An Expert Guide to Ski & Snowboard Resorts in the Southeast

Whether you’re new to the region or just getting started, check out Snowboarding Expert Shane H.'s guide to skiing and snowboarding south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Snowboarders going down the mountain

Photo courtesy of Monument Snowboards

Typically, there are two responses when most people find out you’re a snowboarder or skier from North Carolina...one of them being, “I didn’t know there were mountains there,” and the second being, “it snows in the South?” The answer to both is: kind of. All joking aside and despite somewhat challenging conditions, the Appalachian mountains are a playground for those of us not fortunate enough to wake up to powder on a weekly basis. With the southern section of the mountain range playing second fiddle to well-known spots in Vermont and the rest of the Northeast, riding in North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia provides snowboarders and skiers with plenty of fun terrain to get their shred on.

Like with surfing on the East Coast, our counterparts out west sometimes fail to take into account that riding in challenging conditions has a tendency to produce impressive results. If you’re comfortable sending it down an icy slope, where holding an edge is a luxury, snowboarding in good conditions becomes a piece of cake. If you can ski or ride well here, you’re gonna rip on that dream trip.

I’ve lived in North Carolina most of my life but am lucky enough to frequently travel out west and even lived there for a few seasons. While the peaks here in the Southeast can’t compare to the Rockies and other high-profile destinations, we have plenty of great mountains that are worth checking out. You don’t need a mega-resort to have a great time. So whether you live in this part of the country or are considering a visit to our humble mountains, I’ll show you the best spots to snowboard during your time here.

Overview

Despite meager snowfall totals at most resorts, there is plenty of man-made coverage to keep boarders busy in the Southeast. Most mountains boast 100% snowmaking coverage to keep the season rolling as long as possible but that rarely means that every single run will be open. Assuming temperatures cooperate, these mountains blast out as much man-made snow as possible to keep their bases thick throughout the season. Expect hardpack granular conditions most days, but keep an eye on the weather to know when to initiate a strike mission. Plenty of parks keep things interesting when the snow gods aren’t feeling generous, and they provide a proving ground for scrappy East coasters with X-Games dreams. Don’t expect to lock into a ton of steep, challenging runs but the difficult conditions can turn these modest slopes into an expert challenge. Get creative finding your lines and you can have a blast riding in the Southeast.

While there are over a dozen ski and snowboard mountains in this section of the country, below are a handful of the ones you should check out.

1. Sugar Mountain, NC

Sugar Mountain, NC. Photo by Shane H

  • Location: Banner Elk, NC
  • Typical Winter Season: November-March
  • Number of Runs: 20
  • Number of Lifts: 6
  • Summit Elevation: 5,300ft
  • Average Annual Snowfall: 78”
  • Skiable Acres: 125

Sugar Mountain can put you on some leg-burning sessions with a 1.5mi run from top to bottom. The main corridor runs from the peak, curving around the mountain top as it drops, then intersecting with several runs that connect to the bottom. The top section is a glorified cat track but is steep enough to carry plenty of speed. As it winds around the mountain, there are ample side hits and banks to make it a fun, but hectic, freeride run. You’ll want to keep a sharp lookout and be prepared to slalom through tons of clueless skiers, but that’s par for the course at these smaller resorts. The majority of terrain is accessed by a 6-pack chair lift where the lines can get long. By traversing over to the Ohma’s Meadow trail, you can stack laps without returning to the base. That run is a fairly wide-open straight shot that’s perfect for laying down big carves or practicing butters.

Sugar Mountain doesn’t place a high priority on its terrain park, but they do sometimes have one. If it happens to be a warm winter without much snow, I wouldn’t expect the park to be open. They tend to focus on keeping the 1.5mi run open all year but do not expend a lot of additional snowmaking to build jumps. When they do have their park open, the surface is usually rock-hard. The boxes and rails are decent, but use caution sending it over the ramps.

Overall, Sugar is a good place to hone your all-mountain freeride and freestyle skills and is one of the few area mountains with runs long enough to make the lift lines worthwhile. However, if you’re in the area and want to ride parks, you’ll be better off checking out App Mountain or Beech.

Expert Tip: Arrive early to clock in extra runs before the church groups invade the slopes. Otherwise, wait and purchase a half-day ticket and ride all afternoon after the weekend warriors have worn themselves out. At night, you’ll have the slopes to yourself, but dress warm and make sure you’re well insulated against the snow blowing.

