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Southern U.S. Skiing

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
I found this place referenced a few times around the Web as a good forum for US skiing. So, for my first post, a plea for opinions.

The story thus far. Yours truly, having just moved from Boston back to West Tennessee, is seriously jonesing for some skiing. The bad news is that the extra job I was supposed to have to pay for a trip back north to meet up and ski with some friends has fallen through, leaving me sad and without alot of fundage.

That said, I'm scrambling trying to manage at least a small trip if for nothing else, just to avoid going a full season without practice. So, I'm looking for any place in the southern states that has anything resembling decent skiing. To clarify that, I don't need big mountain, huge trails and all that. Just something with a few decent trails for an intermediate level skier. Comparison, I spent most of last year at Wachusett mountain in Mass. (haven't read forum rules on linking, so I won't do that yet).

I know about Ober Gatlinburg in East Tennessee, and could probably manage a 1 or 2 night trip there (too far for a day trip), but is it worth it at all? If not, are there any decent places within say a 10 hour drive or less of Memphis, TN?
post #2 of 19
Not sure, but it seems like you should be easily within that distance to Snowshoe WV. Actually a very good mountain that gets a lot of snow and has decent pitch, and an Intrawest village at the base. If not, try the places in NC (Sugar and Beech). Due to their elevation, they do pretty well.

Just realized you said you are in Memphis. Nevermind. It sounds like you might be hosed. Get on a plane. It might be cheaper than gas money from where you are. Plus, you could go west. Find a good airfare to Denver, SLC or Reno.

post #3 of 19
I'm bored so I thought I'd do some MapQuesting for ya...

Sugar looks to be about 3 hours closer to Memphis than Snowshoe (8.5 hours vs 11.5 hours)
post #4 of 19
Thread Starter 
So does anyone have any experience with Sugar? Conditions, crowds, staff?
post #5 of 19
Originally Posted by Moebius View Post
So does anyone have any experience with Sugar? Conditions, crowds, staff?

1) Conditions, Generally Bad to fair.
2) Can be awful on weekends (lift lines from 30-60 mins)
3) Staff. A grab bag. Anything from very good to very bad.

Beech, isn't much better.

http://www.mapquest.com/directions/m...s=co&2z= &r=f

Banner Elk NC
http://www.mapquest.com/directions/m...s=nc&2z=&r= f

http://www.mapquest.com/directions/m...s=wv&2z=&r= f
post #6 of 19
I will have to second Lonnie's comments. Lonnie used to live there I believe? Right, Lonnie?
I learned at Sugar,but the conditions were bad (ice, ice, and more ice). It(Sugar), however, hooked me on skiing. AND yes, It's small and crowded.
They are getting some snow right now as is all of the South. If it was all I could do for a trip, and the conditions were right, I would probably go back.
Beech is not far from Sugar nor is Hawksnest, but I don't have experience there. One of the two has night skiing?
Appalachian is another choice and might be a little closer, but still small.
But, I would do Snowshoe over Sugar(NC resorts) any day and worth the extra 2-3 hours drive. Alot more runs (50 something??), and a really decent base village, however the village is on top instead of at the bottom. How weird is that? You can also ski Silvercreek and there is a shuttle that runs btw the two (a couple of miles distance?).
Cup Run is the longest at Snowshoe (over a mile?). Nothing like that even close at the NC resorts.
Hope this helps!
post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the replies. I'll start working out the math. Maybe I'll be able to upull something off and avoid the potential for total insanity from non-skiing.
post #8 of 19
Originally Posted by kdskis2 View Post
Lonnie used to live there I believe? Right, Lonnie?
Yup. It's one thing to ski there if you live there and have few other options. It's another to travel there in seach of "good skiing". For this one, Time x Money x Effort <> Rewards.
post #9 of 19
Check for cheap airfares fly into SLC ski alta/bird Rent an sUV sleep in the back in a walmart Parking lot in Sandy. Make a evening sunday flight back to Tenn bet it would not be that much more then an 8 to 11 hour drive by yourself. Monday morning back at the office coworkes ask what did you do this weekend? Watch their jaws drop as you say "I skied in Utah."
post #10 of 19
Originally Posted by kdskis2 View Post
Alot more runs (50 something??), and a really decent base village, however the village is on top instead of at the bottom. How weird is that? You can also ski Silvercreek and there is a shuttle that runs btw the two (a couple of miles distance?).
Cup Run is the longest at Snowshoe (over a mile?). Nothing like that even close at the NC resorts.
Silver Creek area is included in the 50 something runs, as are many tiny traverses. Lines will be a problem at Snowshoe on weekends as well. Cupp and Shay's are decent runs though, and are the only ones at the Shoe that have the 1500 vert ft. that they claim. The rest of the normal runs are probably ~700-800 ft and Silver Creek less than that.
post #11 of 19

