Original Article in The Tennessean magazine
January 24, 2013, Written by Tracy Teo
On a recent trip to Beech Mountain Resort, deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, I imagined myself swooshing down Shawneehaw Run’s glistening slopes, a graceful snow bunny who had conquered her fear and was the envy of all the other “joeys” (as newbie skiers are called).
But before I took off exploring the resort’s 95 skiable acres, I had to figure out how to stay upright on the awkward appendages strapped to my feet. So, I signed up for a lesson at the Snow Sports Learning Center.
I stood in a semicircle on relatively flat terrain with the other beginners, awaiting instructions from a burly instructor named Phil Hyer. He had such a military bearing, I almost felt the need to stand at attention and shout, “Yes, sir!” when he asked questions about my ski experience, or more accurately, the lack thereof.
I soon learned that despite his commanding presence, he was a kind, patient man, eager to give us the confidence we needed to enjoy our time on the slopes.
“Everybody seen snow before?” Phil asked. I thought it was a facetious question until I remembered many Beech Mountain guests are from parts of the South where snow falls about once a century.
The previous evening I had a brief exchange with an 8-year-old from Florida. She had only seen snow on TV and described her day sledding down the youth hill near the Beech Mountain visitors center as “awesome.”
We began our lesson by learning to bring the tips of the skis together and fan out the tails to form a wedge, a move Phil called the “pizza.” Basically, this is how to put on the brakes, so it’s not hard to figure out why it’s the first thing a skier needs to know.
We set off individually to practice our moves. Preschoolers from another class zipped past me on their skis and snowboards, much quicker to execute their instructor’s tips than I was. They toppled over occasionally but quickly picked themselves up and moved on unfazed — a stark contrast to the beginning adults.
Phil glided over to rescue a young woman who had wiped out and was flailing her arms like a beetle stranded on its back. It was a comical sight, but when I found myself in the same position five minutes later, I failed to see the humor. From the vantage point of the ski lift, we must have looked like we were enrolled in the class that taught guests how to lie flat on their backs and make snow angels.
The beauty of family-friendly Beech Mountain is that, while it attracts plenty of experienced skiers and snowboarders, novices of any age can learn in a fun environment. Unlike some resorts out West, nobody gives rookies impatient, sidelong glances.
After returning my ski equipment, I headed down to the Alpine Village for some hot chocolate. I sipped it by the ice rink, where young skaters twirled and jumped like willowy ballerinas.
Glittering hoar frost clinging to the trees gives the North Carolina High Country the ephemeral beauty of an enchanted winter wonderland, like one of those breathtaking scenes from the film “Dr. Zhivago.” I noted with disappointment that it was starting to melt.
At an elevation of 5,506 feet, Beech Mountain is the highest town in the Eastern U.S. It has an average annual snowfall of 84.6 inches, but nobody can predict the weather on Southern ski slopes. If fickle Mother Nature doesn’t bless the resort with enough snow, there are 30 Super PoleCat automated snow guns that will.
Alpen Restaurant and Bar is a favorite après-ski hangout. Those who have worked up mountain-size appetites after a day on the slopes dig into hearty comfort food served in an elegant dining room that’s more Swiss Alps than Blue Ridge Mountains.
No new age cuisine here. Classic steak and seafood dishes are prepared simply, but perfectly. Pecan-encrusted trout topped with a surprising dollop of honey butter is a customer favorite.
Banner Elk Winery
There’s nothing like a wine tasting with friends to warm you up after a day on the slopes. Tucked into the bucolic mountain hamlet of Banner Elk is Banner Elk Winery, just a 15-minute drive from Beech Mountain.
During the warmer months, visitors tour the picturesque vineyards, but at this time of the year, there’s nothing more welcoming than the cavernous fireplace surrounded by comfy chairs.
The owners have found several varietals thrive in these mountains, and my friends and I were eager to quite literally enjoy the fruits of their labor.
We started with a crisp, citrusy Seyval Blanc, which I personally think would be the perfect complement to Carolina barbecue. After a couple more whites, we were introduced to Marechal Foch, the top-selling red, appreciated for its hints of blackberry and cherry.
We swirled and sipped our way through the evening as we discussed tomorrow’s ski plans. I decided I might make better progress with a private lesson.
The truth is, I never did make it past the bunny slope, but the natural beauty of the region and the fun post-slope activities already have me eager to try again next year.
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The post Thanksgiving blues can come on pretty quick in the Blue Ridge. After the holiday passes there is usually a lull in the season. The leaves have gone from explosion of natural beauty and wonder to yard work annoyance. The weather can be unpredictable, or predictably wet, dreary, and depressing. A lot of the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is usually spent indoors, waiting for the snow to fall and for winter to take hold. I am all for cozy chairs, warm fires, and good books (or magazines like Blue Ridge Outdoors – wink), but we are active people and cabin fever strikes us early and often. Well, not this year people. This year, the snow god Ullr has smiled upon the Southeast in the form of snow and cold temperatures. Time to get out of the house, bust out the ski gear from the shed, and hit the slopes this weekend.
Beech Resort outside Boone, N.C. is planning to open Friday, so get the drop on everybody else and be there for first chair. The limited number of open slopes will actually work in your favor, preventing you from overdoing it on the first day. Nothing is worse than ruining a season by picking up a nagging – or heaven forbid, season ending – injury on day one. Use this time to get your ski legs back under you by easy-styling it and taking frequent breaks (a mid-day beer never hurt either). Day one is also a great time to evaluate your gear from last season to make sure everything is in working order, and to find out what needs to be put on your Christmas list this year. Winter is here folks. Time to shred.
