Foundational protocols of the Ski Well, Be Well initiative in North Carolina are as follows:
Face Coverings Required: All NC ski areas require face coverings whenever physical distancing cannot be achieved. This includes indoors and outdoors, except when eating and drinking.
Physical Distancing: Protocols are in place indoors and outdoors to allow for appropriate spacing between parties. This includes, but is not limited to: lift queues, ticket queues, lessons, employee spaces, food & beverage operations.
Cleaning and Disinfecting: NC ski areas have adopted cleaning and disinfecting strategies for all areas of operations, including high-touch areas such as restrooms, dining facilities, ticket offices and equipment rental shops.
Operating Plans: Ski resorts will maintain operational plans to comply with local, state and federal protocols, particularly indoor spaces. Ski areas will pay close attention to management of outdoor spaces, including base areas, lifts and ski terrain.
Communication with Public: The ski areas will communicate plans and requirements to guests prior to their arrival, stressing the shared responsibility to keep the slopes safe. Resorts will have on-site signage notifying guests and employees of required best practices to maintain COVID safety.
Employee Wellness Checks: Daily wellness checks are performed on all employees. Employees will be sent home, or asked to stay at home, if they exhibit relevant symptoms or have come in contact with a COVID-19 case.
Sugar Mountain vice president Kim Jochl and Beech Mountain general manager Ryan Costin are members of the board of directors of the NC Ski Areas Association and are leading the effort to keep North Carolina’s ski slopes and snowboarding areas as safe as possible for the winter of 2020-21. Both resorts increased contactless online options for buying lift tickets and renting ski and snowboard equipment. Both resorts have also enlarged and modified their equipment rental facilities to allow for more distancing.
“We are committed to the health and well-being of those living in and visiting our mountain communities,” Jochl said.
“We have every reason to believe that the success of our summer season will carry over to our winter season,” said Costin.
In general, the North Carolina Ski Areas Association and the National Ski Areas Association believe skiing and snowboarding are uniquely positioned for safety during a pandemic. This is because the resorts encompass dozens of acres of outdoor space, the majority of time is spent outdoors and cruising solo down the slopes, face coverings and helmets are standard gear for skiers and snowboarders, and general etiquette calls for allowing ample space between yourself and fellow skiers and boarders.
Chairlift Safety also Bodes Well for Ski Areas for these Reasons
Lift Queue Spacing: Occurs organically due to the length of skis and snowboards.
Self-Grouping Chairs: Guests will self-group at chairlifts and only ride with people in their traveling party.
Riding the Lifts: Chairs are spaced approximately 50 feet apart, are open air and provide constant directional air flow.
Do Your Part: Tips for a Successful Ski Experience
Know before you go. Make sure to do research so you know what to expect when you arrive. Ski areas will keep their websites and other communications channels updated with info about parking, reservations, lessons, available amenities and mask requirements.
Stay home if you are or could be sick — even if it is a powder day. It stinks to miss a day of skiing, but it’s worse to miss an entire season. Assess your health before going to the mountain. Ski area employees undergo daily wellness checks and have to stay home if exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. We all need to be healthy to keep skiing and riding.
Ski or ride mid-week. Weekends and holidays are generally the busiest times. Try skiing mid-week for a more distanced experience with fewer people.
Be flexible. Local and state public health regulations can change rapidly, and ski areas will comply with those regulations.
Wear a mask and adhere to physical distancing requirements. We all have a responsibility to protect ourselves and each other this season and every season. Plus, ski areas must follow certain rules to stay open. So, bring a mask, keep it up over your nose, and work together to be the reason there is a season.
For more information on skiing in North Carolina’s ski town of Banner Elk, click here.
There’s no tubing like snow tubing, and the Banner Elk area is home to four of the best places to snow tube in the North Carolina mountains.
Snow tubing is among the easiest — and most fun — winter sports because it requires little preparation, equipment or skill. Just hop on a tube and whoosh your way down the hill.
Visitors to Banner Elk have a quartet of options. Within a few minutes of downtown are snow tubing parks at Sugar Mountain Resort and Beech Mountain Resort. About 25 minutes from town is Hawksnest Snow Tubing at the former Hawksnest ski resort. And, 30 minutes from Banner Elk is Jonas Ridge Snow Tubing.
