Check In—to A Real Ski Lodge

Check in to a real ski lodge this weekend to experience authentic ski culture. Yes, we have some in the South. Above is one of my favorites—Beech Alpen Inn, in the East's highest town. Photo by Randy Johnson

Here comes a great ski weekend of fresh snow, resurgent snowmaking, a cold Saturday and springlike Sunday. Time to book your lodging! But not just anywhere.

If you want a weekend straight out of classic films like Sun Valley Serenade or White Christmas—check in to a real ski lodge, where apres-ski combines a room, dining, and drinks.

By Randy Johnson

Appalachian Ski Mountain

The High Country’s original ski area attracted Blowing Rock’s first overnight winter tourists back in the early 1960s. Today, savvy skiers choose the historic late-1800s manor house of the Bob Timberlake Inn at Chetola Resort. The festively lit mansion is decorated with Timberlake’s signature furniture line, from the warmly paneled restaurant and cosy bar on the ground floor, to eight upscale “estate rooms” overlooking a frozen lake (site of the Polar Plunge last month). Even when there’s no snow, the artist’s wintry paintings and flickering firelight set the stage for a premier ski lodge experience (with spa treatments available). Winter rates from $229-$262 Sunday through Thursday (breakfast included).

Beech Mountain 

If any place is going to be swirling in snow, it’s Eastern America’s highest town. Up here, three classic lodges still thrive from the early days, overlooking the slopes, close to Fred’s General Mercantile, and the town sledding hill.

Whip off of Beech Mountain Mountain Parkway (slowly!)  just past Fred's General Mercantile and you have three real ski lodges to choose from—and prime rib to boot. Photo by Randy Johnson
Whip off of Beech Mountain Mountain Parkway (slowly!) just past Fred’s General Mercantile and you have three real ski lodges to choose from—and prime rib to boot. Photo by Randy Johnson

Beech Alpen Inn and Top of the Beech Ski Lodge have have seen significant recent renovation under one owner. Half-timber style Beech Alpen is a true ski country hotel with warm wood in the lobby and guest lounge, and exposed beams in 24 rooms. Many face the slopes, with fireplaces, balconies, and view-window seating where deer browse the snowy grounds below. Head down for apres-ski in the post and beam Alpen Restaurant and Bar and raise a glass. Enjoy a diverse menu beside a see-through fireplace or choose picture window views of the slopes. $109-149 Sunday through Thursday.

Top of the Beech literally calls itself a “Ski Lodge.” This authentic, rustic, retreat is straight out of Vermont and the days when budget-conscious ski accommodations had real atmosphere. Slope-facing rooms have an awesome view. Ground level Bullwinkle’s Pizza and bar is a lively place to watch big-screen TV sports below historic photos of Ski Beech and displays of old skis. Prices range from $89-99 Sunday through Thursday. Rooms at both inns have refrigerators, microwaves, coffee makers, and cable TV.

The alpine style 4 Seasons at Beech hotel sits between the inns above. Studio rooms and one-bedroom suites make it easy to economize with a refrigerator, small stove, microwave, toaster, dishwasher and coffee maker. There’s in-house dining at Valle de Bravo Mexican Grill and bar, a Beech branch of a popular local eatery also found in the town of Seven Devils Tynecastle shopping district on NC 105. Occasional live music has included the mountain’s famous old time string band, The Corklickers. $86 to $109, Sunday through Thursday.

Lodges and eateries above are within walking distance and the resort shuttle stops on weekends. Other cost-saving packages are available.

Cataloochee Ski Area

Horsey Cataloochee Ranch is famous in summer, but during the winter, this rustic resort offers one-of-a-kind ski lodge accommodations a mile high and a mile away from Cataloochee ski area. Have an Omigosh in the base lodge bar (a signature liqueur drink named after the ski area’s expert slope) then head for Silverbell Lodge with its Balsam Room common area. Continental breakfast is served daily in the main ranch house. Rooms accommodate from 2 to 6 people and range from $124-$195 Sunday through Friday. There’s a full breakfast and dinner weekends and holidays, with rates at $200-$260 a night (two night winter minimum). Ski packages are available that include skiing, rentals, and other options.

Awesome ski weekend on the way! See you at the Beech Alpen bar at 6:30 on Saturday. Think snow!

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Randy Johnson
Johnson has been chronicling skiing in the South since the 1980s as a columnist for the Charlotte Observer and author of the 1987 “cult classic” "Southern Snow: The Winter Guide to Dixie" (soon to be republished). Johnson is a Lowell Thomas Award-winning travel writer whose articles have appeared in many national newspapers and magazines, including the Miami Herald, National Geographic Traveler, Ski, and Skiing. His new University of North Carolina Press book "Grandfather Mountain: The History and Guide to an Appalachian Icon," debuts next April. Visit him at