Hillbilly Skiin’ in North Carolina

Quote of the Day     “Is that banjo music I hear?”     –ubiquitous Appalachian T-shirt slogan

Our mantra for weeks was “this is NOT a ski trip.” It was a trip to a mutually accessible area to spend the holidays with family. But there DID happen to be a ski area where we were going. And we did want to be somewhere our niece could go to ski school. And we all brought our ski gear, which we used every day. So ok, it was a ski trip. A hillbilly ski trip (thanks to FlyinJ for coining that term).

Beech Mountain, North Carolina, claims to be the highest mountain and the highest town in the eastern United States, and who am I to argue with them? It is a beautiful place, with plenty of affordable lodging options. In fact, the condo we rented afforded one of the most sweeping vistas of any place I’ve ever stayed. It is a family friendly place with plenty of fun things to do. It’s a place I’d love to visit again in the summer, for as a ski destination, its the pits.

We were aware when the trip was planned that the likelihood of natural snow was minimal, but we expected the ski operation to make snow whenever possible on their vast terrain encompassing some ten trails. They did make snow, unfortunately they only saw fit to coat about three runs, which were in truth, one and a half. Hillbilly skiing is riding your lift to the top of the mountain, skiing down, then riding back up to make the same run again. And again. And again. That is not to say the skiing was monotonous. Each time down the hill, a new obstacle would present itself, making each day much more challenging than I would have guessed. You see, hillbilly skiing also involves constantly appearing patches of grass, which make skis do funny things when they come in contact. When skis do funny things, hillbillies do funny things. There were also ice patches and a few spots covered with plenty of hard, icy man-made snow and/or slush. These patches often would turn from smooth to bumpy or even into small cliffs as the day wore on. Since everybody aimed for the snow, so as to avoid doing funny things in the grass, all of the snow from whole swaths of mountain were kicked into little piles. And sometimes bigger piles. These piles of snow, grass and ice also provide opportunities for levity amongst the hillbillies.  And finally, hillbilly skiing is a public service. Because you know where all those carneys go when the county fair isn’t on the move? You guessed it. They put on their flannel shirts and camouflage coats, dangle a cigarette out of the side of their lip and stand at Beech Mountain ski lifts blank staring for all they are worth. I hated the skiing at Beech so much I went back three times to do it all over again. Because after all, a bad day skiing beats a good day doing most anything else.

In between the hours when I had such fun being a bad skier at a bad ski mountain, TB got to spend a lot of time with the girls and FlyinJ. Those times are the ones I’ll be remembering most as the years pass by, I have no doubt. And that’s the reason we went there in the first place. It definitely wasn’t so we could ski.

About travellinbaen

I'm a 40 year old lawyer living in Ridgeland, Mississippi. I'm several years and a couple hundred miles removed from most of my old running buddies so I started the blog to provide an outlet for many of the observations and ideas that used to be the subjects of our late night/happy hour/halftime conversations and arguments.
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26 Responses to Hillbilly Skiin’ in North Carolina

  1. Greeg says:

    I have been to Highlands, NC and they claim to be at the highest altitude of any incorporated town east of the Rockies. Looks like some research needs to be done.

  2. Here’s my research-ipedia (maybe Highlands shrunk):

    Highlands is located at 35°3′15″N 83°12′8″W (35.054129, -83.202351)[5].
    According to the United States Census Bureau, the community has a total area of 6.2 square miles (16.0 km²), of which, 6.1 square miles (15.7 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.3 km²) of it (1.94%) is water.
    The town’s official elevation is 4,118 feet (1,255 m), making it one of the highest altitude as well as the coolest (during the summer months) of all towns in the southern United States.

    Beech Mountain is located at 36°12′23″N 81°52′59″W (36.206374, -81.883115)[3].
    According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 6.7 sq mi (17.4 km²), all land.
    At an elevation of 5,506 feet (1,678 m), Beech Mountain is the highest incorporated community east of the Mississippi River. Beech Mountain Ski Resort is one of very few ski areas operating in the Southern United States.

  3. Should’ve added, its not the highest mountain. The claim may have been “highest ski mountain in the eastern US”.

    Now don’t expect me to get in the habit of checking facts.