For the original article in Blue Ridge Outdoors, click HERE.
Colorado Springs, Colo. (July 17, 2012) – America’s top gravity mountain bike athletes will descend on Beech Mountain, N.C. this weekend for the 2012 USA Cycling Mountain Bike Gravity National Championships.
It’s the second year that the gravity portion of the mountain bike national championships will stand alone, and more than 40 Stars-and-Stripes jerseys will be up for grabs in the downhill and dual slalom contests.
On the dual slalom course, which was built by 2007 national champ Christopher Herndon, pro riders Mitch Ropelato (Ogden, Utah) and 2008 BMX Olympic medalist Jill Kintner (Seattle, Wash.) will fight to defend their titles from a year ago.
When the pro downhill competitions take center stage on the event’s final day, hundreds of fans are expected to gather near the course’s rock garden to watch. Kintner will have a second title to ride in defense of, and in the men’s event, Logan Binggeli(Saint George, Utah) will be the defending champion.
Racing begins on Friday, July 20 and will continue through the day on Sunday, July 22.
To read the original story, click here.
BEECH MOUNTAIN, N.C. — The folks at Beech Mountain Club figure they have the coolest golf course in the Eastern half of the country, and they’re putting their money where their mouths are to prove it.
Even when the summer hits its sweltering hottest this year, they’re guaranteeing cool conditions for people coming up for stay-and-play packages. Beech is a private course, but many rental properties have memberships, meaning if you stay, you can play. And if the temperature ever exceeds 79 degrees on a day when you’re playing, your green fees will be refunded in full. They’re calling it the “Summer of 79.”
“We want them to come up here to escape the heat,” said Brian Barnes, Beech Mountain Club’s general manager. “Once they get up here they learn it’s refreshingly cool.”
A National Weather Service reporting station was installed at Fred’s General Mercantile on Beech Mountain 20 years ago, and the highest temperature recorded since then has been 81. Beech Mountain, at 5,506 feet, has the highest elevation of any town in the Eastern half of the United States, and it’s only reached 80 degrees here eight times in those 20 years. So the chance of the club having to refund any money is slim.
“I really hope we do,” Barnes said. “I hope there are a few times that people do come up here and we refund their green fees and their full cost of golf. That would be good for word of mouth.”
John Carrin, in his 11th year as Beech Mountain Club’s head golf professional, says the lower temperatures are noticed immediately even by golfers who weren’t initially lured by the mild conditions.
“People are so happy when they get up here,” he said. “Especially from local neighboring areas — the Tri-Cities and over in North Carolina, Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem. We have as much as a 20-degree temperature difference. When it’s 90 degrees in the Tri-Cities it will be about 70 here.”
That’s a good reason to look into playing Beech, but once golfers see the course, it sells itself. The Willard Byrd design that opened in 1969 – it was later updated by Tom Jackson — is a treat at any temperature.
The club was the site of the fifth annual Battle of the Smokies last weekend, pitting teams of media members from Tennessee against their North Carolina counterparts. For the third year in row, the Tar Heel State came out on top.
The beautiful surroundings and tremendous hospitality, both at the club and the nearby Pinnacle Inn, made a third consecutive defeat a little easier to swallow.
On the golf course, the views of the mountains can be breathtaking. You can see five states. Many tee shots are from elevated tees. In fact, the fairway on the par-four 10th looks like an aircraft carrier from the tee, and golfers are trying to land their drives safely.
“The first thing we usually hear is, ‘Wow!’ ” Carrin said. The layout isn’t long, but anybody with a hook better beware. Out of bounds lurks on the left all over the course. “Most people just really comment on the views first,” Barnes said. “From so many places on the golf course, the views are wonderful. The mountains in the distance, the different states you can see. The ridge-top layout is friendly, but somewhat tight, and the greens are crowned. So the difficulty is right around the greens. “People usually, once they play 18 holes, really can’t wait to tee off and play another 18 now that they know the layout.”
The stay-and-play packages are available through Oct. 21. Double occupancy prices start at $79 per person per night with a two-night minimum.
The club also has a tennis center with clay courts including a center court with stadium seats, recreational hiking, biking, swimming and a fitness center. “There’s something for just about everybody to do whether you’re a golfer or not,” Carrin said.
And whatever you choose to do here, you’ll be cool while doing it. That’s their guarantee. Chances are, they’ll be breaking 80 even if you’re not.
For more information on the “Summer of 79” promotion, call (800) 468-5506 or check it out at www.BeechMtn.com/summerof79.
Read the original article here: http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/Sports/article.php?id=100477#ixzz1vzqV39Vk
North Carolina’s Top Sports Vacations
From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Outer Banks, North Carolina is a great destination for sports vacations. The Tar Heel State offers many options for those seeking a mix of action and relaxation, from thrilling water sports and world-class golf to horsepower-fueled auto racing and high-flying thrills.
No longer just a skiing destination, Beech Mountain in western North Carolina has carved out a new identity as a year-round sportsman’s paradise. During the spring and summer, grab a mountain bike and tackle theBeech Mountain Adventure Trail Park. It features an 8-mile network of single track that ranges in elevation from 4,700 to 5,400 feet, providing unparalleled mountain vistas and overlooks. When winter rolls around,Beech Mountain Resort has some of the best skiing in the Southeast, with 17 trails varied enough to accommodate all levels.
Get Into the Swing
North Carolina boasts one of the most famous golf courses in the world with Pinehurst Resort. Host of the USGA’s 2014 US Open and U.S. Women’s Open, Pinehurst has 8 courses, many of which are consistently ranked among the world’s best, including the Donald Ross-designed Pinehurst No. 2. After a dramatic 5-month restoration, the course reopened in 2011, and it remains the resort’s centerpiece.