Welcome back to the south. This is also my first post (hi all!), so it might as well be to commiserate with a neighbor. I'm a relocated nawthunah myself, but have had nine years to scope things out.

Here's a good link, covering all major (and minor) ski areas in the Southeast. Just click on the right side, and each is summarized with mtn specs, snow conditions, maps, driving directions, etc. Each also has its own website, but this brings them all together:


I have skied 7-8 of the areas in NC, VA and WV. As others have already warned, this is not the West... but it BEATS NOT SKIING. As also noted, we have been getting snow lately (including today in Tar Heel country, where schools close with 1/4 inch). The Blue Ridge Mountains in NC have highest elevations east of Rockies (6000 ft), with several resorts at 4-5000, so most have good coverage with snowmaking temps. I think all have night skiing. Beware that lift tickets cost more than real hills in Montana, which sucks for what you get.

On specific resorts:

SNOWSHOE in WV is billed as the biggest and closest to what others might consider "real." It's a longer hike for me, but might be the best hike for you, as kdskis2 suggested.

SUGAR MTN has longest run of 1.5 miles (ok... probably measuring access sideroads), and a little variety. Lifts can be crowded, per Lonnie.

SKI BEECH is "highest incorporated town in eastern US"... or something like that, and comparable to Sugar. 80" annual snowfall. Bavarian Village type feel, with skating rink. You can ski Sugar one day and Beech the next... few miles apart in Banner Elk.

WINTERGREEN is up near Charlotteville, VA... but must be even farther for you, and gets lots of traffic from DC area.

From there it drops off even more (no snide comments from those more fortunate!). APPALACHIAN and HAWKSNEST are close to our cabin, so I suffer for 1/2 day sessions, but you don't want to drive your distance for 4-600 ft of vertical drop. Actually, CATALOOCHEE might be closest for you, in very western tip of NC, on the opposite side of Great Smoky Natl Park from you... I haven't skied, but may be more like last two mentioned.

Have fun, wherever you go.
post #12 of 19
Originally Posted by Moebius View Post
So does anyone have any experience with Sugar? Conditions, crowds, staff?
Sugar has the best conditions in NC that I know of. They have improved thier snow making and grooming over the years and they dont have as much ice as in the past. I live within a couple of hours and can be a opportunist. We also ski alot during the week and at night to beat the crowds. Even on weekends I've never waited more the 10 or 15 mins in a lift line. I like Beech mtn but it's really windy up there and the conditions do tend to be icy. Hawksnest is smaller but is ok. There all really close together and if your planning on going soon you should hit some pretty decent conditions. You could ski one each day for three days and have some fun. Go to weather.com and type in Banner Elk NC so you can track the weather in the area. As long as the lows are mostly in the teens and low twenties the conditions will be good. I agree with some of the other guys Snow Shoe is the best if you can swing it. NC would probably be better on your pocket though. Check out www.skinc.com.
post #13 of 19
Why waste your time drivind 8- 10 hours? I got a round trip ticket from Birmingham to SLC for $258 on American. I will hit the ground at 10:55 AM and ski free with a Quickstart pass that afternoon.
post #14 of 19
You can get from Memphis to Taos, NM in 16 hours of driving. Find a couple people to split gas costs and go for it! Shoot, with some driving help, that's doable for a couple long weekends a winter.
post #15 of 19
Thread Starter 
On the driving vs flying cost note, I failed to mentioned it'd be two of us (the wife too), so it changes the flight costs drastically. Plus, right now I do not have a good flight sturdy ski bag, and most of the ones that look tough enough to fly with cost a pretty penny.
post #16 of 19
You're only 7 or 8 hours from Perfect North Slopes in southern Indiana (just east of Cincinnati). Standard MW vert - 300', 22 runs, 5 chairs. excellent snowmaking & grooming. Comparable to most of what you'd find in Michigan. Plenty of cheap lodging available in Cincinnati. I've talked to alot of people there that come up from Nashville for the weekend.

