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North Carolina has great connections by road and air. But how do you choose between the resorts to find the best option for family skiing? We’ve reviewed three of the best that all demonstrate a willingness to help make a family vacation enjoyable.
All our recommendations are compact resorts, where you can feel confident giving your kids some freedom on the slopes, knowing they will be safe. Similarly, childcare is available in two resorts to free up parents, so they can enjoy time together.
Our Top Picks
3. Wolf Ridge
Located in the sparsely populated Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, Wolf Ridge Ski Resort is family-run and has been offering a traditional warm welcome to families since 1968.
Fun for Kids
Wolf Ridge has experienced instructors taking private lessons with kids aged five years and up. One-on-one tuition, while more expensive, is a quicker way to improve ability, where individual instruction can concentrate on the areas where it’s needed most.
Group lessons are also on offer for those aged five and above and last one hour. For first-time skiers or snowboarders, group lessons are offered for kids aged eight years and older
The summit at Wolf Ridge rises to 4700 ft through a densely wooded hillside. The skiable terrain covers 54 acres and is mainly composed of tree-lined runs and glades. There is a 700 ft (213 m) vertical fall to the base elevation providing enough drop for the longest run of Broadway which is 1800 feet (550 m) long.
Of the 15 runs four are classed beginner, nine classed intermediate and two classed advanced. There are two chair lifts and two surface lifts. All the runs and the tubing park are floodlit for night-time activity and snowmaking covers 100% of the runs.
The tubing park is 350 ft long and is unusual in that there are no individual chutes to follow. Instead, the slope is open, and tubers can link horizontally to slide down the hill together. The tubing park is open Mon-Sat 9 AM to 10 PM.
Off the Slopes
Wolf Mountain Resort offers numerous cabins, mountain chalets, and condos on the resort.
What We Love About Wolf Ridge
- It’s a smaller resort where beginner families won’t feel intimidated
- The resort lodging is convenient for families
- There are enough blue and intermediate runs for beginners to progress
Wolf Ridge Stats
|Summit Elevation:||4700 ft / 1432.56 metres|
|Skiable terrain:||65 acres|
2. Beech Mountain
Beech Mountain has a welcoming Alpine village at its base and is the highest resort east of the Rockies and also has recently upgraded snowmaking. The amenities and services on offer mean that Beech Mountain is often regarded as one of the leading resorts on the East Coast.
Fun for Kids
Childcare at Beech Mountain comes courtesy of the Snowflakes Program, where toddlers aged 1-5 can spend an enjoyable day. Snacks, water, and juice are provided throughout the day along with a large playroom with toys and games.
Kamp for slightly older toddlers aged 3-5 provides all-day daycare and some activities in the snow. Traxx is the lesson at Beech Mountain for kids aged 6-12. It is aimed at complete beginners or those with some ability. The aim is to build confidence and skills in a safe setting.
For older kids, the Beech Mountain Academy offers a range of lessons in skiing and snowboarding for ages 6-18.
Beech Mountain Resort is the highest ski resort on the East Coast of North America. It has a reliable 84 inches of snow each season and recent investment means snowmaking now covers 100% of the resort runs.
The highest elevation is 5506 ft (1678 m) from where you can look over the 95 acres of skiable terrain. The resort has two beginner runs, seven intermediate, and six advanced. There are 10 lifts in all including three quad chairs and three triple chairs. Beech Mountain offers some good boarding and there are two terrain parks, the larger of the two aimed at all abilities.
A recent addition to the mountain is the glass roundhouse bar at the summit. It’s called the 5506’ Sky Bar, to recognize the elevation. It’s the ideal spot to warm up and have a drink or to relax in the sun on the outside decking. The panoramic views spread across the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Beech Mountain has also recently built a snow tubing park next to the ice-skating rink in the village. You can speed down the 700 ft chutes and then recover on the conveyor lift back to the top. The tubing park is floodlit and has a music system.
Beech Mountain has been one of the first resorts in the country to add a craft beer brewery. The Beech Mountain Brewing Company was added in 2014 and demonstrates the resort’s vision and willingness to diversify and reinvest cash to improve services.
Off the Slopes
Lodging options range from ski-in ski-out chalets and condos to traditional ski lodges and inns, as well as local apartments and holiday homes available for rent.