Get Your Motor Running
The Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS) is ground zero for all things NASCAR in North Carolina. The 140,000-seat venue hosts some of the country’s most prominent races, and also offers special programs where fans can drive real Sprint Cup racecars. Across the street is the 30,000-seat zMax Dragway, the country’s only 4-lane, quarter-mile concrete dragway that’s home to events like the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals.
Get Into the Outer Banks
The Outer Banks have some of the country’s best kiteboarding and surfing conditions. Real Watersports, located at the Outer Banks’ most southeasterly point in Cape Hatteras, offers lessons that accommodate every skill level. Most of the kiteboarding is done along the Pamlico Sound, considered one of the best places in the country to kiteboard. Surfers head west, across Highway 12 to the Atlantic Ocean, where a short continental shelf and shallow sandbars help produce world-class waves.
For boat lovers, head to Oriental — “the sailing capital of North Carolina.” Located on the shores of the Neuse River near the Pamlico Sound, the area offers great year-round boating. If interested in learning the ropes of sailing — literally — head to Oriental’s School of Sailing, which offers 3-and 4-day courses. Afterwards, you can charter one of the school’s sailboats, including the luxurious, high-performance Beneteau 343, which accommodates 5 adults, then cruise the open seas.
If you prefer your thrills up in the trees, visit one of North Carolina’s newest zipline attractions, ZipQuest Waterfall and Treetop Adventure. The 2-and-a-half-hour course includes zip lines that pass over Carver’s Falls — the largest waterfall in central and eastern North Carolina. Or take to the sky in a very different way atParaclete XP SkyVenture, the most powerful wind tunnel on the planet. Inside a glass-walled, cylinder-shaped room, soar some 50 feet in the air as powerful fans create winds speeds of up to 185 mph.
Take a Fitness Vacation
For fitness lovers, western North Carolina’s mild temperatures and scenic mountainscapes are a great option. That’s where you’ll find Zap Fitness, in Lenoir, a small town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Here, professional athletes host running vacations and camps (from June to September) for all fitness levels. Guests stay at a spacious lodge, and a full-service chef cooks all the meals, which lean toward the healthy side. And just a short walk away from the lodge is the cool headwaters of the Yadkin River.
The rivers and streams in the North Carolina mountains are legendary among anglers. You can see why with the help of companies like Asheville Drifters. Take either a half- day or full-day excursion down the French Broad, Tuckasegee, South Holston or Nolichucky rivers, all great for landing trout or smallmouth bass. Another great resource is the WNC Fly Fishing Trail, which highlights 15 different fishing spots.
North Carolina has many rich sports traditions, especially when it comes to basketball. Tar Heels and Blue Devils always draw diehard fans when they face off at either Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium or Carolina’s Dean E. Smith Center. Another member of the “Tobacco Road” schools is North Carolina State University, home to the NC State Wolfpack. Home games are at Raleigh’s PNC Arena, not far from the bustlingHillsborough Street area. North Carolina’s professional NBA team, the Charlotte Bobcats, play out of Time Warner Cable Arena, conveniently located along the LYNX Blue Line light-rail system in the heart of uptown, close to other attractions such as the EpiCentre, a 3-story entertainment hub with dozens of bars, clubs and restaurants.
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April 2012 – North Carolina’s Beech Mountain is emerging as one of the region’s top mountain biking destinations with the addition of a several new chairlift-assisted trails. Scheduled to open in June, the new trails are part of ongoing renovations and improvements at Beech Mountain Resort, located about 20 miles from Boone. This is just the latest development in the town’s bid to become a year-round outdoor recreation Mecca.
For more than four decades Beech Mountain Resort has attracted skiers from all over the Southeast with some of the highest peaks east of the Rocky Mountains. But action at the resort often came to a grinding halt during the summer—until now.
Last year Chris Herndon, the 2007 dual slalom mountain bike national champion, designed two new tails at the resort for the 2011 USA Cycling Mountain Bike Gravity Nationals. This summer marks the first time the course will be open to the public. Visitors will be able to take the resort’s high-speed quad chairlift—which will be equipped with special trays to carry bikes—to the mountain’s 5,506-foot summit. From there they can race down either an intermediate or advanced trail, reaching speeds of up to 45 mph as they navigate rock gardens, jumps, burms and wooded sections.
“Chairlift-assisted mountain biking is very popular these days, but it’s taken longer to reach the Southeast,” Herndon said. “This is really going to open up a type of riding that has been limited in our area for so long.”
The trails end at the resort’s newly revamped Alpine Village. There visitors can grab a bite to eat and a cold drink at Beech Tree Bar and Grill or View Haus Cafeteria. They can also check out some of the new shops, like Beech Mountain Village Bakery, which offers pastries, baked goods, and a small gift shop with T-shirts, hats and souvenirs.
Beech Mountain Resort’s general manager, Ryan Costin, said he plans to open the new trail system on the weekends starting in June, leading up to this year’s Mountain Bike Gravity National Championships, which runs July 20-22.
In addition to Beech Mountain Resort, there’s also the new Beech Mountain Adventure Trail Park, which the town unveiled last summer. Daniel Scagnelli, the fitness and wellness director for the town’s parks and recreation department, worked with dozens of volunteers to build the trail system. It features an eight-mile network of single track—known as Emerald Outback—that ranges in elevation from 4,700 to 5,400 feet, providing unparalleled mountain vistas and overlooks. The park’s second and third phases are scheduled to open in 2014, and will encompass more than 25 miles of trails, including single track, double track, technical runs and long, rolling descents.
