It’s hard to imagine a more reliable escape into winter than a visit to the 5,506-foot summit of Beech Mountain. Just cresting a mile-high ridge into the fairyland-frosted setting of Eastern America’s loftiest town (and highest namesake ski area) is an above-it-all experience.
Best of all, you really don’t have to leave this secluded island in the sky. Beech Mountain Resort has everything a skier, snowboarder, or snow tuber needs, including 17 trails and 830 vertical feet of sliding on the state’s second biggest ski area.
A pair of new four-person summit chairlifts opened last season at this aggressively improving ski resort. This winter, new high-tech snow guns and added water pumping and storage finalize a 50-percent snowmaking expansion that general manager Ryan Costin says will cover “more trails than ever before.”
Even nonskiers can hang out slopeside at the kitschy, alpine-style Resort Village. A classic 7,000-square-foot outdoor ice skating rink has been completely refurbished, and expanded tubing runs now have easier village access.
Warm up by the ice rink fire pit, stroll festively lit paths, or step into Beech Mountain Brewing Company for a burger and brew from one of the very few ski resort-owned microbreweries. Beside the main summit chairlift, Beech Tree Bar and Grille has a made-to-order menu and a winter-long music series. On weekends, head downstairs to the Red Baron Room, a recently reborn, iconic name in Southern ski bars. The storied, once private club had speakeasy status back when Beech was young and the mountains dry.
The newest, coolest spot to hoist a hot toddy (or anything else) is the 5506 Skybar, named for its elevation on the mountain’s summit. Skiers have knock-your-boots-off views in all directions from a glass-enclosed roundhouse atop a 2,800-square-foot deck with picnic tables and Adirondack chairs.
Don’t miss Fred’s General Mercantile. Whether you want food, wine, beer, books, or boots, the country store lives up to its motto, “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” There’s also a downstairs ski shop and deli (with a hearty breakfast).
Off the slopes, near town hall, there’s a free municipal sledding hill for kids 12 and under. There’s hiking, too. Upper Pond Creek Trail is an easy to moderate out-and-back walk. For the snowiest hike or snowshoe, start near the summit on the Emerald Outback trails. Roan Mountain Overlook is a favorite view. The town’s Buckeye Creek Recreation Center lends snowshoes, and the Buckeye Lake Loop and Westerly Hills Trail are nearby choices. Or pay the modest fee for indoor tennis and pickle ball, a kids playroom, and health club.
Winter fun and frigid temps mean food and drink are easy to find. Famous Brick Oven Pizzeria near the sled hill is a family favorite for massive pies. Rascals Bar and Grille at the entrance to the ski area is a recent and highly regarded choice (great burgers, crab cakes, and vegan options). Banner Elk is just minutes away, albeit, down a big drop.
For COVID-19 info and more on places to stay, play, and dine, visit beechmtn.com.
The Euro-styled ski hotel Beech Alpen Inn boasts a cozy restaurant and bar, rooms with views of the ski runs, plus a two-sided fireplace that's perfect on a winter evening.