Beech Mountain Ski Resort is the highest resort in the east, scraping the sky at 5,506 feet. Beech Mountain, NC is within a gas-tank’s drive from Atlanta, it offers affordable lift tickets and accommodations, and they dote on families. Whether you want to ski Beech, or just play in the snow, these advantages work together to make it a brilliant choice for a winter family vacation.
Beech Mountain Ski Resort
Do you remember that first time on the slopes?
The joy! The fear!
No. Not your first time. I’m talking about your kid’s earliest ski trip!
They strap into miniature boots and then lock into pocket-sized skis. With trepidation, they trudge up a hill that has the modest of slopes but feels to them like Kilimanjaro.
Once at the top their eyes start to twinkle. That fear disappears. Before you can even open your mouth with grand counsel, they have propelled their little body down the snowy mountain. However, a smile covers their face even as they lunge into the instructor who is attentively waiting at the bottom of the slope.
You sense it: delight, satisfaction and joy. The day has only just begun!
Whether you have yet to experience skiing with your kids or it’s already old hat, Beech Mountain Ski Resort is a fantastic place for a family ski trip, especially if it’s your first time. You might not have time for a week-long vacation from Atlanta, but it is easy to make a weekend jaunt to play in the North Carolina snow at Beech Mountain. Here are some tips for a smooth adventure.
Getting to Beech Mountain, NC from Atlanta
Atlanta traffic is brutal, especially on the weekend. You don’t need to skip work or school entirely on Friday, but departing Atlanta before rush hour ensures spending more time on the slopes than in the car. For best results, be sure you are cruising up I-985 before 3pm, or you can plan to add up to two extra hours to your trip. I tell you this from experience. Bah!
Fill your gas tank before you leave, and you should not have to stop for gas again until you get to the Beech Mountain ski resort. Cruising to Beech Mountain is a one-tank trip. Beech Mtn itself has no gas stations, though. Refill in Banner Elk before you get to the condo. They charge a fair price and the stations are clean.
A 5- to 6-hour trip necessitates stopping for grub and at least one bathroom break (for our family, anyway.) On the map there are an absence of exits along US23. Don’t be discouraged; fast food restaurants and gas stations with restrooms line the road in several places along the route to the North Carolina ski resorts.
Skiing in North Carolina: Beech Mountain Rentals
Once you check into your condo, drive to Beech Mountain Ski Resort and pick up your rental equipment even if you’re not skiing that evening. The morning rental lines are LONG; our objective is maximize your time on the slopes. If you pick up skis the night before, there is generally not an additional charge and you buy yourself an extra hour in the morning.
Even if you are getting your skis the night before, be patient and build in a bit of time. Skis are selected and adjusted based on height and weight, so for safety reasons, put down what you weigh, not what you wish you weighed.
It may be cheaper to rent equipment elsewhere and bring it, however, the Beech Mountain resort staff are only allowed to make adjustments to equipment they rent, so if you run into issues, you could be out of luck if you have rented your ski equipment elsewhere.
Why You Need Ski School (Besides being FREE)
If your kids are new to skiing, then I recommend a ski lesson. At Beech Mountain Ski Resort, beginner lessons are free Monday – Thursday (non-holiday) with the purchase of rental equipment. The offer is valid for ages 8 and up. (note the offer doesn’t apply on MLK or President’s Day Monday)
Even if you have to pay for ski school, the extra expenditure is worth it. Ski School helps your kids feel more confident on the skis and the North Carolina snow. It will teach them fundamentals they will use for the rest of the weekend, plus instructors give a recommendation on the trails suitable for your ability. It also creates a positive experience that he or she will bring forward with them into the next family ski trip.
Ski school at Beech Mountain resort fills up fast, so sign up as soon as you arrive in the morning. The ski school is run by Scott Boutilier, a former ski racer and professional skier. Scott spent a decade as the head coach of the Appalachian State Ski team and coached them to nine conference championships. He now manages the Snowsports Learning Center.
Snowboarding vs. Skiing at Beech Mountain, North Carolina
When Sue went to Beech Mountain Ski Resort, her boys were super excited to try snowboarding for the first time after following the shredders at the X-Games. However, after a morning trying to get the hang of it, her middle son decided to try skiing instead. In our opinion, skiing is easier to learn than snowboarding and probably better if it’s your first time out.
Scott Boutilier, (former ski racer and professional skier) doesn’t recommend snowboarding for those 6 and under. He said size and coordination at that age make it very difficult for kids to be successful at snowboarding.
