Hello skier and riders of the Southeast!
Ugh… we have a large amount of time on our hands until our ski poles will be held by them again. There might be a subtle sting in your winter themed subconscious knowing that the lifts are not spinning for skiing and riding. A few deep sighs of reality will help, but even then, the concept of the offseason might not settle in completely.
However, there is no need for a blank stare while you wait for the snow guns to fire back up.
Here at Ski Southeast, we try to keep the winter lifestyle going as much as possible through reporting and storytelling, but alas those kinds of events occur for just a limited amount of time each year.
Fortunately, this region is well suited to provide alternative experiences that awaken the stoke and are worthy of sharing with someone else later on. Keep in mind that great chronicles happen in the moment no matter when that moment might be.
To further clarify, all I am trying to accomplish here is simply highlighting a few of the things readily available this off season for the next time you are present in nature.
This is but a brief snippet of all possibilities, and even though certain locations are highlighted below, they are not always the sole exclusive location for that type of fun. Also, it does not matter whether the events are for education, entertainment, or exhilaration purposes, because answering the call to explore is always waiting on the other side of your front door.
Starting in our southern terminus of North Carolina, we go way south along U.S. Route-64 not too far from the South Carolina border we stumble upon the small but mighty Sapphire Valley Ski Resort.
While true that the ski area vertical is not much, this place is nestled in between many peaks that climb sharply over 1,000 feet above the valley floor. Visible characteristics in this stunning setting include Baldrock Mountain, Cowrock Mountain, and Laurel Knob which rises above 4,500 feet. All three of those ascents have an extremely steep southwest oriented rock walls similar to the more famous Looking Glass Rock, which is roughly an hour’s drive away. If you like extreme rock climbing this may suit you well, but please use fall protection gear always.
That part of the region is an outdoor activity cache with a multitude hiking trails, waterfalls, croquet, tennis, pickleball, and golf courses that are complimented by some cooler forecasts on the hot summer days including July high temp averaging below 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Golf in particular is very abundant around Cashiers with 28 courses within 20 miles, according to golflink.com, and they all come with spectacular mountain views. I for one love elevated tee boxes for that extra yardage gain that accompanies it.
Heading just a little over two hours northwest you can cross into Tennessee and into the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, and if you plan your route on U.S. Route 441 you will climb above 5,000 feet along the TN/NC border at Newfound Gap. This is where Clingmans Dome is located too, and that particular summit tops off far above the one-mile-mark at 6,643 feet.
From there is it a short half hour descent into Gatlinburg, TN where you can find an accommodating town, fantastic restaurants, and a circus-like barrage of entertainments. The always popular Aerial Tramway, which showcases other prominent peaks nearby such as Mount Le Conte, is a must do.
The resort offers other amenities that keep your youthfulness engaged such as a walk-through maze, a manually speed controlled Ski Mountain Coaster, and what may be the ultimate way to head back down from above… the alpine slide!
Pointing northeast now, we will go past even more of the highest peaks throughout the entire East Coast until we arrive at Beech Mountain resort. This is where the #5 lift stops just shy of their 5,506 ft. ascent. While riding up you may notice Grandfather Mountain in the distance slightly on your left, and once you have offloaded you can walk past the upper mountain facilities and can catch a full shot of Sugar Mountain in the foreground as well.
Be sure to soak in the views facing the other way too, because a series of longer mountain ridges pop up on the righthand side that contains well known hiking destinations including Buckeye Knob, Rich Mountain Bald, and Snake Mountain which sits at roughly the same elevation as where you would be.
Perhaps you brought your disc golf setup and are about to start a challenging front-nine that goes down the face of the ski slopes on some steeper pitches such as Upper White Lighting on hole #4. Fortunately, the back-nine flattens out more as you play around the base village and parking lots.
Do not be surprised if you find mountain bikers enjoying the terrain here too, as this place is well known for that kind of adventure that offers several boulders, well-built manmade features, and plenty of trees to cruise through. For those of you aged 21 and up you can meet them during a break at the on-site brewery during normal business hours.
If your pace of pleasure is more of the relaxation kind, then follow the Blue Ridge’s southwest-to-northeast orientation into Virginia where The Omni Homestead Resort ski trails are secluded. You will find yourself in the appropriately named Bath County, and it is no secret that there is something in the water here.
Within this destination there are numerous naturally occurring geothermal hot-spots, and the locals are well prepared to provide this hot attraction to you.
The Omni Hotel that is located in the village of Hot Springs, and that is where you will find the more luxurious touches for these soaking delights including a day spa, an amenity filled water park, the Serenity Garden pool which warmed by a spring, and an architecturally stunning indoor pool opened year-round. Not too far up U.S. Route 220 in the village of Warm Springs you can find the informally named Jefferson Pools that have two spa buildings available with plenty of room. They are called the Gentlemen’s Pool and Ladies’ Pool and it is not uncommon for random bathers to do so sans swimming suits.
After drying off and heading almost due north towards the Canaan Valley, which is roughly 100 miles away, you have the opportunity to observe some of the coolest wonders of our land if only you know where to look, because it is not visible at ground level.
In the literal sense you can be one with the Earth by checking out some of the caves within our territory, and two of the most popular ones less than an hour away from Timberline and Canaan Resorts are Seneca Caverns and Smoke Hole Caverns.
Both of them, much like the other two commercial caverns in West Virginia plus nine others in Virginia, are unique in natural design and storied history. For example, the Smoke Hole spot contains multiple room that connect like a mechanical system that leads to their granddaddy “Room of a Million Stalactites” which is a phenomenal display of nature at work. Not to spoil the information on their tours, but this is also where moonshiners set up shop too and those of age can taste a bit of history afterwards.
Metaphorically speaking, those stalactites symbolically demonstrate some of our collective feelings about the offseason by hanging on tightly. Memories of the past are cherished, and we hope this information was insightful and informative so that you can make more of them.
As mentioned previously, this is but a short list if the vast possibilities to do as I have yet to touch on rafting, boating, hang gliding, zip lining, camping, fishing, inner tubing, brewery hopping, kayaking, baseball attending, paddle boarding, dog walking, antiquing, fine art critiquing, etc.
This place is meant to be explored thoroughly, and not just as a mechanism to pass time, but as a continuation of the charge.