Cycle 4 Life Bike Shop in nearby Banner Elk is among the first in the area to provide mountain bike rentals and guided bike trips at the new Beech Mountain Adventure Trail Park. Owner Doug Owen said the new park is helping attract more people to the area, including both hardcore mountain bikers as well as families looking to enjoy some two-wheeled outdoor fun together.
In response to the park’s debut, Owen said he’s beefed up his mountain bike rental program, and is offering guided trips that last from three to four hours. He’s also offering special guided trips that involve mountain biking and wine tasting. The “Oz to Banner Elk” trip begins at the top of Beech Mountain near the old Land of Oz theme park. From there, he guides groups down a thrilling “creeper trail” along a ridge that provides scenic views of the Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina mountains. The ride makes a pit stop in the town of Beech Mountain for lunch, and then continues downhill to a tasting at the Banner Elk Winery.
These great new resources only add to Beech Mountain’s 51 miles of road bike routes, which vary from easy to challenging. All routes begin at the Visitors Center, with some passing through paved residential areas, while others wind past scenic Buckeye Lake and the town’s Recreation Center. So whether you’re a beginner or an experienced mountain bike rider, this summer is the perfect time to check out why Beech Mountain has become so much more than just a skiing destination.
— By Sam Boykin
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February 2012 – Fred Pfohl, of Beech Mountain, is attempting to trespass on private property — again. He looks to his accomplice, Rory Ellington, to confirm some insider intelligence. There’s a security gate they must break through. Ellington, who bears a striking resemblance to Lance Armstrong, the mountain-loving cyclist who brought the town’s recreational prowess to national attention more than a decade ago, spouts off a string of numbers. They’ve cracked the code.
The two men are here to figure out where to put additional trail markers on the Emerald Outback, eight miles of backcountry trail that runs through the gated Emerald Mountain housing development. They aren’t officially trespassing, of course. If they were walking instead of riding in Pfohl’s SUV, they wouldn’t even need a code. The development has given the Town of Beech Mountain an easement, inviting hikers and bikers to slip past the entry system. But it’s raining. So Pfohl punches in the semi-secret key giddily. “We’re not supposed to know this stuff,” he says.
But Pfohl and Ellington seem to know pretty much everything about the Town of Beech Mountain. Pfohl — who raised five kids here in an apartment above Fred’s General Mercantile, the store he runs with his wife, Margie — was in attendance when the town was born. Beech Mountain, established circa 1981, is still a young thing, much younger than the nearby town of Boone (1872) or neighboring Banner Elk (1911).
In the mid-1970s, the corporation that owned the mountain went bankrupt, and a handful of residents began the process of turning their developer-created community into a public township. They oversaw the transfer of infrastructure. Resort security guards became town policemen. Established ski slopes continued operations as Beech Mountain Resort, which still thrives in what is now Eastern America’s highest incorporated town at 5,506 feet.
Pfohl, an attentive man with a manicured white beard, was the town’s first elected mayor. He served four terms, and he’s never given up his sense of responsibility. Pfohl begins every morning making a list of what he needs to do for his store — only to find that, somewhere along the line, his to-do items morph into civic duties. “I call him the list man, but I’m the same way,” Ellington says.
Pfohl, in turn, gestures toward Ellington. “Yeah, how many towns have the groundskeeper of a golf course taking care of the lawn in front of their fire station?” Ellington, a superintendent at the private Beech Mountain Club, blushes.
The two men — alongside Daniel Scagnelli, the town’s Parks and Recreation director — were instrumental in creating the Outback. It is the first phase of a 25-mile Mountain Adventure Trail Park the town plans to complete in 2014, and it consists of mostly slender, woodland paths. Ellington helped design the system, marked by cedar signs. “I watched where the deer went to figure out where the trails should go,” Ellington says. “The deer know the best routes. They flow with their family through the seasons.”
Mountain bikers make good use of the trail, streaking through the forest, their brightly colored gear flashing in and out of view. Ellington points to a narrow trail where surrounding tree limbs seem poised to reach out to tap a hiker’s shoulder. “This trail is at 5,400 feet,” he says. “I come up here to train on my bike, and I suffer.”
Resilience brings rewards. Training in high altitudes increases red blood cells, pushing more oxygen into the blood.
“There are actually some people that say just because we’re up here day to day we’re going to live longer and our hearts will be stronger,” Ellington says. “But I don’t know about that.”
More than a store
A man chases Pfohl’s car through downtown Beech Mountain, a small cluster of buildings reminiscent of the chalet-style architecture required by the mountain’s early developers. It’s raining, but Pfohl rolls his window all the way down. “I’ve got those papers you asked for,” says the runner, who turns out to be a building inspector. He shoves a stack of papers into Pfohl’s hands.
Pfohl requested the information because someone recently came in asking about Beech Mountain’s building regulations. “I didn’t want to tell him the wrong thing, and I wanted to do right by him,” Pfohl says, slipping the stack of papers onto his dashboard until he can deliver them into his curious customer’s hands.
When Pfohl and his wife opened their store, they hoped it would be a community hub. “Little did we know that it was going to become an unofficial town hall, chamber of commerce, and welcome center,” Pfohl says. “People come to us before they’ll go to anyone else.”
It’s nearly lunch, time to head back to the store. When Pfohl bounds across wide, wood-plank floors on the way to his office, a local couple stops him. They want to introduce him to a visitor from out of town.
“See,” the woman says to her friend, “I told you there really was a Fred!”
