Jan 20, 2012 – Ryan Costin was having the time of his life. After the Charlotte native graduated from Myers Park High School, he headed west to study ski resort management at Western State College of Colorado.
Afterwards, he traveled to New Zealand and South America, where he worked at resorts and hit the ski slopes whenever he could. He was enjoying that magical time when you’re young, doing what you love, and have seemingly endless opportunities before you.
Then the old man called. He wanted Ryan to come back to North Carolina and work for the family business. But Ryan’s dad, John, wasn’t exactly asking his son to give up his dreams and work at a plastics manufacturer or insurance firm.
Rather, John wanted his son to take over as general manager at Beech Mountain Resort, where he served as president, and where his own father, Ray, was owner. While Ryan had been flirting with the idea of working at a ski resort in California or Colorado, he decided to return to Beech Mountain – the highest town east of the Rocky Mountains – where he had grown up skiing and watching his dad run the operation.
But this wasn’t a case of nepotism where Ryan was given a cushy job and the chance to ski whenever he wanted. John needed someone who knew the business to step in and improve the resort, which, having opened in 1967 was starting to show its age.
So in 2008 Ryan got to work, and this winter marks the culmination of four years of investments, infrastructure improvements and increased snowmaking capacity.
At the resort
The mountain peaks at 5,506 feet above sea level. And thanks to a slew of new snow guns, including 10 that were installed in the past year – there are 23 in all – Beech Mountain’s slopes are almost always covered with the fluffy white stuff during the winter, creating top-notch conditions.
“From a snowmaking aspect, we’re in the best position we’ve been in going back 10 years or more,” Ryan Costin said.
Other changes include two terrain parks for snowboarders, and a ski lift along the backside of the mountain for what’s knows as the Oz Run. The resort also has a high-speed quad chairlift to assist skiers and snowboarders to the mountain’s summit. “It’s the fastest in North Carolina,” said Costin. “That means more skiing per day.”
The mountain’s 15 trails are varied enough to accommodate beginners and challenge experts. There’s 95 skiable acres, with more than 830 feet of vertical terrain. An outdated chairlift was removed recently to create new space on two advanced runs. And a former tubing area has been converted to terrain for beginners, so novices have plenty of space to learn the basics. If you feel like you need some expert help before tackling the slopes, the resort has a full line-up of private and group lessons for kids and adults.
And at the base of the slopes, you’ll find the revamped Alpine Village. The diverse crowd – sporty families, uneasy newbies and tattooed, multi-pierced, dreadlocked hipsters – make it a fun place to hang out and people-watch.
Two new retailers opened this year. Roots Ridershop is a freestyle-based ski/snowboard shop with gear and accessories and, oddly enough, a half-pipe for skateboarders. There’s also Beech Mountain Village Bakery, where you can warm up with a coffee or hot chocolate, and munch on pastries and baked goods. The bakery also has a small gift shop with T-shirts, hats and souvenirs.
These shops join Ski Beech Sports, the village’s classic ski shops. The shop recently upgraded its fleet of rental equipment, including boots, skis and snowboards, so even if you have no idea what you’re doing you can at least look cool. There’s also the 7,000-square-foot ice skating rink next to a concession stand where you can get cheap munchies and play arcade games.
The village’s Beech Tree Bar and Grill is a casual spot to grab a pizza, burger or sandwich for lunch or dinner. And with a full bar and live music, it’s also where people come to party after or (in some cases) before they hit the slopes. Another dining option is the View Haus Cafeteria.
Off the slopes
And there are plenty of options once you leave the resort. One popular attraction is the youth sledding hill, which is free and open to kids 12 and under. The sledding hill is located next to the Beech Mountain Visitors Center and is operated by the Beach Mountain Parks and Recreation Department. It even has its own snow gun to guarantee the hill is covered in white. It’s open daily, with safety personnel on duty. Rental sleds are available at several nearby stores.
And this winter, Beech Mountain launched a new snowshoeing program. You can now rent snowshoes from the park and recreation department and trek along some 30 miles of town-maintained trails. Trails range from easy to strenuous. There’s also a 1/3-mile walking track surrounding the town’s Buckeye Recreation Center. Rental rates: $5 an hour, $15 for a half day, and $25 for a full day.
