spoonful of pineapple habanero salsa and your insides will be fired up for days (in the best way possible).