Ski Sessions at Beech Mountain Ski Resort
Beech Mountain Ski Resort has three ski sessions, so if you’d rather enjoy the snow in North Carolina another way, you can make time.
Full Day runs from 9 am – 4:30 pm., more than enough time for a novice skier to get their fill.
Half-Day tickets are available for either 9 – 12:30 pm or 1 – 4 pm. If you aren’t sure about North Carolina skiing, purchase a half-day ticket for 9 – 12:30 and if you want to continue, go to guest services and upgrade the lift ticket to a full-day pass.
Twilight skiing is from 1 – 10 pm. Beech Mountain closes down each day from 4:30 – 6:00 pm for grooming; it’s also the perfect time for skiers to grab a bite to eat in the cafeteria style View Haus or the full service Beech Tree Bar and Grille.
Best time to avoid the crowds: I was told the busiest session is 9 – 12:30 pm – so if you want to avoid crowds, maybe try Twilight.
What to do off the Slopes: Beech Mountain FREE Sledding Hill
If you have young children, consider purchasing half-day lift tickets. This will save you a little money and frees the family up for other activities Beech Mountain offers, like the free sledding hill.
You’ll find the sledding hill at the Visitor Center downtown. Sledding is free; you can rent or purchase sleds affordably, or bring your own. Only kids 12 and younger may sled, but you can ride down with your kiddo if necessary.
When God doesn’t provide enough of the white stuff, they have multiple high-powered snow machines on the sledding hill. You can even check the Beech Mountain weather, and see the Beech Mountain resort snow conditions on the Beach Mountain real time web cam.
After sledding, grab a delicious pizza at the Famous Brick Oven Pizzeria; it is directly across main street from the Beech Mtn. sledding hill. Kids enjoy dinner there because the pizza is tasty and there is a game room in back with arcades, pool tables and more. The family can also relax at Pinnacle Inn’s indoor heated pool. The activity building there houses a pool table and Foosball table. There is also an option to watch a movie by the fire in your condo.
What to do off the slopes at Beech Mtn Resort: Shopping
No visit to Beech Mountain is complete without a stop at Fred’s General Mercantile. Fred Pfohl is an interesting fellow and you’ll find him a short walk from the community sledding hill at Fred’s General Mercantile. His motto is “If you don’t see it, ask for it… If we don’t have it, you don’t need it,” and he’s right.
This store has everything from ski equipment (including rental clothes) to groceries and even items literally displayed in a kitchen sink. There are three floors of shopping, so make sure to check it all out.
The bottom floor also includes a deli where you can get sandwiches or an awesome bacon, egg and cheese breakfast biscuit – with bacon cooked to perfection.
Don’t leave without meeting Fred and his wife Margie. If you have any questions about Beech Mountain, they can help. In addition to his stint as Mayor, Fred was instrumental in bringing the Free community sledding hill to Beech Mountain. He is also a major player in making Beech a year round vacation destination, having built several hiking trails in the area.
Why pick Beech Mountain Ski Resort
There are several ski resorts in North Carolina, but Beech Mountain hails as the highest elevation to ski east of the Rockies. This means that if there is snow in the forecast for Western North Carolina, you are more likely to experience it at Beech Mountain. Plus Beech Mountain Ski Resort has 16 trails and 95 skiable acres of terrain.
Winter in the southeast can be fussy; it can be snowing one weekend and bordering on hot the next. Don’t let this deter you from planning your trip. If the weather is not cooperating, depend on Beech to make excellent snow. They have 30 high-tech, powerful snow guns and over 100 smaller ones. We discovered that even in relatively warmer weather, the snow was not slushy and there were few bare spots on the open lifts. Even the locals were carving it up in 55-degree weather.
Other Ski Resorts in NC
In addition to Beech Mountain Resort, there are several other places to go skiing in North Carolina.
Sugar Mountain Resort is basically at the foot of Beech Mountain North Carolina, and another good choice. It’s so close in fact, that you could ski Beach in the morning, then do some Sugar Mountain tubing in the afternoon.
HawksNest The Beech Mountain Visitors Center is a great warm up to snow tubing at Hawksnest, the largest snow tubing park on the East Coast and only about 30 minutes from Beech Mountain and another great place to see North Carolina snow. This former ski resort offers 20 lanes of snow tubing plus a zip line course. Click here for more on Hawk’s Nest and snow tubing in NC.
