There was a time….and it was not last night at Biltmore….when winter in the High Country meant skiing and not much else. Most other High Country attractions, bars, restaurants, and shops closed for the season. But, with Appalachian State University’s enrollment passing 15,000 students and year round tourism efforts from the towns of Blowing Rock, Banner Elk, and Boone, you can still hit the slopes, but have so many other things to do in the High Country.
In fact, given the larger crowds, higher prices and traffic congestion that are characteristic of the spring, summer and fall seasons, winter is an excellent time to enjoy the sights and sounds of the High County at off season rates.
With the fall foliage gone, high country views are at their most spectacular, especially if you luck into a sunny day after a storm, where you will frequently find the sun glistening off snowy white branches. A crisp winter hike or a horseback ride followed by a warm meal and beverage from a local establishment can make for a memorable day.
A January High Country Escape culminates with Blowing Rock’s Winterfest (January 23-26), a four day celebration of the season that attracts large crowds to its food, beer and wine events, concerts, polar bear plunge and chili cook-off.
Check out your options and plan your escape to the High Country this winter. It’s not a long drive, but you’ll be miles and miles away from the office.
Accommodation choices in the High Country vary from traditional chain hotels to exclusive resorts and spas. If you prefer a more homely environment, a number of rental agencies can place you in vacation homes, condos, and townhouses for a couple of nights, a week or even a month at attractive winter rates.
If your primary focus is going to be on skiing, you should pick a place near Sugar Mountain, Seven Devils, or Beech Mountain. While there is a Best Western in Banner Elk and a couple of B&B’s, the primary accommodation around the ski slopes are houses, condos, or townhouses. The following agencies offer the best options:
Dereka’s Sugar Mountain Accommodations
800-545-9475 – www.staysugar.com
Rental office off Hwy 105 S at 133 Echota Parkway, Boone – 800-723-7341 – www.foscoerentals.com
A large selection of vacation homes, condos and log cabins.
Sugar Mountain Lodging
800-858-9663 – www.sugarmountainlodging.com
Sugar Mountain Resort Accommodations
800-634-1320 – www.staysugarmountain.com
If a resort and spa experience is more what you are looking for there are two great options in the Blowing Rock area:
P.O. Box 17, Blowing Rock – 828-295-5500 – www.chetola.com
Chetola Lodge, The Bob Timberlake Inn, and Chetola Condominiums. Spa including massages, facials and nail treatments. Check the website for winter packages.
Westglow Resort & Spa
224 Westglow Circle, Blowing Rock – 800-562-0807 – www.westglow.com
A Relais & Châteaux Resort. Spa treatment and three meals included in the Resort Package room rates. Bed and breakfast and Day Spa options also available. (See our upcoming profile in the March issue.)
Downtown Blowing Rock looks like it was taken off the pages of a storybook. It is the focal point of mountain shopping and dining with quaint, upscale shops, antique galleries and restaurants in a village setting. It’s a very walkable town ,and there are many motels, inns and B&B’s all around the downtown area. Two notable ones are:
Green Park Inn
9239 Valley Blvd, Blowing Rock – 828-414-9230 – www.greenparkinn.com
This 1891 “Grand Dame of the High Country” straddles the Eastern Divide at the gateway to Blowing Rock. Recently renovated and refurnished by new owners.
Inn at Ragged Gardens
203 Sunset Drive, Blowing Rock – 828-295-3466 – www.ragged-gardens.com
10 rooms, suites and cottages in 100 year old house.
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