You don't often hear them listed in the same breath as Colorado or Wyoming, but the ski destinations in the southern U.S. have their very own charms. For starters, the Blue Ridge Mountains contain the highest peaks on the East Coast. From Alabama (yes, Alabama!) to West Virginia, folks can enjoy craft brews at a ski-up bar, tubing hills, and wildlife parks with black bears and bobcats. You can even get a ride to the slopes on an old-fashioned aerial tram. And even if you're a beginner or simply want to sip cocoa while gazing at Appalachia from 5,000 feet up, here's where to go.
1. Timberline Four Seasons Resort, West Virginia
With its peak at 4,268 feet, West Virginia's Timberline Four Seasons Resort attracts about 200 inches of snow annually. Thanks to 41 trails and runs plus a brand-new 750-foot terrain park, folks will have plenty of room to glide in and out of the trees. Check out the two-mile Salamander Run, which is the longest trail in the southeast. Even better, the resort offers easy access to the nearby Dolly Sods Wilderness in the Monongahela National Forest. Take the chairlift -- it’s the most direct route to the 17,000-acre forest. And don’t forget to pose for a photo on the mane of the legendary Lions Head rock.
2. Snowshoe Mountain, West Virginia
Situated on 11,000 acres, this resort is home to Cheat Mountain, whose peak pierces the sky at almost 5,000 feet above sea level and thus earns the title of the second-highest point in West Virginia. About 480,000 skiers visit the resort each year to slalom down its 60 slopes and trails, including Cupp Run, which was designed by Olympian Jean-Claude Killy, and Shay's Revenge. Both Cupp Runn and Shay's Revenge boast a 1,500-foot vertical drop. When you’re done hitting the slopes, climb aboard the train at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park for a gorgeous of the mountains.
3. Beech Mountain Resort, North Carolina
Follow the Yellow Brick Road to Beech Mountain Resort, which is situated in the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. It looms at 5,506 feet, making it one of the highest ski resorts on the East Coast. It also happens to be adjacent to the long-defunct Land of Oz theme park, which had a brief run in the 1970s with characters dressed up like Dorothy and the Tin Man. Don’t miss the brand-new tubing hill, which features 700-foot chutes, or head to Beech Tree Village to practice your figure eights on the 7,000-square foot outdoor skating rink. Then, hop onto one of the 10 lifts that boost you up to 15 different ski slopes, which are suitable for all skill levels. Once you reach the summit, you can also sit down and take in the mountain views at 5506’ Skybar. Order up a 5506’ Pale Ale from the Beech Mountain Brewing Co., which is one of the few breweries in the country that's owned and operated by a ski resort.
4. Cloudmont Ski and Golf Resort, Alabama
Believe it or not, you can go skiing Alabama. If you happen to be in Fort Payne, near the Georgia line, bring the kids to this 800-acre facility atop Lookout Mountain. At the very least, you can say you visited the country's southernmost ski resort. Open year-round, it boasts two slopes that are around 1,000 feet and have vertical rise of 150 feet. Both are perfect for beginners. Tip: You'll have to grab onto the plastic handles of the surface lifts to reach the summit.
5. Wintergreen Resort, Virginia
You’ll find the 11,000-acre Wintergreen Resort on the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains, near the small town of Nellysford. Rent equipment at the on-site ski shop and head down the 26 slopes and trails. Folks can also take a run down The Plunge, Virginia's largest tubing park, which features 12 lanes and a 900-foot vertical drop. And no matter your experience level, the terrain park also offers the chance to practice your freestyle skills, thanks to the constantly-shifting layouts of more than 40 features.
6. Sugar Mountain Resort, North Carolina
With 21 trails spread across 125 skiable acres, this resort, which is popular among families and beginners, is the largest ski area in North Carolina. Check out signature trails like Whoopdeedoo, Gunther’s Way, Tom Terrific, and Boulder Dash. There's even plenty of entertainment for those who aren't strapping on skis or snowboards, including snowshoeing trails, a 10,000-square foot skating rink, a multi-lane hill for tubing, and a terrain park with a grab-bag of obstacles. Visit in December for the holiday music and festivities at SugarFest or curl up in front of the fireplace any time at the Last Run Lounge, a full-service bar and restaurant.
7. Ober Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Ober Gatlinburg, located at Mount Harrison in the Great Smoky Mountains, is the only ski resort in Tennessee. The destination is also noted for its pendulous two-mile aerial tram, which offers views of the mountains, Gatlinburg skyline, and nearby Pigeon Forge. And even if you don’t feel like whizzing down one of the resort’s nine trails, you’ll still find plenty to keep you busy, indoors and out. The place is practically an amusement park, complete with dozens of shops, an indoor skating rink, a roller coaster, and an alpine slide. Outside, things get even wilder with a former zoological park that has been transformed into Wildlife Encounters. Here, nature lovers can get up close and personal with animals like bobcats, opossums, and river otters.
8. Massanutten Resort, Virginia
Located in the heart of the scenic Shenandoah Valley, this resort offers views of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and Allegheny Mountains to the west. Just 10 miles from the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, Massanutten also comes with a 1,100-foot vertical drop, several ever-changing terrain parks, snow tubing hills, and 14 manicured runs. Fareways, the on-site restaurant, serves up locally sourced beef and Virginia-caught swordfish. The grounds even house a temperature-controlled water park, where you and the kids can learn to surf on the signature FlowRider Endless Wave.