What We Love About Beech Mountain
- It’s a high resort for the East Coast of North America with great views
- It’s a compact resort with everything you need for a ski vacation
- The childcare and lessons are kids are top-rated
Beech Mountain Stats
|Summit Elevation:||5506 ft / 1678.23 metres|
|Skiable terrain:||95 acres|
1. Sugar Mountain
Set in the rural hills of North Carolina, Sugar Mountain is 120 miles northwest of Charlotte with its international airport and nearby Nashville in Tennessee. The resort recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and has become a firm favorite for locals and tourists looking for a more traditional ski resort.
Fun for Kids
Sugar Mountain prides itself on being a family-friendly resort. They demonstrate this with their policy where all kids, four and younger can ski for free.
There are two ski schools for kids, the Sugar Bear Ski School is aimed at children from 5-10 and introduces them to the equipment and skiing. For older kids aged 7-14 the Polar Bear Snowboard School introduces kids to snowboarding techniques.
The lesson price includes a lift ticket, equipment, helmet, lesson, lunch (on full days), and supervision. Ski and snowboard group lessons are available for all levels and abilities. Groups are created by ability level. Group lessons last for 1.5 hours. Group lessons are for skiers and snowboarders 8 years old and older.
Sugar Mountain also offers childcare. Bookings are taken on a first-come-first-served basis and children must be at least one year old.
Sugar Mountain offers plenty of tree cover with the runs running down through the tree line, creating plenty of interest and glades. The 21 runs fan down over one face of the hillside. In terms of difficulty, the runs are evenly split between green and blue, making Sugar Mountain ideal for beginners and those wanting to move on to intermediate runs.
For the more advanced there are three black diamond runs and one double diamond black. There are five main lifts with the Summit Express taking skiers and snowboarders straight to the top.
Snowmaking and grooming are well-established features at Sugar Mountain and 100% of the runs are covered for snowmaking. Some of the runs are additionally floodlit for night skiing.
The resort offers equipment rental and ski clothing too. This is ideal for a beginner family, where you can try it before you decide to spend money on expensive ski equipment and clothing.
Sugar Mountain has plenty to offer away from the slopes as well. The tubing park has chutes that are 700 ft long and which are serviced by a conveyor lift. Tubing sessions last for two hours and run from 10 AM until 10 PM under floodlights.
Sugar Mountain also has a 10,000 ft.² outdoor ice-skating rink located next door to the tubing park. If you’ve ever wanted to try snowshoeing, Sugar Mountain will give you a guided tour around the resort. The intensity of the tour is guided by the participants, lasts one hour, and includes snowshoe rental.
Off the Slopes
While there is no accommodation at the resort there is a good selection of family-friendly hotels and inns in the nearby village of Banner Elk and the surrounding towns.
Private condos and homes are also available to rent nearby.
What We Love About Sugar Mountain
- Sugar Mountain is a compact resort ideally set up for first-time family skiing
- The snowmaking is comprehensive, covering 100% of the runs
- There is plenty to do with a tubing run, an outdoor skating rink, and guided snowshoe tours
Sugar Mountain Stats
|Summit Elevation:||5300 ft / 1615.44 metres|
|Skiable terrain:||125 acres|
Why Choose North Carolina for Skiing
North Carolina has a surprising variety of skiing potential. The resorts are smaller and family orientated, offering beginners enough scope and challenge but within the safety of a compact resort. North Carolina is further south than some of the Northern skiing States and so its resorts tend to escape the extreme cold of winter. Snowmaking in most resorts is now 100%, meaning coverage with natural snow is no longer a problem. For simple family fun at a reasonable price, North Carolina is hard to beat.
How Did We Order This List?
To help rank our top selection of ski resorts for this list we compared the following ranking factors:
|👨👩👦 Ranking Factor||📈 Power to affect Rank|
|Amount of Beginner Trails (Mi)||4x|
|Amount of Skiing Area (Mi)||3x|
|Cost of two adult tickets + child ticket||1x|
|How many magic carpet lifts||1x|
We gave each factor its own weighting depending on how important we feel it is for family fun across all ages. For example, a resort with more beginner trails is higher ranked than a resort with a lower-priced family ticket – with all else being equal. That’s because while cost is a factor, it’s not a primary one. We may also use our editorial judgment to remove or add resorts that we believe should make the list.
When taking all of this into account, it gives us our awesome list above. We hope it was helpful in planning your next family ski vacation.