2. Beech Mountain, NC

Beech Mountain, NC. Photo by Shane H

  • Location: Banner Elk, NC
  • Typical Winter Season: November-March
  • Number of Runs: 17
  • Number of Lifts: 8
  • Summit Elevation: 5506ft
  • Average Annual Snowfall: 84”
  • Skiable Acres: 95

Known for having the highest elevation of any ski area on the East Coast, Beech Mountain boasts decent natural snowfall totals in a state known for its warm weather. When it snows, the left side of the mountain feels like a challenging blue out west. No snow? No problem! The best part of Beech is the park. A dedicated park crew puts focus on ever-evolving features and has a penchant for creating unique hits. The park is on a separate slope, leaving the Jerrys to their own devices since most aren’t willing to walk uphill 100ft to access the area. A rope tow services the park exclusively, meaning you can put up a huge number of laps without even unstrapping.

Beech Mountain has a cool vibe and the architecture reminds one of a Swiss Alpine village. There are several bars and breweries in the village, making it a sweet spot to hang out for apres.

Expert Tip: If you arrive at the base village and see a long line at the ticket office, head up towards the lodge near the Play Yard. There’s a ticket booth just outside of the lodge that nobody seems to realize is there. Don’t just hop in the first line you see thinking it’s the only place to get your pass.

3. Appalachian Ski Mountain, NC

Appalachian Mountain, NC. Photo by Shane H

  • Location: Boone, NC
  • Typical Winter Season: November-March
  • Number of Runs: 12
  • Number of Lifts: 3 lifts with a couple magic carpets and handle tows
  • Summit Elevation: 4000ft
  • Average Annual Snowfall: 60”
  • Skiable Acres: 27

Although tiny, Appalachian Mountain is the other option in this area of NC worth a mention. You can make it from top to bottom of this mountain in under two minutes when pointing it, and it only contains a dozen or so runs. Up until the early 2000s, App Ski Mountain didn’t even allow snowboards, but a change of management led to a massive reinvention of the resort. In order to take advantage of the limited vertical drop and short runs, App Mountain now focuses on its park setups. Over a quarter of the mountain is dedicated to freestyle terrain with three parks containing a plethora of jibs and jump lines. The park crew frequently updates features throughout the season and takes pride in keeping everything well-groomed at all times.

Keep an eye out for some straight rippers; all-star talent including Zeb Powell can be seen throwing down huge tricks when they’re at home on a break from touring! Frequent visits from big-name pros are evidence that the parks are fun and well-kept. Nighttime sessions sometimes turn into impromptu freestyle contests that can feel like big events under the high-wattage stadium lights. With quick and easy access from downtown Boone, Appalachian Ski Mountain is a great spot for some quick park laps while staying close to civilization (restaurants, bars, social activities).

Expert Tip: Hit up a night session or one of their Midnight Blast specials and ride for up to seven hours for only $30-$40. Student discount rates are available and weekday passes are super cheap day or night.

4. Wintergreen, VA

Wintergreen, VA. Photo by Shane H

  • Location: Roseland, VA
  • Typical Winter Season: November-March
  • Number of Runs: 26
  • Number of Lifts: 7
  • Summit Elevation: 3084ft
  • Average Annual Snowfall: 34”
  • Skiable Acres: 130

Located in central Virginia, Wintergreen Resort is quickly accessible from many major cities. A perennial favorite for time-strapped boarders, this resort is a great option for day trips. With the majority of the mountain featuring intermediate to advanced terrain, the greens remain packed with beginners, while the rest of the mountain can be very sparsely populated much of the time. An award-winning terrain park, Wintergreen is worth checking out because it consists of mostly small to medium features. It has a great variety of jumps and rails to test your skills. Keep an eye out for clueless newbies wandering into the jump line, as that section of the mountain can be sandwiched between green runs.

Expert Tip: If you’re looking for some fun runs to carve, head over to the left side of the mountain. That section of the resort is serviced by its own lift, and the blue and black terrain keeps optimistic beginners from venturing over there more than once.

5. Massanutten, VA

Massenutten, VA. Photo By Shane H

  • Location: Shenandoah County, VA
  • Typical Winter Season: November-March
  • Number of Runs: 18
  • Number of Lifts: 5
  • Summit Elevation: 2922ft
  • Average Annual Snowfall: 23”
  • Skiable Acres: 70

It’s difficult to describe Massanutten as much more than a large hill, but this resort is a great family-friendly alternative when you’ve got little rippers in tow. Two dedicated terrain parks provide riders and skiers with a wide variety of features from extra small to large in size, giving them plenty of opportunities to throw down tricks. This resort is a great option for freestyle-focused riders wanting to up their rail game or looking for well-shaped jump lines to air it out. They have great lesson programs and various chaperoned activities to keep the little ones occupied while you ride.