post #17 of 19
Perfect North has 400' vert. It's my "home hill". It barely gets any real snow, but as stated the snowmaking is very good. Surprisingly the terrain is decent and compares favorably to what Snowshoe had the last time I was there. PN has a few tree runs and there are some good natural bumps are allowed to form in places.

In addition to tons of lodging around Cincinnati, there is a casino hotel right in Lawrenceburg if that's your thing.

Snowshoe would be worth it if you're looking for a more resort type place to escape to and you care about food/nightlife/etc. in addition to skiing. If you watch the weather and go after they get some good snow it would be a fun time. You can get a ski in/out condo rental there and it's nice to stay right in the village - we didn't move our car once it was parked.
post #18 of 19
Sierra trading post for reasonably priced double ski bags. Stood the test pretty well.
post #19 of 19
I am a former Vermont skier that has been living in Virginia for the last 16 years. Wintergreen VA is my season-pass hill, and it's a great little place on weekdays. Comparable to a Jimminy Peak MA size resort, except we have higher elevations here in the middle Appalachians (top of Wintergreen is at 3900 ft elevation; they have about 1000 ft of vertical). Wintergreen only gets 30-50 inches of snow a year, but they have one of the biggest snowmaking systems in the US -- it's an engineering marvel. They can lay down the snow like no other resort I know of.

The big ski resort in the area is Snowshoe WV. That's where I go for weekend trips a couple times a season, and/or if there's a big powder dump coming. Their peak elevation is 4848 feet, with 1500 ft vertical on the two long expert trails (Cupp Run and Shay's Revenge). Because of the location and elevation, Snowshoe catches a lot of lake effects snows from the Great Lakes, and normally gets 180-220 inches of snow annually. Snowshoe is in an interesting part of the Appalachians that was formerly covered with Red Spruce forests; they were logged heavily, but are making a slow comeback. The result is a very unique environment and a spread out, Western, big mountain feel. In fact the scenery is quite breathtaking.

On a good day, Snowshoe is almost as good as the resorts I used to ski in Vermont. On a bad day, it's crowded and there are a lot of dangerous redneck skiers on the slopes. As the only big ski resort in the south, Snowshoe gets a lot of family/group trips from the whole southeast, and these folks seem to be obnoxious tourists first and skiers second. That said, I have been there on uncrowded weekdays with a powder dump and it was as good as it gets. Silver Creek is the hidden gem at Snowshoe, with light crowds and a couple delightful expert trails.

There are also Timberline and Canaan Valley ski areas in WV that are quite good, but on a smaller scale than Snowshoe. These are the locals mountains. They are near the Dolly Sods Wilderness, and a lot of skiers do backcountry there.

I think the WV mountains are ripe for another ski area -- something more serious than Snowshoe (which is an Intrawest tourist pit) but larger than Timberline and CV. There are actually some great mountains in Virginia along the WV border that would qualify as well. Given the elevations and snowy climates, these areas could easily rival Vermont.

I guess if you had to drive somewhere, Snowshoe would be the best option. But for all the resources it would take to make that trip from TN, you might be better off flying somewhere out west.

My wife's little brother is flying up from Sewanee TN to visit us next week, and he's coming with us to Snowshoe for a 4-day weekend. He has skied at Oberlin-Gatlinburg, and from what I hear it's not really worth going to. Seems like a really small place.
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