Category: News

Charlotte Observer – Revamped Beech Mountain Resort offers convenient ski getaway

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:

-Article by Sam Boykin

This Article Appeared in the Charlotte Observer Jan 20th in print and online.
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VisitNC – Experience the new Beech Mountain Resort

Skiers and snowboarders will experience several new things this winter on Beech Mountain, starting with the name of their destination.

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 .


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Johnson City Press – Back to Oz

BEECH MOUNTAIN, N.C. — It’s not what it was during the heyday of the 1970s, but the Land of Oz theme park endures.

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

Written by Doug Janz

Find the original article here

USA Cycling – Brews and Views is Part of National Championship Weekend

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

For more info about Brews and Views or for lodging options, call (800) 468-5506 or visit

This Article Published September 12, 2011.  Find the original article here.






Mountain Times – How much string does it take to fly a kite a mile high?

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: # # #

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