Beech Mountain Resort Trip Report
I don’t normally get to play hooky from work and the few times I have it usually wasn’t to go skiing. However, on Monday I put in a half-day and ran a couple of errands and then called my wife and daughters about taking off the rest of the day to go play on the slopes. My built in excuse was that I have a terrible throat infection and didn’t want to stay in the office because they’d have me talking with clients all day. However, I have to admit that hearing from David McCue that he was heading to Wintergreen Resort yesterday and reading Kenny’s morning FirsTrax about how great conditions were right now kind of provided the kick in the butt that I needed to head to the slopes around 2pm Monday. I’ll also admit that looking at the long range forecast got me the rest of the impetus to go ski.
So I was able to get to Beech Mountain at around 2pm and was VERY surprised to see how busy the place was. The top parking lot was FULL with the exception of an empty space here and there. I drove down to the next level parking and it too was pretty packed but I was able to find a space about 20 yards or some from the front. We quickly geared up and walked through the village and I couldn’t believe how SLAMMED the place was as the quad lift line was two lanes wide (three counting the singles line) and about 25 yards long (PACKED).
Obviously the local schools were all out for the day and Beech is where everyone was! Typically, weekdays offer no lift lines and you can make lap after lap of the slopes with few people dotting the trails. There were a lot of kids in line but it was obvious that Beech was also busy with a lot of their guests being college kids (many are still on their winter break) and there were many families enjoying the day as well. I talk about it all the time, but SNOW TRUMPS EVERYTHING. Beech Mountain was still covered in 7-10″ of natural snow everywhere and combined with near-non-stop snowmaking – the word had gotten out that conditions on the hill were the best of the season.
I was surprised when the long, quad lift line only took maybe ten minutes to get on the lift and I and my girls rode up and quickly decided to make our first trip down the mountain on Robbin’s Run. I’ll comment more on the conditions of the snow – but in a word it was “awesome”. We hit the quad lift again and ten minutes later we did Robbin’s a second time. We noticed only a dozen or so people in the Lower Shawneehaw lift line so we did that ride up and skied Lower and it too was awesome. We then hit up the singles line at the Quad and Upper Shawneehaw a few times and the wait at the bottom was cut to MAYBE 5 minutes despite the other lanes being 20-25 yards long. The Upper Shawneehaw, to Lower to Upper & Lower Powder Bowl down to the quad again – was super sweet.
After a few, exhilarating runs down the mountain it hit me just how great the quality of the snow was and how long it had been since I made some serious turns at Beech. Kenny Griffin and I did a LIVE Broadcast from the Beech Mountain Village last season and I took one turn down the mountain then, but it dawned on me that I had not personally made many turns at Beech in the last 3-4 years. For one reason or another that I’m not aware of right now – I have done most of my local skiing at Sugar and App.
After considering that for a bit I started looking around the mountain and two things occurred to me. One – Beech Mountain has quietly gone about the business of really bringing Beech Mountain Resort “back to the quality of their early ‘glory days'”. The more important thing I noticed was how expansive their improvements on and around the mountain were. There’s more going on around the Village shops, etc. All of the buildings have received major facelifts over the last several years. However, the BIG thing that jumped out at me was ALL of the major, snowmaking equipment upgrades they’ve done ON the mountain. Riding up the Quad lift – you can’t help but notice the huge, Super Polecat fan guns on towers that are positioned every 15-20 yards along White Lightning. The same is true on their core trails. Those and the many York snowguns or cannons have been added since the last time I gave Beech a serious look.
That and a lot of obvious attention to detail has Beech Mountain Resort LOOKING and FEELING really good. I could not help but think back to 2007 when a few Beech Mountain’s residents goaded me into reporting about how things at the resort were in dire need of upgrades, repairs and better management.
Beech Mountain’s hard working management and mountain ops rolled up their sleeves, changed management and began to quietly make a difference in their overall product. For the record, it wasn’t like the place was bad – it was just in need of some attention to detail, some capital investment and sweat equity. It’s hard to believe but all of that was nearly ten years ago. With no great fanfare or even much in the way of self-promotion – Beech’s team has quietly gone about the business of “making Beech GREAT AGAIN”. They’ve kind of taken on one of my own favorite business themes of “working like an ant and simply doing something constructive daily, weekly, monthly or annually”. Do that and sooner or later you’ll see a big ant hill. Beech has done that and people are obviously liking what they’re seeing. I guess it just took me a little longer than some to take notice.