The Beech Mountain area also has several charming restaurants, shops and cozy accommodations. Archer’s Mountain Inn provides a scenic retreat, with 15 lodge guest rooms that feature panoramic views, rustic décor and wood-burning fireplaces. Also available are upscale rental homes and larger suites with in-room whirlpools and private outdoor hot tubs.
Archer’s Mountain Inn also offers great dining at its restaurant, Jackalope’s View: fresh seafood, mountain trout, certified Angus beef and exotic wild game; homemade desserts and an award-winning wine list.
Another lodging option is Beech Alpen Inn, in Beech Mountain, which has 24 hotel rooms, some with fireplaces and private balconies with great views of the ski slopes. On-site is the Alpen Restaurant and Bar. The rustic restaurant received a makeover in 2007, and features sweeping mountain views, an open stone fireplace and an outdoor patio and deck. Menu items range from burgers and sandwiches to grilled salmon and pasta dishes.
Pinnacle Inn Resort rents one- and two-bedroom condos. Ask for a room at the back of the complex for great views of the ski slopes. There’s also an indoor heated pool, two Jacuzzis, a weight room, arcade, sauna, steam room and pool table. On weekends there’s free shuttle service to Beech Mountain Resort.
If you’d like to do a little shopping while at Beech Mountain, there’s plenty of specialty shops and outfitters. Check out Fred’s General Mercantile, which opened in 1979. The old-style country store is famous for having a little of everything, including groceries, hardware supplies, clothing, books, toys, sportswear as well as ski and snowboard rental equipment. The casual Backside Deli serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, which can be enjoyed at the cozy little garden patio.
With ski season is full swing, and Beech Mountain less than a three-hour drive from Charlotte, it’s the perfect time to hit the road and the slopes. And this winter the town is offering a special $99 package deal per person for two weekday nights lodging and a day on the slopes. Details: www.beechmtn.com.
-Article by Sam Boykin
Read more here
Beech Mountain Resort is now the official title of the snow sports resort, replacing Ski Beech. The change reflects an ongoing campaign to create top-notch conditions for both skiers and snowboarders, along with the revitalization of the Alpine village at the base of the slopes.
Visitors will enjoy significantly increased snowmaking capacity this winter, thanks to the addition of 10 SMI Super PoleCat snow guns. The resort now has 23 of the ultra high-tech guns.
“From a snowmaking aspect, we’re in the best position we’ve been in going back 10 years or more. All lift-access slopes now have a Super PoleCat on them, and most have two or three,” said general manager Ryan Costin. “It’s been a big investment, and I think people will be really impressed when they get on the mountain.”
Another aspect that will impress skiers and snowboarders is the opening of new terrain. The removal of an outdated chairlift has created new space on two advanced runs.
“It essentially opens up Robbin’s Run and Southern Star,” Costin said. “It really creates a nice flow for Southern Star. In years past, it took such a hard right turn that you couldn’t get the full experience of it. I think we’ll see that run become a customer favorite very quickly.”
New beginner terrain was also created on the site of the former tubing run.
“We’ve expanded the beginner ski school area by at least 100 per cent,” Costin said. “That is very important because we see a lot of beginning skiers in North Carolina.”
At the base of the slopes, the once-busy Alpine village will be bustling again. Two new shops have filled the final vacancies in the village that surrounds the resort’s ice skating rink.
The new additions are Roots Rideshop and Beech Village Gifts. Roots is a freestyle-based ski/snowboard shop. It features demo skis and snowboards, plus a full line of ski boots, snowboard boots and other freestyle accessories. Beech Village Gifts offers a place to warm up with a cup a java and purchase items bearing the new name: Beech Mountain Resort.
“The new name emphasizes that we’re open to everyone: skiers and snowboarders,” Costin said. “And, we’re getting involved with mountain biking and other activities. We’re a lot more dynamic than just referring to ourselves as Ski Beech.”
For complete information on winter 2011-12, visit http://www.beechmountainresort.com .
Find the original article on VisitNC.com by clicking here