On Friday morning, the guys (RJ, my wife’s friend’s husband, and Olivier, his brother-in-law) and I headed up to Sugar Mountain ski resort in pursuit of elusive Southeast Powder — Sugar was claiming 15″ of fresh snow since Wednesday.
While I suspect that the Wednesday-into-Thursday storm dropped something like 8-10″ (as forecasted), by Friday it was groomed, tracked, and packed leaving scant evidence that it had once been freshy-fresh.
Fortunately, the sun was out and it was 35 degrees, so we got to ride a beautiful spring day with tons of new snow, even if it was groomed over.
The terrain was varied, with a few modestly challenging steep sections up top, rolling blues in the mid section leveling out towards the bottom.
Favorite steep was probably the lone double-black, Whoopdedo. It was firm for sure but not so icy as to be unrideable and although short, it was legitimately steep. My favorite run was probably a combo of Northridge in to Switchback, a series of rolling banked turns, which dumps out in to Upper Flying Mile.
Banks and side hits were plenty, but unfortunately the best looking zones (in the trees) appeared to be strictly verboten, as evidenced by a lack of tracks, and the fact that ski patrol was seemingly everywhere. Ordinarily, I’d take my chances, but being a visitor to NC and trying to enjoy myself, I stuck to the groomers. Too bad, because some spots looked pretty fine with rock drops and logs and crick gaps, etc.
They had a park which was served by a J-bar for lapping it. I rode through it once. There were no jumps, and a handful of mostly ride-on features, some flat bars, a rainbow, an a-frame, a pole jam, just ordinary stuff tucked kind of on the side of the hill and out of the way.
About Sugar Mountain Ski Resort
Sugar Mountain is 115 acres of terrain carved in to the Blue Mountains, just outside the town of Banner Elk, NC.
Parking is in one of I think 6 lots, which required a shuttle to the base area. Once you’ve secured your ticket and head to the lift area, there’s a huge wrap-around deck for all your beer-drinking needs, cafeteria and bar on the inside.
All of the trails fed in to the same small base area, which led to some congestion and long lift lines. This was compounded by holiday crowds which became unbearable by 3pm, and also the fact that the chairlifts were dreadfully slow. You could avoid the crowds on the Red chair, but that really limited you to only one or two trails. The Brown chair was also less congested but very slow, and a long ride to the top.
The oddest thing was the lifties, who handled EVERYONE as though they had never been on a chairlift before. I suspect that skiing/boarding is much more of a novelty down south so this is probably warranted. Pleasantly, this degree of attention resulted in very few noob-related chair stoppages. Except for this father/son duo who were both taken out by successive chairs.
Perhaps this is a policy that mountains/hills in the midwest should adopt?
Sugar Mountain Ski Resort Trail Map
Here is the trail map as of February 2014:
The lower left-hand side of the mountain is peppered with decrepit octagonal single family structures, ostensibly built to resemble some sort of yurt. The surrounding area, around the resort and Banner Elk, has lots of developments of varying aesthetic appeal, some nice, some not so nice including the megalithic concrete monstrosity that is perched atop Sugar Mountain. Seriously, you can see this thing from space.
Since we were there for one night only, we opted for the Best Western, but there appear to be plenty of options both on-site and in the surrounding Banner Elk area, to fit any budget.