This isn’t the first time Pfohl has been mistaken for a myth. The store orbits him as he exchanges pleasantries. In a back hallway, beyond walls stocked with high-end footwear and outdoorsy clothing, kids pick out rental videos. Cash registers tick off receipts for canned goods and bottles of wine. Beyond the counter, a man jingles a drawer of bolts in the corner designated for hardware. Above his head, a poster of wild bird species hangs from the ceiling. It waves in greeting each time an exterior door opens — and that happens a lot.
A PVC pipe, planted upright by the store’s front entrance, marks each year with the mountain’s annual snowfalls. In 2010 and 2011, the marks almost reached the building’s second story. Beech Mountain isn’t an easy place to spend the winter.
Most of the town’s 350 year-round locals — and a few of the savviest part-timers, who number in the thousands — know that Wednesday is grocery day on the mountain. That’s when shipments arrive at Fred’s, the only grocery store in town. When there’s a heavy snow and it appears that tractor-trailers aren’t going to make it up the mountain, Pfohl drives his pickup down to Banner Elk to meet them on a lower delivery route.
Last winter, Pfohl made the trek half a dozen times. Occasionally, he drives across fields because he can’t get traction on the road. He keeps a plow attached to the front of his vehicle several months of the year.
The fact that Pfohl often doubles his workload in service to the town doesn’t directly make him money. It substantially increases his operating budget, but he believes that making his town welcoming might encourage people to come around more often. “I wish everybody in America could live in a small town for a little while to understand what they’re all about,” he says. “I think they would get a feeling of being part of something bigger than themselves.”
Rich in nature
Pfohl’s pockets are full of hardware. He tosses a power drill into the backseat and continues his rounds. Ellington has gone back to work, but there’s a town bulletin board in need of updating. Pfohl needs to post laminated maps and informational panels. He drives toward a lookout, one of the most popular sites on the mountain. There, he points toward a gray tourist kiosk. “I just finished that one up yesterday,” he says. Below, cloud shadows roll across a forested sea.
He moves past the Beech Mountain Club, where Ellington maintains an 18-hole, ridge-top golf course, and on to a pond that supplies water for snow-making on Beech Mountain’s ski slopes. Roughly the size of an Olympic pool, the pond has a lone, smoothed-over boulder sticking up from its placid waters like the arch of a turtle’s back. In the distance, he spots B.J. Hughes, one of Beech Mountain’s parks and trails coordinators, unloading a power blower. Pfohl wonders how the town’s guided-hike program is going, so he makes a detour.
After Hughes gives Pfohl the stats on his last hike — 20 city-bred visitors, most of whom had never spent time in the woods — Hughes points at a jack vine. It’s the sort of thing he shows guests to the mountain. He walks over and pulls out a pocketknife, grabbing the rough, twig-like vine between his thumb and forefinger before slicing into pine-scented meat. “People use this to make crafts, like birdhouses,” he says.
Hughes sometimes shops at Fred’s, but he sees all of Beech Mountain as a wild sort of general mercantile. His lists — mostly grocery lists — are a little nontraditional. They include: morel mushrooms, branch lettuce, salamanders, and bass. “I’ll get a full meal from the woods,” he says. “This place is full of all kinds of food, medicine, cures. You’ve just got to know where to look.”
Hughes stands in a town parking lot, but, without moving his feet from gravel, he’s able to secure another forest-born necessity. “If you’re ever in the mountains and can’t get a fire started in the rain,” he says, “you can use birch bark.” He pulls a handful of bronze-colored paper from a yellow birch’s trunk. “This goes up like kerosene,” he says.
He points to the tender ends of silvered limbs. “You can also make tea from this tree,” he says. “All the flavor’s in the green shoots. You boil them.” He pulls at a small branch until it snaps. “Old-timers used to use this as a toothbrush,” he says, scratching at smooth bark with his fingernail. The smell of spearmint wafts through the afternoon’s cooling air.
Beech Mountain is rich with natural amenities, and it sometimes surprises even Hughes. Last year, he found some wild apricot trees on one of the town’s municipal hiking trails and took a bite. “It was like biting into a hunk of honey,” he says, adding a warning, “You’ve got to get to them before the bears.”
Pfohl shakes his head at the thought of competing with wildlife for a taste of sweetness. He’ll stick to the seasonal produce stocked in his store. But as he speeds away — he still has that billboard to take care of, not to mention the part he needs to order for the town flagpole — it’s clear that he respects what Hughes adds to the community. “B.J. used to work in a manufacturing plant before he started at Beech,” Pfohl says. “But he’s in his element here. We all are.”
Life in Beech Mountain is surprisingly busy from Pfohl’s perspective, but in spite of his charted days and never ending to-do lists, he maintains that living here isn’t stressful.
“Maybe there’s something to that stuff Rory was talking about earlier, about living at 5,000 feet,” Pfohl says. “Sometimes, it does feel like we have a little advantage. We don’t feel pressured by our surroundings. Up here, we can really breathe.”
Five Things Not to Miss in Beech Mountain
- At the Mile High Kite Festival, colors and cares are tossed into the wind every Labor Day weekend. There are prizes for the best decorated, smallest, and largest kites. If you’re unsure of your crafting skills, you’re welcome to attend one of the building and decorating clinics held each year before the festival.
403-A Beech Mountain Parkway
- During its annual Autumn at Oz event, Beech Mountain’s historic Land of Oz theme park temporarily reopens to the public. Visit Auntie Em’s farm, complete with hayrides and a cast of Wizard-seeking characters who will follow you down the yellow-brick road.
2669 South Beech Mountain Parkway
- The town plays host to Summer Street Dances several times each summer, when sand borrowed from the traps at the Beech Mountain Club golf course covers the parking lot in front of Town Hall. Even though the atmosphere will be warm, temperatures tend to drop with the sun at high altitudes. This is one beach party where it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a sweater on hand.
