A small town in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina would seem an unlikely place for skiing and snowboarding. But that’s exactly what has happened with Beech Mountain. A former mining community, home to just over 1,000 residents, has reinvented itself as a ski resort. Today, there are more than 150 days of skiing each year!
Straddling the border between Avery and Mitchell counties, it’s no wonder that Beech Mountain is often referred to as “the hidden gem of Western North Carolina.” Nestled in a valley at the crest of the Blue Ridge Parkway and flanked by lush forests on all sides, this unassuming town plays host to an uncommonly beautiful ski resort that often flies under the radar for those passing through the area.
History of Beech Mountain
Starting life as a small logging town called Beech Creek, Beech Mountain has a long and storied history. Originally part of a vast tract of land granted to a Scotsman named Duncan McCulloch in 1763, the area wasn’t settled until 1883, when the Cathey family purchased several tracts of land in the area and began the process of logging the virgin forest. Beech Mountain and the surrounding area soon became a hub for logging and timber processing.
The town of Beech Creek changed its name to Beech Mountain, and the population grew to over 2,000 residents. This was a thriving logging community, but by the 1970s, the logging industry in the area had started to decline. The last commercial operation closed its doors in 1981.
Early Days of Mining
While logging was a thriving industry in the area during the early to mid-1900s, gold and silver were discovered nearby around the same time, spurring a new era of mining. As with the logging industry, Beech Mountain became a hub for miners and mining companies. During this time, the population of Beech Mountain again grew but declined as mining operations wound down.
Beech Mountain is located in an area that has been mined for hundreds of years. In the 19th century, East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad Company hired surveyors to find the best routes for their first railroad tracks in the Appalachian Mountains.
The Cathey family, who owned the land, allowed the railroad to build a railroad route through their property. The surveyors found large amounts of gold, silver, copper, and iron in the mountains, and the railroad company quickly acquired land around the tracks and set up mining operations.
The railroad company turned to a mining engineer named Davis Baird to head the mining operations. Baird and his mining company, the Beech Creek Mining Company, began mining the mountains in the late 1890s. The main mining operation was located in what is today Beech Mountain Ski Resort. The mine operated for about 50 years, producing over $2.3 million in gold and silver.
Modern Day Adventures
As logging declined, so did the population of Beech Mountain. Today, the town is home to only about 1,000 people, and most residents work in tourism. But Beech Mountain is still a hub for adventure seekers!
Visitors to the area can enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing, boating, ATVing, and other seasonal events. Beech Mountain is just a short drive from some of the most spectacular hiking and backpacking trails in the Southeast.
The nearby Benton MacKaye Trail, one of the longest hiking trails in the world, spans more than 4,000 miles from New York to Georgia. Beech Mountain is equally well-known in the boating community. The nearby Tuckasegee River is a favorite among whitewater rafters and kayakers. There are several outfitters in the area that offer whitewater rafting trips on the river, including Deep Creek Whitewater Rafting and Headwaters Outfitters.
Skiing and Snowboarding at Beech Mountain
Beech Mountain’s snowfall and cool temperatures mean that there is plenty of snow to enjoy in the winter months. The resort even uses special snowmaking equipment to supplement nature’s supply during warmer months. The ski area’s three ski lifts and 16 trails offer a variety of terrain for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels and ages.
There are also plenty of opportunities to learn how to ski or snowboard at Beech Mountain. The resort offers a wide range of ski and snowboard lessons to help beginners get their start in the sport.
Paralleling the rise of skiing at Beech Mountain is the history of the Appalachian Mountains Trail (AMT), which is a footpath that runs from Georgia to Maine along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains. The AMT intersects with Beech Mountain’s ski slopes at Carvin’s Cove, which has become a major starting point for long-distance hikers.
The North Carolina Mountains are a hub for adventure, with plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy. Beech Mountain is a great place to start, with its cool temperatures, easy access from major cities, and wide range of outdoor activities. Whether you’re looking for a fun getaway or a new place to call home, Beech Mountain is a hidden gem worth exploring.