Appalachian Ski Mountain is another great choice for beginners. The French Swiss Ski College has taught over a million people how to ski.
Where to stay in Beech Mountain North Carolina
We stayed at the Pinnacle Inn Resort, which has full kitchens, an indoor pool, jacuzzi and game room. Sue has also stayed at a few additional places at Beech Mountain, NC. Here are her thoughts on those.
Archer’s Mountain Inn has hotel rooms adjacent to the upscale Jackalope’s View restaurant and The Vault Bar. If you are going without kids, I’d stay here. Breakfast at Jackalope’s is included.
If you have children, Archer’s Mountain Inn also offers 3, 4 and 5 bedroom vacation home rentals nearby. On our first visit we stayed in a large three-bedroom house with a hot tub on the deck. The kids loved throwing snowballs outside and thought it fantastic to be in the hot tub with snow all around them.
The Klonteska condos are modern condo units with a gorgeous view of the mountains, located directly across the street from Beech Mountain’s free sledding hill, and a prime location for playing in the snow.
The Pinnacle Inn Resort offers a heated indoor pool and hot tub, perfect for cold winter nights and sore muscles from skiing. A washer and dryer inside the unit is perfect, even if all you do is dry wet clothes. Note: Some buildings at the Pinnacle Inn Resort are being renovated. Management expects renovations on guest condos will be complete by June 2017. Work will continue in the recreation building (which houses the pool and meeting room) throughout the summer months, with an expected completion date of October 2017.
Preparing and Packing for Beech Mountain North Carolina
All four kids joined us as we escape Atlanta. It’s was our first time bringing the preschooler skiing and our first vacation with the new baby. While our prep list appears to be growing by leaps and bounds, I am constantly wondering what I may have forgotten.
Below are the key ingredients that I formulated for a magical time in the snow with four kids of varying ages. Has your family been skiing? Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments below.
- Right before Christmas I discovered a snow suit for baby on clearance. I had planned to wade through piles and piles at our nearby consignment shop, but I was thrilled to find this $15 bargain.
- I reserved a spot in the nursery at Beech Mountain Ski Resort. Beech offers full and half-day options on weekends. We are dropping baby Elliot for a half-day session that allows hubby and me to ski with the big kids together. It also gives baby a little respite from the cold.
- Cooper is elated about learning how to ski, so we are signing him up for lessons at the Youth Learning Center at Beech. Phone and online reservations are not available- so why is this on the list? Expectation setting. Since it is a drop-off lesson, I’ve been discussing this with him each day so that it will not come as a surprise when we get there.
- While Beech offers equipment and apparel rental (yes they RENT ski jackets, bibs etc. however they do not rent hats, gloves or goggles), I was able to secure a ski bib from a friend. We are renting his equipment from the resort.
- I expect Cooper will want to spend a great deal of time at the Youth Sledding Hill. While we have a sled, I think we’ll rent one from one of the local businesses in town to save space in the van.
Teenagers/Mom and Dad
- It has been a while since we’ve been on the slopes, so we will probably put the older kids in a group lesson. I might even join them.
- Both of our older kids wear hand-me-down ski apparel. To be honest, hubby and I do not sport the svelte physiques that we did when we first started snowboarding long ago, but the pants and coats of our younger years fit the kiddos well and were classic enough to still be fashionable.
- We have yet to invest in snowboards or ice skates for the teens, so we’ll be renting them from Beech Mountain.
The Whole Family
- Each person gets a baggie of goodies for taking on the slopes: Insurance card, iPod, ear buds, cash and an emergency contact info card.
- We will pack helmets, goggles, hats and ski gloves for everyone. Other considerations: neck warmers, sunglasses, silk layering pieces and extra socks.
- Don’t forget your clothes for wearing when you’re off the slopes, PJs, toiletries and coats/hats/gloves/scarves for your time shopping and playing when you aren’t skiing.
- We’re staying at Pinnacle Inn which boasts the only heated indoor pool in the area, so we’ve added swim suits to the list.
- Pinnacle Inn also includes a game room and an arcade, but we’ll pack some family games also. Bananagrams and Bunco are favorites.
- The condos also include full kitchens plus a washer/dryer. We’d like to eat breakfast and lunch at the condo, so I’ll put together a meal plan. We’ll purchase food once we get to North Carolina, but the plan lets me know if I need to bring any particular kitchen items. I’m not sure I could make biscuits without our small cast iron skillet.
