In the wintertime, Cataloochee Ski Area is the place to be! With the variety of difficulty offered on the mountain, this is the perfect place for a family (or personal) vacation to sharpen your skills.
Get Your Gear
One of the most daunting things about taking on the mountain is how you will get to the bottom. Equipment rentals, snow gear, and learning to ride can make this trip feel nearly impossible to do, while having a good time. Lucky for you newcomers, Maggie Valley has been waiting for you.
Skis & Tees is a great place to rent from. Just a few miles from the entrance to the mountain, the staff is incredibly helpful in making sure anyone who rents from them has been properly fitted and has a board that will set them up for success. They also carry all of your snow needs, from pants to jackets to goggles to sweatshirts. This is the place to stop if you forgot something on the way, or are in need of some new gear!
Cataloochee also offers their own ski, board and jacket rentals. If you are just stopping by for the day and having no use for a big winter coat? No worries, they have everything you need! There is also a smaller shop inside the lodge with goggles, helmets, and shirts in case you find yourself missing something.
Just For Beginners
One of the great things about being a beginner at Cataloochee is that they offer classes for all age groups to help get you started. Their instructors can help learn anything from the basics, to more advanced tricks. Lessons can be taken privately, or with a group of similar skill level.
If you are a little more local to the area, they offer after school lessons and full day classes for kids. There are a number of programs offered for discounted tickets. For example “Homeschool Days” is a program for homeschooled kids to get lift tickets at a discounted price, every Tuesday from January to end of season. There is also a “Women on Wednesdays” Program beginning in January. A class of women, taught by women to all advance in their hobby.
Another helpful tip is that when the parking lots get full or the road to the mountain becomes unsafe for some drivers, trams will run from the entrance to the bottom of the mountain to guarantee anyone can safely make it up to the lift.
Okay, so now you have your equipment and a basic understanding of how to ski or snowboard, what now? Cataloochee is one long trail, with three lifts that take you to three different spots on the mountain. At the very bottom are little hills, with moving sidewalks to mimic the lift and help new riders get the hang of going down without the risk.
Another reason that Cataloochee is so beginner-friendly, is because of how their trails all feed into one another. No matter which path you take you will always end in the same area, which makes it hard to get lost. This can also make it much easier to find your group should you go a different direction, or take a tumble and get left behind because you knew you could take that jump.
The first lift “Easy Way” takes you to the top of the Easy Way trail and leads into Rabbit Hill. This is a wide trail that is a straight shot to the bottom of the mountain. It is also a slow rider zone, so it is best for beginners. Next is “Rock Island”, which takes you to the Rock Island Run or Alley Cat trail. From here you can make a number of turns and take various paths, which will all feed back into Rabbit Hill. For the advanced riders is the “Omigosh”. This lift takes you to the Upper Omigosh and Upper Snowbird trails, which are also known as “Black Diamond”. The name comes from its label, a black diamond, to symbolize that this is the most advanced patch and is not for beginners. There are a few different paths you can take on this trail, which feed into some of the paths from the second level trains, which lead you back down to Rabbit Hill.
To make things even easier, each trail is marked with a symbol to help riders determine where they should go. A green circle is the easiest, a blue square is about a medium, and the black diamond, as mentioned before, is the most difficult. There is also a section labeled with an orange oval, this is the freestyle terrain for tricks and jumps. Lifts are also labeled based on how many people they hold and the type.
Overall, the ski area provides a safe and welcoming environment to spend time at. It is the type of place where everyone is there to have a good time. Whether it’s making friends, helping a stranger chase down a run-away ski, having someone give you a piece of advice to master a skill, the people are great.
If you just read all of that, and you are ready for a great day in the snow, but skiing or snowboarding is a little too scary for you, no fear. Right across the road from the entrance to the mountain is Tube World, where the whole family can enjoy some classic inner tube sledding. You ride to the top on a moving carpet lift and can race, or take your time, heading down to the bottom.
If you are looking to try something new this winter, or Cataloochee is a second home and you have been counting down the days to rope drop, you are guaranteed to have a unique adventure that you won’t forget. Make sure to tag @VisitNCSmokies and #HayNow in your social media posts for a chance to be featured, but most importantly don’t forget to have fun! ⛷️🎿