With an arctic blast on the way and the official start of winter just around the corner, many people are happy to curl inside this week with a good book, board game, or jam-packed Netflix queue.
But then there are those restless spirits who cannot be contained within four walls, regardless of the season! Those active spirits do well in Western North Carolina—a region full of outdoors opportunities and adventures every day of the year. Even through the cold winter days, there’s plenty to do outside in WNC to get moving and keep your mind off the cold.
Here are seven outdoor sports to try in WNC this winter:
Wherever you live in our mountains, you’re sure to find a great slope for sledding nearby! Local parks, like Montford Park or West Asheville Park in Asheville, offer safe spaces for short, steep runs. Venture out into your neighborhood and see the ground in a new way as you look for the perfect sledding slope.
If winter weather brings to mind snowy slopes, ski runs, and exciting trails, Western North Carolina has what you need. Just 35 miles west of Asheville, Cataloochee Ski Area has five lifts leading to 18 slopes and trails. If you’re not a regular skier, more than 4,000 sets of snowsports equipment will gear you up for your day on the mountain. Wolf Ridge Ski Resort offers 72 acres of skiable terrain, including some of the most challenging runs in the Southeast! With 100% snowmaking capability, their 22 lighted runs operate all season long.
If cross-country skiing is your passion, WNC has that, too. When the famed Blue Ridge Parkway is inaccessible to vehicles, sections are transformed into the perfect tracks for cross-country skiers. RootsRated recommends Grandfather Mountain between Blowing Rock and Linville, the southern terminus around Soco Gap, and the 20 miles of carriage-roads near Moses Cone Memorial Park at milepost 292.7.
3. Snowboarding and Tubing
Along with skiing, WNC’s slopes are great for snowboarders and tubers! If you’re not familiar, check out one of the local snowboarding programs, like the one offered by the Cataloochee Kidz Ski & Ride Center for kids ages 4-12. Cataloochee Ski Area’s Tube World in Maggie Valley also offers 12 lanes of fun on their specialized snowtubing hill. Come for the afternoon or stay for the weekend in a local cabin rental.
Perfect for “ski school dropouts,” snowshoeing is great for people who want the skiing experience without the learning curve. Elk Knob State Park near Boone and Sugar Mountain Resort near Banner Elk offer a variety of snowshoeing opportunities. Buckeye Recreation Center in Beech Mountain also offers snowshoe rentals. Warm up on their 1/3-mile loop, then tackle the 8 miles of high-elevation tracks at the Emerald Outback trail park.
5. Winter Hiking & Backpacking
Enjoy the best views of the year without the crowds on one of WNC’s iconic trails! Areas like Mount Mitchell State Park are open 364 days a year (with the exception of Christmas Day) for properly-equipped hikers. If you’re a waterfall lover, popular spots like Linville Falls transform into magnificent ice sculptures during the nadir of winter temperatures. ExploreAsheville.com also recommends Moore Cove Falls among their top winter hiking trails that are easily accessible from the city.
6. Rock or Ice Climbing
Contrary to what you might think, some rock faces are better to climb in the winter, when the cool air keeps the stone from baking you in the sun. Looking Glass Rock, just outside of Brevard, offers great climbing and bouldering, especially in cooler months. Rumbling Bald, in Chimney Rock State Park, is another such location.
For climbers looking for a new daring thrill, our region offers some of the best ice climbing in the South. Fox Mountain Guides and Climbing School in Pisgah Forest offers a comprehensive training program, accessible even to those who’ve never climbed at all. Ideal conditions run from late November through February.
7. Canopy Tours
If you don’t mind the chill, canopy tours are another great way to view WNC’s frosted winter landscape. Hawksnest near Banner Elk, NC offers one of the longest ziplines in the nation! Their two-hour Snowbird tour offers first-timers a birdseye view of the North Carolina High Country. Check with tour companies to confirm their winter hours and weather policies.
What’s your favorite winter sport in Western North Carolina? Share it with us in the comments.
— Beverly-Hanks WNC (@beverlyhanks) December 5, 2017