Anyone who loves skiing or snowboarding can’t stop staring at the skies in anticipation of this season’s first falling snowflakes. Some fresh powder and a few snow guns are all that’s needed to get the slopes open and ready for customers.
“I can’t wait,” said Mike Thomas, general manager at Alpine Ski Center, 2916 Bristol Highway. “I eat, drink, sleep skiing 365 because I work at a ski shop. It’s been my life for 22 years so yeah I’m dying to get out. I’m tired of the warm weather. I want to see snow on the ground.”
Just the mention of snow Wednesday had excited riders coming through the doors at Alpine Ski Center. Thomas says weather is the biggest contributing factor to their sales, as many regular customers subscribe to the “out of sight out of mind” mantra. So when rumors of flurries begin, customers start buying up equipment and quizzing nearby slopes for their next open date.
Ryan Costin, general manager at Beech Mountain Resort, formerly known as Ski Beech, says there’s been a lot of buzz this year following two seasons of great conditions on the slopes. While fielding phone calls and emails from excited skiers and snowboarders, Costin and his staff are hoping for 100 or so inches of fresh snow throughout the season that they can build up with the help of 10 new SMI Super PoleCat snow guns.
Beech Mountain Resort in Beech Mountain, N.C., opened last weekend with several hundred coming out to experience the new advanced terrain that took the place of an outdated chairlift and the new beginning terrain located on the side of the former tubing run. Two new shops in the Alpine village may also increase traffic to Beech.
“I think people are still surprised from time to time that there is skiing and snowboarding in North Carolina,” Costin said.
Wolf Ridge Ski Resort in Mars Hill, N.C., hasn’t opened yet, but ticketing manager Charles Stansell says they would love to see people going downhill by the weekend. The resort may see 50-60 inches of natural snow this year and fingers are crossed that it will be sooner rather than later.
“We can build on what ever Mother Nature gives us as long as it’s good weather,” Stansell said.
Wolf Ridge also has added terrain this season, plus a new tube run and a zip line set to open soon so that visitors will be able to “take shots at their friends with snowballs,” Stansell said with a laugh.
Both Wolf Ridge and Beech Mountain see a lot of clients who are new to the outdoor winter sports world, especially families and youngsters. Both locations offer ample opportunities for learning the basics of skiing and snowboarding.
“Families get to go out and learn to ski together and laugh and joke at each other and poke fun while they’re learning,” said Stansell, who recommends spending an hour or two at Wolf Ridge’s Ski School to get a first-timer down the intermediate slope.
A new teaching area at Beech Mountain Resort is all a part of efforts to introduce the sport to new generations, Costin said.
In fact, this generation of parents may be the reason skiing has picked up in popularity in recent years since the snowboard craze.
Thomas said those in an age group similar to himself grew up skiing and now have kids who they want to learn the sport.
Other popular items Thomas has noticed this season at Alpine Ski Center include fleece outerwear and bright 1980s inspired colors like purples and pinks.
And as the weather gets frigid, stores and resorts will see traffic and dollar signs increase.
“You can look at economics in the whole United States, but when it comes to the Southeast, if we don’t have the weather, people really aren’t thinking about it,” Thomas said.
Lift tickets at Beech Mountain vary between $20-60 for adults and Wolf Ridge’s rates are listed between $26-$69. For directions, more info about rates and rentals, plus updates on openings, visit www.beechmountainresort.com and www.skiwolfridgenc.com.