Four ski resorts in the Southeast worth the drive

You don’t have to fly out west for great skiing and snowboarding; You don’t even have to fly to the Northeast. In fact, you don’t even have to get on a plane at all. With gas prices at their lowest in years, this winter is a good time to discover (or rediscover) the best winter sports resorts closer to home. Many Appalachian ski areas are within driving distance of Atlanta. You may have to drive a bit to reach the biggest and the best, but powder runs and après-ski treasures await for those in search of more than a day visit to a bunny hill. As an added bonus, you’ll drive through some of the best mountain scenery in the eastern U.S. on your trip.

Georgia doesn’t have any winter sports resorts of its own, and the ones closest to the state line are small areas good for beginners but without much to offer intermediate or expert skiers and boarders. Mountains worthy of a full-blown winter vacation, complete with ski and snowboarding schools for newbies and steeps for experienced skiers, are farther away in the more elevated parts of North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

Die-hard skiers and boarders often want to know about the “vertical” when choosing a resort. That’s the rise between the base and the summit, which indicates how much skiing can be done in a single fall-line run. Another important mountain stat is the number of acres of skiable terrain at a given resort. Each resort featured here offers enough vertical and terrain to suit all levels of skiers. Another perk is the night skiing on lit slopes available at each resort, especially on weekend trips when you want maximize your time on the slopes.

January and February are the heart of the ski season in the Southeast, when conditions are at their prime. If you don’t take to skiing or snowboarding, the resorts offer plenty of other wintertime activities, such as snow tubing, ice skating and snowshoeing.

The resorts

Note: Lift ticket rates listed are adult, full-day prices on weekends during peak season; all resorts have various discount pricing available, from multiday passes to half-day tickets. Driving distances and times are from downtown Atlanta.

North Carolina

Sugar Mountain Resort

Skiers looking for a wide selection of varied and challenging terrain in the Southeast will relish Sugar Mountain Resort. This is the crown jewel of North Carolina ski resorts, and the closest resort to Atlanta with true black diamond grades. One of the trails, Whoopdeedoo, holds double black diamond status. It’s possible to ski 1.5 miles on an uninterrupted downhill run at Sugar, a rare find in the region. Beginners needn’t worry, because over a third of Sugar’s slopes are suitable for novices. Check in at the The Sugar Mountain Ski and Snowboard School for starters. A large outdoor ice skating rink and snow tubing park help add to Sugar Mountain’s winter wonderland allure.

Mountain Stats: Eight lifts, 21 trails, 1,200-foot vertical, 125 acres of skiable terrain.

Peak season full-day adult lift ticket: $72.

Après-ski spot: The Last Run Lounge. Located upstairs in the base lodge with a full-service bar and restaurant centered around a large fireplace. Open till 10 p.m. nightly. 828-898-4521.

Driving distance/time from Atlanta: 271 miles, 4 hours 20 minutes.

Contact: 1009 Sugar Mountain Drive, Sugar Mountain, N.C. 800-SUGAR-MT (784-2768);

Beech Mountain Resort

North Carolina’s second-largest ski resort is in the same general area as Sugar Mountain, high in the Blue Ridge Mountains northeast of Asheville. Beech Mountain Resort may not be the largest, but at 5,506 feet, it has the distinction of being the highest ski resort in all of the eastern U.S. In business since 1967, this longtime family favorite is also known for its affordability. A newer attraction is 5,506-foot Skybar, a circular, glass-enclosed bar and restaurant perched at the summit next to the chairlift. Skybar is a unique spot to relax, kick up your ski boots and take in the panoramic mountaintop views in the middle of a busy ski day.

Mountain Stats: Seven lifts, 16 trails, 830-foot vertical, 95 acres of skiable terrain.

Peak season full-day adult lift ticket: $65.

Après-ski spot: Beech Mountain Brewing Company. Craft brewery and brewpub in the base village next to the slopes. 828-387-2011.

Driving distance/time from Atlanta: 278 miles, 4 hours 40 minutes.

Contact: 1007 Beech Mountain Parkway, Beech Mountain, N.C. 800-438-2093;


Wintergreen Resort

Located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in one of Virginia’s more scenic spots, Wintergreen Resort is known for its beauty and apres-ski lifestyle as well the skiing. The resort boasts a full-service spa, open till 9 p.m. on the weekends. A short drive down the mountain you’ll find Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company’s Basecamp Brewpub. The pub has a ski lodge atmosphere and a wide selection of handcrafted beers brewed on tap. Expert skiers take note: 42 percent of Wintergreen’s terrain is made up of black diamond runs, a good way to work up a thirst, and the need for a massage at the end of a long day of skiing.

Mountain Stats: Six lifts, 27 trails, 1,002-foot vertical, 129 acres of skiable terrain.

Peak season full-day adult lift ticket: $79.

Après-ski spot: Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company. The brewery has two locations; the Basecamp Brewpub location is the favorite of skiers. 200 Mosbys Run, Roseland, Va. 434-361-1001;

Driving time from Atlanta: 493 miles, 7 hours 25 minutes.

Contact: Wintergreen Resort. Route 664, Wintergreen, Va. 855-699-1858;

West Virginia

Snowshoe Mountain Resort

Two mountains, one village, this is the largest winter sports resort in the mid-Atlantic/Southeastern states. It’s also the farthest from Atlanta of the ones featured here, but for those in search of variety both on the slopes and off, Snowshoe fits the bill nicely. Cupp Run and Shay’s Revenge are two of the region’s longer expert downhill runs, the latter containing the steepest pitch in the region. The Village at Snowshoe provides big resort atmosphere and amenities with plenty of lodging, shopping and dining options.

Mountain Stats: Fourteen lifts, 58 runs, 1,500-foot vertical; 256 acres of skiable terrain.

Peak season full-day adult lift ticket: $89.

Driving distance/time from Atlanta: 557 miles, 8 hours 30 minutes.

Après-ski spot: The Junction Restaurant & Saloon. In the heart of the Village at Snowshoe near the lifts, open all day and into the night. 304-572-5800.

Contact: 10 Snowshoe Drive, Snowshoe, West Virginia. 877-441-4386;