  4. Greeg says:

    Gotcha. We’re going there again in June so I will have to set some people straight.

  5. Madd Dawg says:

    I hate skiiing.
    What is the point of dragging all of that equipment up the mountain and then spending the next 20 minutes trying to get back down the mountain to the same spot from which you began? I would much prefer to skip the skiing and go the lodge for some adult beverages.

  6. workinbaen says:

    MD, number 1, if you are dragging your equipment up the mountain you are in a category worse than hillbilly skiing. They have these things called chair lifts that make ascending mountains virtually effortless.

    B. Your trick knee would probably go out on you while purchasing your lift ticket, so its understandable that you wouldn’t want to attempt this athletic pursuit.

    Furthermore, as an anti-global warming zealot you would be in danger of being caught in a sudden avalanche by the forces of karma.

    And 4, you have a point about the beverages thing. The altitude offsets the high price of booze quite often, meaning you would only need a two day pass instead of three to reach your 1000 yard stare state of bliss.

  7. Jessie Lou says:

    I’m with MD – give me the lodge or better yet, skip it all entirely for the beach. Fair as I am I’d rather be covered in sunblock than layers of clothes any day. Cold weather has never been something I’ve sought out. I used to think winter was for killing mosquitos but found out that wasn’t true either. In other words, I’m ready for spring as we speak.

  8. Zeek says:

    I hate to admit it, but I am with MD also. I can’t see putting on 5 layers of clothes just so I can zoom down a mountainside at breakneck sped trying to avoid every little obstacle (mainly trees) that could cause me to pull a Sonny Bono. Give me the lodge, a toddy, a hottub, and a couple of snowbunnies and we’ll be waiting on your return from the slopes hotdog. Atleast waterskiing is in the fun and sun and water, plus the women are not bundled up in Michelin Man type wardrobes if you know what I mean.

  9. sweet says:

    MD also hates going on the boat, fishing, the islands etc…..so his opinion doesn’t mean anything

  10. Jessie Lou says:

    Can we establish what MD DOES like?

    If God custom makes each person’s Hell according to what they dislike – mine will be ice cold and I will likely be forced to shop all day and spend money.

  11. Madd Dawg says:

    I like MD.

  12. Jessie Lou says:

    Ahh, stands to reason. Surely there is something else on your list……

  13. BR says:

    I also like MD please leave him alone!!

  14. Jessie Lou says:

    I never said I didn’t like him, in fact I’m fascinated, thus the probing questions…..

  15. Madd Dawg says:

    We can continue this discussion in a more comfortable setting—-possibly while sipping on some smooth MD 20/20 orange jubilee in the hot tub this weekend while everyone else freezes their buttocks off outside.

    TB, Thanks for the jinx bro. I have had no incidnets with my knee for about 10 years. Then you make your post mentioning it, and last night the knee buckled as I tried to make a cut at Alex’s soccer practice. I probably should not be out there participating at my age but standing on the sideline with the other coach instead.

  16. sweet says:

    LJB, there is nothing fascinating about MD except maybe his sternum and he gets a little excited sometimes around redheads. On second thought, you may need to watch out

  17. Jessie Lou says:

    MD – thanks so much for the thoughtful proposition. Sweet – I don’t recall that sort of reaction from MD in my presence ever and I think I’m pretty aware of my surroundings. Perhaps you are not fascinated because you know all there is to know and now your done and moved on to something else. That said, I would request an upgrade in the drinks department.

  18. quail09 says:

    JL….MD should upgrade you to Malt Duck (keep it in the bird family)……sincerely, Quail

  19. Zeek says:

    Malt Duck, that’s funny. Or you could go for Thunderbird, that would be in the bird family,huh?

  20. Jessie Lou says:

    There is so much wasted comedic talent on this website!

  21. quail09 says:

    Good one, Zeek

  22. LB says:


    Can we at least have Yellow Tail? That keeps it in the bird family…..right? Good seeing you the other day!

  23. I’ll take Grey Goose

  24. JessieLou says:

    I think I’ll stick with my personal favorite – Little Penguin, preferably the shiraz.

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