All of these tubing parks provide 100% snowmaking to help with snow conditions when Mother Nature is taking a break, and they are considered the cream of the crop for snow tubing in North Carolina. But as far as which one is the best depends on what you’re looking for.
Hawksnest Snow Tubing is the biggest. It converted from a ski resort to snow tubing in 2008, giving it plenty of space. There are more than 30 runs in four sections, all connected by conveyor carpet lifts. The runs range in length from 400 to 1,000 feet.
Hawksnest also offers a winter zipline tour that soars above the tubing lanes. Because its elevation is not as high as Sugar Mountain or Beech Mountain, it occasionally encounters slightly warmer temperatures that create challenges in snowmaking.
The snow tubing park at Beech Mountain Resort is the newest. This state-of-the-art facility opened in winter of 2015-16 in the Alpine Village at the base of the ski slopes. The eight runs are extra-long and punctuated by small moguls known as rollers. It is lighted and surrounded by high-tech snow guns and a sound system. A Magic Carpet conveyor whisks tubers quickly back to the top.
Customers can buy tickets right there in the Beech Mountain ski village and enjoy other activities in the village, including ice skating and shopping, when finished with snowtubing.
Sugar Mountain Resort has the closest snow tubing park to Banner Elk. Sugar Mountain is known for strong snowmaking capabilities on the ski slopes and that goes the same for its snow tubing runs. Six runs are served by a conveyor carpet lift and Sugar probably stays open the most days each winter. The tubing runs are adjacent to the skating rink and both are easy to access because they have their own parking lot before you get further up the mountain to the ski resort.
Jonas Ridge is a smaller operation that has been in business since 2004. It has five lanes and recently replaced its rope tow with a conveyor carpet lift. Photographers take pictures as you tube and the photos are available for purchase on the spot, or later online. There is a small, cozy lodge with a fireplace and an observation deck.
Although snow tubing is easy and no lessons are needed, there are a few things you can do to maximize your adventure:
First, wear warm socks and waterproof or water-resistant winter boots. Otherwise, your shoes will get soggy, wet and/or ruined, and your feet will be cold the entire time.
Second, wear a winter jacket that is either waterproof or water-resistant for all those same reasons. You will be on ground level and encountering snow and slush.
Third, pay attention to your pants. If you don’t have waterproof/water-resistant pants, make sure to wear thermal underwear or some other layer underneath your pants (jeans are okay, but they are 100% cotton and absorb a lot of water).
Fourth, wear a ski cap (or beanie, tobaggon, whatever you call it) and an old pair of sunglasses. Your head and face will encounter wind as you whoosh down the tubing runs!
Finally, when the day of fun is done, head to your choice of lodging in Banner Elk and then check out the amazing culinary scene. Better yet, stay a couple nights and visit all four tubing parks in one trip!
North Carolina’s High Country is a welcome escape any time of year, but winter is especially magical. And when it comes to choosing a winter destination in the NC mountains, Banner Elk just might be the ideal spot.
Banner Elk, located near Boone, is known for cozy lodging, romantic getaways, family fun and great restaurants. It’s place that has both small town charm and big city amenities.
The two largest winter sports venues in the South – Beech Mountain Resort and Sugar Mountain Resort – are located within 10 minutes of Banner Elk’s lone stoplight. Both resorts offers skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and snowtubing. There’s even a free youth sledding hill in the town of Beech Mountain.
When the sun goes down, Banner Elk’s reputation as a culinary hotspot takes center stage. There are more than a dozen popular restaurants within this town of just 1,067 residents. Culinary choices range from contemporary to traditional, with everything from white tablecloth fine dining to tasty Southern comfort food. Ethnic cuisine runs the gamut from Italian to Cajun to Mexican to Vietnamese.
For a romantic day of exploring, visit the local wineries. Banner Elk Winery has several award-winning dry wines, and is also known for its unusual ice wine. At Grandfather Vineyard and Winery, every bottle comes with a view of its namesake mountain. As you sip a glass by the tasting room fireplace, it’s easy to see why winter is better here.
There are two craft breweries in and around Banner Elk. Kettell Beerworks is located on Main Street East and always features a winter brew. Just up the mountain from Banner Elk is Beech Mountain Brewing Co., nestled in the alpine village at the base of the Beech Mountain ski slopes.