403 Beech Mountain Parkway
- Take advantage of Beech Mountain’s guided hikes, which teach — among other skills — plant identification. They launch from the Buckeye Recreation Center on the first Tuesday of each month from April through October.
206 Grassy Gap Creek Road
- The town has one of the only municipal snow blowers in the state, and the blower creates a free, seasonal sledding hill located just a few feet from Town Hall. Beech Mountain Resort also manufactures snow, day and night, to assure that the mountain’s nearly 100 skiable acres stay covered throughout the season.
Fred’s General Mercantile
501 Beech Mountain Parkway
Beech Mountain, N.C. 28604
Beech Mountain Resort
1007 Beech Mountain Parkway
Beech Mountain, N.C. 28604
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Leigh Ann Henion’s debut book is forthcoming from Penguin Press. Visit leighannhenion.com to learn more about her work. Leigh Ann’s most recent story for Our State was “Soaring Legacies” (January 2011).
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
The old Yellow Brick Road, made of 44,000 bricks, still winds around the top of Beech Mountain in a garden-like setting dotted with gazebos, boulders, craggy trees and occasional curiosities like the Witch’s Castle. For the most part, it’s quiet up here, marked by fierce winds that whip across the mountaintop at more than 5,500 feet elevation.
There’s a modest stream of visitors, particularly in the summer. The public can arrange for group tours or events in the park, or even rent out the renovated Dorothy’s House for the night.
Expensive homes situated just across the street bring seasonal residents to the top of the mountain, and a handful of people tend the park, giving tours and doing upkeep. The excitement returns when the annual Autumn at Oz celebration takes place, bringing back thousands of Oz lovers — former Land of Oz employees and fans alike.
Hosts and many visitors at the festival dress as “The Wizard of Oz” characters, paying homage to the classic movie about a little girl from Kansas named Dorothy who survives a tornado, visits a magical, sometimes scary land and finds out more about what’s important in life. The story, written by L. Frank Baum as “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” is both enduring and endearing, just like the theme park.
When describing the park, visitors often use the term “a magical place,” based actually more on Baum’s book than the movie. It certainly had an impact on people.
Former Johnson Citian Donna Devereux, who attended East Tennessee State University and now lives near Blowing Rock, is among them. As a teenager she was one of “about nine Dorothys” employed at the park on opening day in 1970.
“I would disappear in a puff of smoke and then reappear,” she said during a recent visit to the park. “I worked here for about four years. It was really fun. It spoiled me for any other work.
“I was here for the grand opening when Debbie Reynolds cut the ribbon. Carrie Fisher was here, she was about 13 at the time, and I was charged with keeping her company.”
The park in its heyday was a big hit. The brainchild of developer Grover Robbins — who also created Tweetsie Railroad, among many other enduring developments — and designer Jack Pentes, Land of Oz was a place filled with characters and scenes from the movie.
Visitors could take a ride around the park in colorful “hot-air balloon” gondolas, visit Dorothy’s house and experience it before, during and after a “tornado,” see a show that revealed the Wizard of Oz and have their photos taken with munchkins or any of the characters.
And there was the shiny (and sometimes slick) Yellow Brick Road that tied everything together.
In the design stages, Pentres indeed saw it as a magical place. He took special care to preserve the natural environment, which was much of what made the place seem so special. And Pentres worked from a child’s point of view, literally, getting down on his knees for the proper perspective as he created the park.
Visitors would drive up the steep, winding road with its hairpin turns, then take a gondola-style chair lift to the very top. The trip up the mountain no doubt added to the mystique of the destination on top.
The place attracted 400,000 people its first year and brought in quite a few celebrities during the decade, including Reynolds, Fisher, Ray Bolger, Anita Bryant, Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) and Charles Kuralt.
“I got to skip down the road with Charles Kuralt,” Devereaux said with a laugh.
The park also featured many of the region’s finest artists and craftsmen, so there was quality shopping to be done. And the long-range views from up high were fabulous.
A recession and a changing tourist industry helped lead to the park’s demise. The property is now owned and managed by Emerald Mountain Realty & Rentals. Cindy Keller of Emerald Mountain oversees the place and organizes the Autumn at Oz festival, and on the company’s website she tells a summarized history of the place.
Keller lists “changing times, economics, liabilities, maintenance and other interests of its owners, along with the lack of change at Oz,” as reasons for its downfall. A fire in 1976 also took its toll, destroying some artifacts.
Devereaux was among those who hated to say goodbye.
“I was very sad to see it close,” she said, adding, “There was a magical feel to the top of the mountain.”
For a decade the Land of Oz fell into decline and was victimized by vandals and people seeking to take home a piece of Oz. In 1990 Emerald Mountain Properties started a 450-acre project to create home sites around the property, but also to protect and partially revive the Land of Oz.
Many of the small attractions at the park are gone for good, including some of the structures as well as the gigantic mushroom and the balloon ride. Dorothy’s House remains one of the highlights. People can tour the place, then experience the sights and sounds of a tornado before emerging from the dark to find another version of the house knocked askew. Witch’s legs are sticking out from the bottom of the outside of the house.
“The park is not, nor will it ever be, what it once was,” Keller writes. “However, with its maturing flora and graceful aging, it has evolved into its own unique entity.”
Visitors can also see Dorothy’s red slippers — actually a sculpture of the shoes, which are bolted down to the concrete — and slip their feet into them while catch a grand view of the mountains.
There’s a small museum filled with memorabilia from and about the movie, and items continue to resurface — evidence that the Land of Oz never actually died. Many people still find the park, even in its faded glory, to be a magical place.