A Beginners Guide to Ski Rental and Gear at Beech Mountain Ski Resort
According to Talia Freeman, marketing manager at Beech Mountain Resort, a lot of would be skiers decide they don’t like the sport before they even get on the mountain because they find the process of getting the gear and getting around intimidating.
Don’t let ski equipment keep you off the slopes, you’d be missing so much. It’s not as hard as it sounds and once you get used to it, you’ll be walking in those ski boots like a pro. Here is a Beginner’s Guide to Ski Rental and Gear and what you need to know to look like a pro.
Clothing Rental: If you are renting clothing (usually just jackets and pants) from the ski resort, do this first. Clothing rental is likely not in the same place as equipment rental and you’ll want to be dressed for the slopes when you get your boots and skis.
Rental Boots: If you’ve never worn ski boots, it’s an odd feeling. They are designed with a slant at the back to keep you leaning forward, the stance you’ll need going down the slope. They are also very rigid to protect your ankles.
Make sure you get a good fitting boot. Allow extra room for bulky socks and if it doesn’t feel right in the equipment room, it won’t get better on the slopes, so don’t feel bad about requesting a different size or assistance.
Most ski boots need to be tight, but you’ll want a little give at the thigh. Make sure the ski pants are on the outside of the boot. This helps to keep snow out of the boot, but also doesn’t add bulk to the thigh.
Walking in Ski Boots: Ski boots are rigid. Bend your knees slightly and walk heel to toe. When you are going down steps, turn sideways, keep a hold of the railing and walk toe to heel. Walking in ski boots is like walking in heels, once you get the hang of it, it’s not too bad.
Rental Skis: Rental skis must be fitted to the boots. Once you find the right fit for your boots, give one to the ski rental folks so they can adjust the bindings on the skis to fit you.
Skis come in different sizes. If you aren’t sure what size is right for you, ask the ski fitter what they think. Shorter skis are better for beginners. They’re easier to keep straight and it’s less likely you’ll cross them (which almost always leads to a fall).
Walking with Skis: Skis are big, bulky and a little unwieldy. To make it easier to carry, lock them together by the brakes (those things sticking out on the bottom), hoist them up on your shoulder with your shoulder between the bindings, and point the tips down slightly.
Always remember, your skis are longer than you, so before turning around, make sure you aren’t going to clock someone behind you.
Rental Poles: Poles are based on your height and it really doesn’t matter what type of pole you use. As a beginner, it will mostly be used for getting you back on your feet when you fall.
What do I do with my shoes? All ski resorts have lockers where you can keep your shoes and valuables while you are out on the slopes. Find out how much the lockers are beforehand so you can have cash on hand.
Ski rental areas get real wet as people come off the slopes and the snow melts off their boots. When you return your gear, have your shoes right beside you or bring an extra pair of socks in case you step in a big puddle or just can’t avoid it getting to your locker.
Timing: Getting fitted for gear can take a while, especially on busy days. Each set of skis has to be calibrated to the individual, so it’s a personalized fit every time. Allow at least an hour to get your gear and get fitted. That means if you plan to be on the slopes skiing at 10 am, you’ll need to arrive at the mountain no later than 9 am to keep your schedule.
Final Tips and Tidbits about Beech Mountain Ski Resort
- Children 6 mo – 3 yrs can stay at the nursery for half day or full day sessions. The nursery is open 8:30am – 4:30pm. It is at the bottom of the slopes, easy for mom or dad to stop in and check on baby during their trip.
- Side note – I was very nervous about using the nursery…scared out of my mind. The manager of the nursery eased my mind immediately. She was a dream come true! I wish I could have brought her home with me. WOW!
- Kids 4-12 will enjoy the Youth Learning Center, an all day ski camp.
- Ski and snowboard lessons are also available for ages 4 and up (snowboarders must be 8yo.) The lessons are just under and hour long and can help your new skier enjoy the slopes.
- In the center of Beech’s Alpine Village you’ll also find an outdoor skating rink and fire pit. $15 buys you 2 hours on the ice and includes rentals.
- There is also an indoor game room with snack and fun if you need a respite from the slopes.
- With older kiddos, try night time skiing. Tickets are affordable, too. Nothing is quite like coming down from 5500 feet at night with the lights shining on the snow.
- Adults can enjoy ski lessons and ice skating as well. They can also grab a libation in one of the resort’s many restaurants. Let’s face it though, seeing our kids having fun in the snow is the best kind of pleasure.
Parking at Beech Mountain Ski Resort
- Parking at the resort is free.