Expert Tip: Hit this place on a random weekday while school is in session and you may luck out and have the parks all to yourself.

6. Snowshoe, WV

Western Territory Snowshoe, WV. Photo by Shane H

  • Location: Pocahontas County, WV
  • Typical Winter Season: November-March
  • Number of Runs: 60
  • Number of Lifts: 14
  • Summit Elevation: 4848ft
  • Average Annual Snowfall: 180”
  • Skiable Acres: 242

The Southeast’s crown jewel of snowboarding is home to five parks, an impressive variety of natural terrain, and the highest snowfall totals. Snowshoe packs in everything a rider could ask for in a resort. The management is serious about providing maximum snow coverage and guarantees they’ll have the most terrain open of any mountain in the region or your next day of riding is free. Pow days are not uncommon as the mountain’s location receives lake-effect storms that can dump snow.

Snowshoe is large enough that you can spend the entire day exploring the mountain without repeating runs. It’s one of the few resorts in the Southeast to offer gladed runs and the opportunity to pop into the trees when the snow’s falling. There are a variety of slopes, from mellow greens to double blacks to test your skill or just cruise with friends.

The backside of the mountain, The Western Territory, features steep terrain and a 1.5mi long run with a 1500’ vertical drop that was designed by an Olympic medal-winning alpine skier. The four runs that make up The Western Territory have steeps of up to 52% grade that actually deserve their black diamond rating. When the snow is good, these backside runs feel akin to something you may encounter in the Rockies.

Snowshoe’s five terrain parks run the gauntlet from simple and mellow to technical and intimidating. Everything from easy flat boxes to large jumps and advanced rails can be found here. With 28 acres of freestyle terrain, there is truly something for every skill level with a huge variety of features. Expect to see every type of rail or jib you can imagine and a creative blend of jumps that include hips, pyramids, tabletops, and gaps. New riders and experts alike will appreciate the attention to detail and creativity that Snowshoe’s park builders are known for.

The mountain village is huge and offers tons of lodging options, shops, and restaurants. Accommodations range from economical to straight-up baller. As with most mountains, holiday weekends will be packed, but you can find plenty of solitude by planning trips that avoid peak days. Located well off the beaten path, Snowshoe should be considered a destination trip. Being several hours from anywhere one would consider a major city, staying overnight is really the only safe option. I definitely recommend putting together a group trip with some friends to chip in on a slopeside condo. There are also several hotel options for solo riders or those with less of an entourage.

Expert Tip: Those on a tight budget can find decent accommodations in the nearby town of Marlinton. The Motor Inn has clean, albeit dated, rooms. They even have a good restaurant onsite where you can fuel up after a long day on the slopes. It’s only about 20-25 minutes to the top of Snowshoe, but make sure you’ve got reliable four-wheel drive if a substantial amount of snow is in the forecast. A stay here will be less than half the price of the cheapest accommodations at the resort.

Bonus: Off-Season Shredding at Liberty Mountain

Located in Lynchburg VA, Liberty U is a private university that has its own artificial snowboarding mountain. Open to the public, riders can practice their skills on a Snowflex surface that does a great job mimicking the real thing. The facility is open year-round and is one of the few options for summertime riding on the East Coast. Unlike previous incarnations of artificial surfaces, Snowflex actually feels like you’re riding on snow. Liberty Mountain has several rails, jumps, and even quarter pipes that provide a great place to practice riding in the off-season.

Hardcore shredders and casual skiers alike can find plenty of options to hit the slopes in the Southeast. Whether working in a ride day during a family vacation or taking a trip solely focused on snowboarding or skiing, the southern Appalachian Mountains provide ample opportunities to rip your heart out. With the addition of legitimate terrain parks to slopes formerly reserved for skiers, the region has turned into a hotbed of snowboarding activity. Freestyle-lovers will appreciate the local park crews who constantly battle for bragging rights of who has the gnarliest features.

No matter where you live in the Southeast, there are plenty of snowboarding and ski options accessible within a few hours of driving. So, sharpen those edges and keep an eye on the forecast. Expect conditions to be challenging, but with a little luck, you might just score! To get geared up for your next ski trip out east, reach out to a Winter Sports Expert here on Curated!

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100% boarding bro! If it's a board- I ride it. When it comes to snowboarding, I obsess over every little technical detail to put you on the perfect ride. Use my obsession to your advantage and use my endless researching to get the perfect gear! I've been snowboarding for over 25 years. Same for skat...

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