Sometimes, the best thing about a winter getaway is spending quality time in your lodging of choice, and Banner Elk has a banner selection. Cozy cabins. Upscale condos. Friendly bed-and-breakfast inns. Comfortable hotels. Spacious vacation homes.
Many of Banner Elk’s lodging options feature a mountain motif and most have a fireplace for making warm memories on cold winter nights in the NC mountains.
Did you know Banner Elk is North Carolina’s top ski town? Click here to learn more about ski vacations in Banner Elk or call us at 828-898-5398.
An invigorating winter getaway awaits in the mile-high elevations surrounding Banner Elk. This town in the North Carolina mountains offers the chance to get outdoors with hiking and exploring at Grandfather Mountain, as well as snowtubing at nearby ski resorts.
One of the biggest winter attractions in the area is Grandfather Mountain — known for its distinctive profile and Mile High Swinging Bridge. The mountain, a popular attraction since the 1950s, is open daily in winter, weather permitting.
Grandfather’s 12 miles of trails include easy and advanced routes. For a low-impact adventure, talk a walk across the Mile High Swinging Bridge or embark on an easy hike through forests and meadows. Those wishing to take it up a notch can do so on backcountry trails featuring challenging and rocky terrain. Winter hikes afford long-range views not visible when leaves are on the trees.
“A winter hike is one of the most invigorating, fun and memorable outings that you can make during this season,” says Frank Ruggiero with Grandfather Mountain. “You can see winter spread out through the whole High County.”
At 5,946 feet in elevation, Grandfather Mountain experiences beautiful snowfalls. And when there’s no snow, rime ice often forms on spruce fir trees, giving the appearance of a fresh dusting of the white stuff.
Snow brings out the animals’ personalities in Grandfather’s wildlife habitat. Cougars Logan and Trinity frolic in the fluffy flakes. Resident elk, Doc, Merle and Watson, look particularly regal against a backdrop of snow, and the mountain’s four otters steal the show.
“The otters are an absolute riot,” Ruggiero says. “They adore the snow. They go ice-skating, slide down hills and play hockey on the pond by sliding a rock back and forth to each other.”
If you want to enjoy winter sliding, try snow tubing. Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountain resorts offer multiple tubing runs with advanced snowmaking and grooming to keep the chutes slick. Twenty-five minutes away, Hawksnest Snow Tubing has more than 30 runs and a zipline experience above the tubing runs. Click here to read all about snow tubing in Banner Elk.
After your winter adventure, enjoy Banner Elk’s top-notch culinary scene at one of more than a dozen independent restaurants. Standouts include authentic Italian dishes made from family recipes, a classic steakhouse with a famous salad bar and a cozy lodge with some of the best trout in the mountains.
For a town with less than 1,500 residents, Banner Elk has an amazing culinary scene. So amazing, in fact, that Banner Elk is known as the culinary hot spot of the NC High Country.
An impressive array of locally-owned independent restaurants has made this resort town a dining destination. Whether you’re in search of a fine-dining white tablecloth experience, an upscale bistro, ethnic cuisine or a satisfying sandwich from a tasty deli, this town’s thriving food scene covers the spectrum.
Artisanal restaurant is the pinnacle of Banner Elk’s culinary offerings, a fine dining restaurant twice named among the Top 100 Restaurants in America by Open Table. Meanwhile, a new name on the Banner Elk dining scene is Chef’s Table, a farm-to-table eatery serving the freshest local ingredients in the High Country.
Speaking of the High Country, if you want a taste of the mountains, don’t leave without ordering fresh trout. Have it for dinner at long-time favorite Banner Elk Cafe & Lodge. Banner Elk Cafe is unique because its two kitchens offer a wide selection of lunches and dinners from two menus.
After a morning or afternoon cruising the slopes of the nearby ski resorts on Sugar and Beech mountains, stop into Dunn’s Deli to refuel. This New York-style deli serves mile-high clubs, tuna melts and cheese-steak sandwiches. Wash it all down with a cold draft.
Since 1985, Stonewalls Restaurant has been a destination for locals and visitors. Now under new ownership, the restaurant has upgraded to a chef-driven menu with plenty of culinary creations. Of course, Stonewalls remains the place for juicy steaks, slow-roasted prime rib and its well-known salad bar.