- The parking lot is close to the slopes, but if you have a large family or a ton of equipment to drop off, then consider pulling up to the main walk to dump the kids and gear before parking.
- If you don’t want to drive to the resort, shuttles are available upon request.
Ski School at Beech Mountain Ski Resort
- Ski School is worth every penny, especially for us folks in Atlanta who frequent the slopes only once or twice a year.
- You cannot make advanced reservation for either Ski School or the Youth Learning Center; you’ll want to arrive as early as possible to sign up. Classes fill fast on weekends and holidays.
- Tips are a large portion of an instructor’s income, so be generous with the ski teachers (and nursery staff.)
- I’ve been boarding a while now, although I’m no where near an expert. I almost opted out of ski school, but wanted to be a good example for Cooper. I never regretted it!! The instructor quickly adapted his lesson to my level, and I was better able to enjoy the rest of my time on the powder because of the tips he gave me.
- For 4yo Cooper, the family’s newest skier, it was perfection! Mommy and Daddy might have been able to help him, but trusting a certified instructor who was NOT Mom or Dad proved to be invaluable for a positive start to to his newest winter sport.
Lift Tickets at Beech Mountain Ski Resort
- Half-day lift tickets are available, which are great for your first or last day in which you are driving.
- Children 4 and younger ski free.
- Seniors also ski free, so bring the grandparents with you!
- Lift tickets are cheaper on weekdays, and college and military discounts are available for the asking.
Dining at Beech Mountain Ski Resort
- There are two great restaurants on site for lunch. When we visited, we saw that the lines formed about noon. To avoid a crowd, plan snacks so that you can take an early or late lunch and reduce the time you stand in line.
- View Haus Cafeteria and Beech Tree Bar and Grill offer typical fare of hamburgers, salads, pizza and such. There are snacks and drinks, as well as alcohol for mom and dad.
- Both places are great, but View Haus was better for our young family.
- Once you get off the Beech Mountain Ski Resort, there are several places in-town for a great bite to eat. We’ve already mentioned Brick Oven Pizzeria across from the Beech Mountain free sledding hill, and
- Fred’s General Mercantile,This restaurant serves bacon and biscuits that are hard to beat, and they open at 7:30am. This means you can dine leisurely before heading to the resort. (OMG the bacon here).
- For a nice dinner, try Jackalope’s View. This fine dining restaurant welcomes kids too (they’ll do plain buttered pasta if you ask). If you do leave the kids behind, grab a nightcap at the upstairs Vault Bar. It has pool tables and a fun atmosphere.
- A bit farther from Beech Mountain is the 1861 Farmhouse in Valle Crucis. The 1861 Farmhouse also welcomes kids with an extensive kids menu, as well as a great wine list including wines made on-site.
Rentals at Beech Mountain Ski Resort
- Visitors can rent skis and snowboards, with boots. The smallest size ski boot for kids is an 8, and the smallest size snowboard boot is a 13.
- Just need shoes? They can handle that too. Plus helmets.
- Bib and coat rental is available upstairs in the View Haus. Select from toddler size through adults.
- Lockers are available for daily rental in two sizes and for reasonable rates.
- You cannot rent (for hygiene sake) socks, goggles, gloves and a few other items. Be sure to purchase these before you get here- they are also available for sale at the resort, but you will pay a premium.
Additional Perks at Beech Mountain Ski Resort
- Make no mistake, you only want to hit the terrain park if you know exactly what you’re doing on the snow. However, watching skiers and boarders at the park is great fun. If you take the quad to the top and then take the trail to the right, you can find a place to watch the action.
- Beech Mountain Ski Resort is the highest in the east at 5500 ft. Compare this to Kilimanjaro in Vermont at only 4200 ft. While Vermont is further north and has more snow, Beech Mtn is your best chance for snow of all the ski options accessible from Atlanta.
- If you and your kids are new to skiing or snowboarding, don’t be deterred. Many of the trails are wide, and there are plenty of long, flat areas on the trails. The lifts are easy to unload from; the quad is even slower and easier to exit than the double.
- I’m cheating a little by adding it here, but I want to mention the sledding hill- It is in town, not at the resort. BUT it is only 5-10 min from the resort and it’s FREE (unless you have to rent a sled…but that is affordable.) It’s a memorable way to cavort with the kids in the snow.
- Compare Beech to other resorts on FTWS.
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Disclosure: Our family took a media trip to Beech Mountain, NC, however all opinions are our own.