For more information, visit www.autumnatoz.com
Written by Doug Janz
Find the original article here
Beer tasting, live music, scenic views and the 2011 USA Cycling Mountain Bike Gravity National Championships are on tap Sept. 24 at Beech Mountain Resort.
The inaugural Brews and Views festival is being held in conjunction with the three-day USA Cycling championships. Attendees can sample from more than two dozen micro and craft brews, enjoy music from four bands, and watch the first mountain biking national championships ever contested in the Southeast.
The festival runs from 2-6 p.m. and also has a bike expo, food vendors and a separate play village for kids. Brews available include: Star Hill, New Belgium, Olde Hickory, Blowing Rock Ale, Leffe, Red Hook, Widmer, Boddingtons, Blue Moon, Natty Green, Lone Rider, Oskar Blues, Harpoon and Carolina Cottonwood.
Throughout the festival there will be racing action from the nation’s best professional and amateur mountain bikers. The dual slalom amateur finals begin at 2 p.m., followed by dual slalom pro finals at 5:30 p.m. The fun concludes with a spectacular early evening fireworks show.
Live music will be provided by: The Corduroy Road, Uncle Mountain, Now You See Them and Possum Jenkins.
Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the gate, with designated drivers admitted free. Ticket price includes: beer tastings, souvenir glass, fireworks display, and admission to the Mountain Bike Gravity National Championships. Advanced tickets may be purchased online at www.bandtastic.com/brewsandviews.
For more info about Brews and Views or for lodging options, call (800) 468-5506 or visit www.BeechMtn.com.
This Article Published September 12, 2011. Find the original article here.
Mile High Kite Festival is Labor Day Weekend at Beech
BEECH MOUNTAIN, N.C. – How much string does it take to fly a kite a mile high? Only a couple hundred feet if you visit the ninth annual Mile High Kite Festival on Labor Day weekend atop Beech Mountain. This festival takes place Sunday, Sept. 4, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the town meadow, located above 5,000 feet in elevation. Ample room is available for everyone to fly, plus there’s a reserved field for demonstrations from the Wings Across Carolina Kiting and Okra Society (WACKOS) and the Richmond Air Force club from Richmond, Va. Kite-flying music and announcing will be provided by Terry Murray of Kitebus Festivals. Meanwhile, prizes will be given for biggest kite, smallest kite and best decorated kite. Other activities include: races with kids pulling parachute kites, face painting, and a variety of craft and food vendors. “We like to float the idea to come up and make a weekend of it,” says Calder Smoot, the event organizer. “There’s a kite maker’s competition Saturday judged by master kite builder Charlie Dunton, and an all-ages street dance Saturday night in front of town hall. It makes for a great early fall weekend on Beech Mountain.” There’s no admission charge to Saturday’s street dance or Sunday’s kite festival, and the first 300 children under age 12 receive a free kite on Sunday. Volunteers will be on-hand with materials to help decorate the free kites, while vendors will have kites for sale. For more info or lodging options, call (800) 468-5506, or visit: www.BeechMtn.com. # # #
At 5,506 feet in elevation, Beech Mountain is already a popular winter ski destination. Now, the mile-high town is readying itself for an influx of mountain bikers. The town of Beech Mountain has just finished eight miles of cross country singletrack, and the resort recently won the bid to host the U.S. Mountain Bike Gravity National Championships in 2011 and 2012. The championships and new singletrack could turn this sleepy town of 375 into the East’s hottest new mountain bike destination.
The singletrack—called Emerald Outback—is the brainchild of Daniel Scagnelli, the town’s fitness director who felt Beech was missing only one thing: sweet singletrack. Scagnelli, a trail runner, re-discovered an extensive trail system built by locals in the early 1990s and set a volunteer workforce in motion to rehab the trails. The town of Beech Mountain kicked in funds and signed easements with private landowners.
“It’s tight, twisty, and rooty, but there’s nothing too technical and no beastly climbs,” says local biker Andrew Stackhouse.
Emerald Outback is phase one in an expansive 25-mile network of singletrack called the Beech Mountain Adventure Park. Picture three distinct micro parks—the flowing singletrack of Emerald Outback, a park with dirt jump and wooden freestyle features, and a beginner-friendly mini-network of fire roads—all joined by singletrack connectors. The entire park will take three years to build, but the first connector trail, which drops 1,200 feet in elevation, should be completed this summer.
“This system will give the town an identity beyond skiing and allow us to position ourselves as a true four-season resort,” Scagnelli says. “There aren’t many places you can downhill ski, cross country ski, mountain bike, and trail run.”
Hosting the National Gravity Mountain Bike Championships for the next two years certainly gives credence to Scagnelli’s predictions. Part of the bid to host the national championships was the promise to build new downhill, slalom, and short track courses and retrofit the lift system to accommodate bikes. The new downhill park on the resort will connect with the expanding cross country park, and the 2011 National Championships will serve as the grand opening of the new downhill park. The resort plans to run lifts on weekends starting in the summer of 2012.
Written By – Graham Averill on June 30, 2011 for Blue Ridge Outdoors
Words and Photos by Kristian Jackson
With a little more than a month before race day, the construction of the USA Cycling Gravity Nationals course is nearing completion. Christopher Herndon and his trail building team of Danny Cesare and Michael Thomas have worked the slopes and woods at Beech Mountain Resort with shovels and an excavator to create one of the finest and most challenging race courses around. Recently, the build team took a break and put tires to dirt to test the course. Specialized/GROM racers Walker and Luca Shaw and local rippers Andrew Mueller and Alex LeSueur joined the ride.
