Category: News

MTB Gravity Nationals To Descend On Beech Mountain This Weekend

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.

Johnson City Press – Summer of 79: Golfers beat the heat at Beech Mountain Club

May 24, 2012 by Joe Avento

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

Read the original article here: – North Carolina’s Top Sports Vacations

North Carolina’s Top Sports Vacations

by Sam Boykin
Filed under: North CarolinaSports

 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. 

Year-Round Recreation

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.

Set Sail 

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.

High-Flying Fun

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.

Anglers’ Paradise

 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.


Hoop Dreams

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.


To read the original article, click here.

Smoky Mountain Living – Beech Biking

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

To read the original article, click here.

Our State – Beech Mountain

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

  1. 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
    (828) 387-9283
  1. 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
    (828) 387-2000
  1. 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
    (828) 387-4236
  1. 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
    (828) 387-3003
  1. 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
(828) 387-4838

Beech Mountain Resort
1007 Beech Mountain Parkway
Beech Mountain, N.C. 28604
(828) 387-2011

Find the original article here.

Leigh Ann Henion’s debut book is forthcoming from Penguin Press. Visit to learn more about her work. Leigh Ann’s most recent story for Our State was “Soaring Legacies” (January 2011).

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