I’ve talked with Beech Mountain’s General Manager, Ryan Costin a few times over the years since he took over management of the resort. He’s a quiet guy and seems to prefer working behind the scenes and building up the reputation of Beech instead of promoting himself. He’s the grandson of Ray Costin who was the owner of Beech until his passing a few years back. Ryan’s dad, John Costin served as President of Beech and it is John who reached out and asked that his son take over managing the resort’s day-to-day ops. Ryan grew up in the ski industry and after graduating from Western State College of Colorado studying ski resort management – he traveled and worked with ski areas in New Zealand and South America. Timing is everything – and at about the same time that Beech Mountain Resort was losing some of its luster – Ryan was ready to step in. All it took was some convincing by his father. Ryan had been thinking about the idea of working at a resort in California or Colorado – but he decided to return to Beech mountain where he had grown up skiing and watching his family and friends run the operation.
Changes didn’t happen overnight but slowly and surely under the guidance and cooperation of many – Beech made its way back. One of the more subtle changes was simply changing what everyone had begun calling the ski area. For decades the resort was known as Beech Mountain Resort. However, everyone had come to call the place “Ski Beech”. Beech’s management decided that part of the process of getting Beech back to their glory days was simply promoting the resort for what it is – Beech Mountain Resort.
Obviously it needed more than re-branding and a few coats of paint and their leadership began that slow and tedious process. So in 2008, Ryan got to work and it is hard to believe but we are now working on ten seasons since all of that took place. They’ve made some tweaks here and there – bringing back tubing, revamping terrain parks, etc. However they’ve also made some major investments such as the 5506’ Skybar at the top of the mountain, the new lift (a few years ago) on Oz Run and the revamped Beech Mountain Village shops with brewery, fire pit and numerous shops. The Beech Tree Bar got a makeover.
Beech partnered with Rossignol on a new fleet of ski rental equipment, and expanded teaching programs across the board for skiing and snowboarding. The View Haus, a focal point with its Bavarian turret, received an interior redesign with a mountain lodge decor. The project replaced all carpet, tables, chairs and railings; added state-of-the-art lighting; plus renovated bathrooms with automated fixtures.
The list of improvements and enhancements go on and on.
Skier’s and snowboarders appreciate all of that – but it’s the ON-MOUNTAIN experience that we always look for. As I mentioned earlier – I couldn’t help but notice the marked improvements and overall experience of the on-mountain enjoyment. Beech upgraded the lighting system for night skiing, they replaced the beginner j-bar with a Magic Carpet conveyor and the REALLY impressive thing is the quality of the snow.
I mentioned it before but as I looked around the mountain I tallied perhaps 50 of the big, SMI Super PoleCat tower and fan guns. I also saw dozens of newer, York snowguns (or cannons) and dozens more of the older snowguns that are all OBVIOUSLY providing Beech with its best arsenal of snowmaking in it’s 49 year history.
Speaking of that – I met briefly with Beech’s Marketing Guru, Talia Freeman and she mentioned that Beech will be celebrating their 50th anniversary season NEXT YEAR and they plan to do it up big.
The reason for this particular story is to say “WELL DONE BEECH MOUNTAIN”. Without a lot of self-promotion or fanfare, Beech’s management team, day-to-day ops and investors deserve a lot of praise for bringing Beech back. For me personally, it was almost shocking as I have not been on the mountain a ton over the last few years. You know how it is when you’re around something or someone every day – you just don’t get the same effect as when you’re absent for some time and then witness things for the first time in a while.
Make no mistake about it – Beech is back. I’m probably a bit slow on realizing this. If you’re reading this and have not been to Beech in a while – you should make it happen. Turn after turn on the mountain yesterday delivered pristine slope conditions, top-to-bottom. The quality of their product ON THE SLOPES matched the quality of their product off the snow and that’s saying a lot.
I’ve skied Beech for a few decades now and I can’t remember enjoying the snow anymore than I did on Monday. As cold as it has been, I was EXPECTING icy, refrigerator ice spots where the snow had been scraped off as in years past. Of course that happens at every resort, every year…but as windy as it can get atop Beech it seemed to happen there more than at other resorts. Not yesterday. The conditions were simply outstanding. It might seem like I am overstating things, but the surface conditions and quality of the product on the hill was NOTICEABLY different than any of the hundreds of trips I’ve made to Beech Mountain in the past.
Some might email email me that the conditions were so good because Beech is just now coming off of nearly a foot of natural snow and superior cold, snowmaking days and nights. However, I’ve skied at Beech after the Blizzard of ’93 and numerous other snowstorms. The product on the mountain on Monday was manmade and perfectly maintained. There is no question in my mind that the difference IS the snowmaking system and the attention to detail that is being implemented.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years almost to the day that we posted a rant by “Dave Snow” about how things had gone downhill at Beech. Fast forward and for this reporter – the Beech Mountain Resort experience is first-rate.
I HIGHLY recommend our readers to visit Beech Mountain Resort again soon. I’ll be hitting the mountain as often as I can for the rest of this winter. Hopefully I won’t have to use a bad sore throat as an excuse to do so!
Until Next Time…email me if you like at [email protected]