This week, the crew will be back to moving dirt. Tons of it. The trucks will begin dumping soil for the sculpting of the Dual Slalom Course. Later in the week, the crew will dig in to redesign Beech’s old Mountain Board Course for incorporation into the new racecourse.
The USA Cycling Gravity National Championships will be held September 23-25, 2011 at Beech Mountain Resort. For more information, visit beechmontainresort.com.
Please note, the course is not open to the public yet.
Read the original article here
Trail builder and racer Christopher Herndon wants something big to happen at Beech Mountain. Herndon, a pro rider and trail builder was hired to construct the USA Cycling National Downhill course at Beech Mountain, NC, and he brings a healthy dose of professionalism to a mountain that is prime for the national spotlight. The mountain, a lush plateau high in the North Carolina high country, has had downhill races in the past, but has not seen what is in store under the studious eyes of Herndon.
“Most race tracks in the southeast have always been one-line tracks,” says Herndon.
“For Beech, I wanted to start from scratch,” Herndon adds. “I wanted a trail that was different from any of the trails that the regional racers have grown accustomed to.”
He knows what he is talking about. Herndon has raced professionally since 2000. He has competed as an elite US Downhiller in the 2006 and 2007 seasons, and he was the Dual Slalom National Champion in 2007. On top of that, he founded the Specialized/GROM team in 2010, one of the most promising corps of juniors in the United States.
Herndon, along with his stellar build team of Danny Caesar and Michael Thomas, is carefully transforming the woods and slopes into an incredible racecourse. The woods here above 5000 feet are atypical for the southern Appalachians. Missing are the rhododendron thickets and light-wringing canopies of dense trees. Here, the woods are open. Rocks, boulders, more rocks, some dark soil, bogs, ferns, and more rocks lay scattered between widely spaced, stunted trees. The crew works the rocks and soil by hand, paying attention to and minimizing their own impact.
This week, Herndon and crew worked meticulously to create their first memorable, and difficult, section of the pro track. “We are really trying to make a lot of options and lines,” Herndon says. “Racers will have to study, learn, and test to figure out which line is actually fastest.” This is a serious section. Built by serious racers for serious racers.
The team takes its attention to detail a step further. Not only are they crafting a challenging and sustainable trail, but also they want spectators to have easy access to the natural beauty and top-shelf racing. They have cleared all of the brush near the course to improve lines of sight for both spectators and media. They have also cut numerous access points from the slopes to the course for spectators and emergency response.
“This is going to be very much a World Cup style course,” Michael Thomas says. Riders will have to be on it to pin it. The crew has designed the course to put riders where they need to be. Intermediate riders will find lines that force them into mellower terrain. The pros will commit to some sizable hucks and tricky rock-tech to gain time.
Currently, the crew is digging the Pro Track and the Amateur Track. Construction on the slalom course will begin later this summer.
Something big is happening at Beech Mountain. The Beech Mountain Resort is putting it all on the table for this event on September 22nd-25th. Whistler-style lift trays are ready for the bikes (sponsored by Monster Energy). Plans are underway for an amazing event. The Downhill Nationals will mark the beginning of a three-year plan that will bring a legitimate bike park to the mountain and further solidify western North Carolina’s reputation as a serious mountain bike destination. For more information, check out: beechmountainresort.com. Stay tuned for more reports from the mountain.
- Story by Kristian Jackson, Featured on Free Hub Magazine
Read the original article here
BEECH MOUNTAIN— If Dorothy could have strapped on a pair of hiking boots instead of wandering through Oz in those iconic ruby slippers, the new Emerald Outback Trails at Beech Mountain would undoubtedly be her destination.
The new Beech Mountain Adventure Trail Park, which encompasses part of the offseason ski area, offers an outdoor haven for mountain bikers, hard-core hikers and families with a unique proximity to one of Western North Carolina’s quirkiest mountain spots, The Land of Oz park.
“This is a really new element for the area, and one that’s been a long time coming,” said Daniel Scagnelli, wellness and fitness director at Beech Mountain Parks and Recreation. “Once you see the trails, it’s obvious why this was a source of inspiration for Oz.”
Part of the eight-plus miles of Emerald Outback trails runs through the Land of Oz property, where visitors can see the yellow brick road, Wicked Witch’s castle and even rent a replica of Dorothy’s house, which is host to the annual Autumn at Oz festival.
The hiking and mountain biking trails are coated in their namesake’s emerald green, an abundance of native wildflowers and the mountain’s signature gnarled trees.
The trails range in elevation from 4,700 to 5,400 feet on the Avery-Watauga county line, giving the park the distinction of being among the highest such venues on the East Coast.
There’s a combination of single-track, double-track and gravel road trails traversing the mountaintop, all accessible from a trail head in the town of Beech Mountain.
“It’s exciting that this park is embracing what we naturally are,” said Candi McClamma, owner of the Archers Mountain Inn in Beech Mountain. “This will let people connect to this really unique ecosystem in a much closer way.”
The Emerald Outback is the first phase of the Beech Mountain Adventure Trail Park, which will grow to three phases encompassing 25 miles of trails. It was designed by mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners to meet the recreational demands of serious outdoor enthusiasts and novices alike.
For now, all the trails are open to the public at no fee.
“It provides guests that genuine feeling of being remote but with all the amenities of great restaurants, live theater and resort spots,” McClamma said. “You can go biking and hiking and get your dose of outdoors but not have to camp, which is something pretty unique for this area.”
“Whether you’re in the Oz Forest or out on Overlook Loop, you have 100-mile views around,” Scagnelli said. “The terrain is rolling and changes well. There’s not a whole lot of climbing and you’re always surrounded by something beautiful.”
–Casey Blake of the Citizen Times; May 11, 2011