This season. One resort. Your family. Where will you go?
Certainly our family loves to ski all over the country –Utah, Colorado, Wyoming – but nothing beats a great day of skiing with the whole family at our favorite local mountain, Cataloochee Ski Area in the mountains of Western North Carolina.
Why Cataloochee Ski Area?
One of the best things about Cataloochee is that it is a 45 minute drive door-to-door. But more important is their commitment to snowmaking and grooming. In North Carolina, the weather doesn’t always cooperate but when cold weather moves into the area, Cataloochee takes full advantage and turns the snow guns on whenever conditions are right. Over the last several years, they have made a significant investment in their snowmaking and grooming operations which makes for great powder days and lovely corduroy.
Cataloochee also has a great community feeling. It is small enough that parents can trust kids to get around on their own without worrying and the staff actually knows who you are!
What are the best amenities at Cataloochee for family skiing?
This is a very simple, family mountain with a comfortable lodge that has everything you need. They have a grill with standard burgers and fries but they also offer a lot of healthy options that all moms appreciate. They have lockers available for season passholders to rent, plus a great area to enjoy bag lunches.
This year, they added the NASTAR race program and we enjoy participating in that as a family. This has been great fun for everyone. Dad can race with the kids and is also a part of a Thursday night adult race league. It has been great that the boys have been able to get their first taste of what it is like to race and maybe next year our 7-year-old will give it a try too (Mom just prefers to watch & cheer!).
What would you improve at Cataloochee to make it even better for family skiing?
Even on the weekends, the crowds are pretty manageable but on the occasion when they do get large, they can use better crowd control in the lift lines and on the slopes in high traffic areas. On large holiday weekends, they will close the mountain when it gets too full.
Any “secrets” to share?
Get there early on the weekends to get the best conditions on the well-groomed trails. The morning is the best skiing.
What advice would you share with other families coming to Cataloochee?
If you need to rent skis, you must get there early. The crowds, and even church buses, pull in after 9 and you want to beat them through the rental lines.
Where do you like to eat?
The grill that offers hearty food including breakfast, and on the weekends they have an outside food truck.
What about lodging?
We live close so we only make day trips and have never stayed there, but Cataloochee Guest Ranch has great cabins for rent and there are several hotels and motels at the bottom of the mountain in Maggie Valley. Maggie Valley is also one of the entrances to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
What makes Cataloochee unique?
Most people don’t even KNOW that there is skiing in North Carolina – it is like a little hidden gem in the Smoky Mountains. And especially for a young family – you don’t need hundreds of acres to learn to be a great skier and we know our kids are becoming skilled skiers just by spending winter weekends on the slopes at Cataloochee.
What is your favorite memory of Cataloochee?
It is hard to pick just one memory, but I guess that is just so wonderful to spend an entire day together laughing, skiing and sharing what is really most important – each other!
Any family skiing tips for other parents?
Our kids started skiing at ages 3 and 4, and with any age, it is essential to keep it fun for the kids. One of the first times skiing, my three-year-old daughter only took one ride on the magic carpet and was done. She just wanted to play in the snow and we let her do that instead. She developed a love for snow and being outside. She took it at her own pace and now at 7 she absolutely loves skiing.
The Brave Ski Mom adds…
Thank you Oswald Family – Robin, John/Ozzie, Carson, Harrison and Riley. Robin tells me that she only started skiing at age 21 because of Ozzie’s love of the sport. Now, they are a bona fide skiing family, that loves being outside together on snow. It’s not always easy to take up skiing as an adult — or to learn from a loved one — so way to go Robin!
My experience with North Carolina is limited to bluegrass music, beaches and UNC basketball, but the more I learn about the Tarheel state, the more convinced I am that they’ve got it ALL.
Cataloochee Ski Area has a five lifts, including two magic carpets, serving the full menu of blue, green and black terrain with a vertical drop of 740 feet. The ski area caters especially to beginners and first-time skiers and has rental equipment and clothing available. They also have, on their website, the best FAQs for “first-timers” that I’ve ever seen. Check this out if you’ve got questions about learning to ski or ride.
Once you’re comfortable on your skis, Cataloochee has a middle and high school racing program, as well as NASTAR and the adult league that the Oswald’s mentioned. Family Day is every Wednesday, and kids under 17 receive a free lift ticket with each paying adult. This is good for day, twilight or night skiing.
Tubing is available on weekends and selected holidays. Participants must be at least 42″ tall. If you’re got little ones shorter than 42″, Cataloochee has the Wee Bowl sledding area — just for them. Also just for kids is a downloadable coloring book on the Cataloochee website.
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