Category: News

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: # # #

Blue Ridge Outdoors – High On The Mountain Top

Beech Mountain poised to become a mountain bike mecca

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

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FreeHub Magazine – Behind the Scenes Trail Building #2

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

Please note, the course is not open to the public yet.

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FreeHub Magazine – Behind the Scenes Trail Building #1

-Photo by Kristian Jackson

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: Stay tuned for more reports from the mountain.

– Story by Kristian Jackson, Featured on Free Hub Magazine

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Citizen Times – New adventure trails open in Beech Mountain


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

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