Snow Sports – How To Plan an Unforgettable Smoky Mountain Ski Trip

Snow Sports – How To Plan an Unforgettable Smoky Mountain Ski Trip

How To Plan an Unforgettable Smoky Mountain Ski Trip

Here’s what you need to know to plan a ski trip in the Smokies (without wasting hours on mind-numbing research).


1. Choose a Smoky Mountain Ski Destination

The first item of business is to choose your dream destination. 


The Smoky Mountains run through North Carolina and Tennessee, and there are several worthwhile ski resorts between the two states. Better yet, all the resorts are within driving distance from Gatlinburg, so you can pop over to North Carolina for a day trip to try out some more extreme slopes. 



Ober Mountain

  • Best for: Winter fun with the family
  • Cost: Ski area tickets range from: 
    • $35 – $54 on weekdays 
    • $70 – $84 on Saturdays and holidays
    • $40 – $60 on non-holiday Sundays 
  • Total slopes: 11
    • Beginner slopes: 2
    • Intermediate slopes: 6
    • Expert slopes: 3
An overview of what the Ober Mountain Ski area in Gatlinburg has to offer.

Ober Mountain is the only ski resort in Tennessee, and it’s popular with beginners and veteran winter sports enthusiasts alike. Hailed as a family-friendly option, Ober Mountain also offers a Snowsports School where new skiers can learn skiing essentials like gliding, slowing, turning, and stopping in a safe environment. 

Aside from being a go-to skiing spot in Gatlinburg, TN, you can also buy an activity wristband to access fund extras like:

You can also rent gear like skis, jackets, pants, and helmets on the mountain if you like to pack light or want to experience the sport before investing in expensive equipment. 

  • Season and hours: December to mid-March 
    • Saturday–Thursday:  9 a.m. to 9 p.m. 
    • Friday: 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Address: 1339 Ski Mountain Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
  • How to get there: Take the Aerial Tramway from downtown Gatlinburg or drive up Ski Mountain Road
Tip: Keep an eye on Ober Mountain’s Ski Report for the latest details about slope conditions. 

Cataloochee Ski Area

  • Best for: Skiing under the stars
  • Cost: Slope passes range from:
    • $30 – $52 on weekdays
    • $54 – $83 on weekends and holidays
    • $29 – $40 on weeknights
    • $40 – $47 on weekend and holiday nights
  • Total slopes: 17
    • Beginner slopes: 8
    • Intermediate slopes: 7
    • Expert slopes: 2
An overview of everything the Cataloochee Ski Area has to offer.

The Cataloochee Ski Area is a popular resort in North Carolina that offers daytime and nighttime skiing options. While it’s more geared towards beginner and intermediate skiers, they do have a couple black diamond slopes for more advanced skiers. If you’re new to the slopes, you can book ski lessons at the Cataloochee Ski Area for anyone over four. Equipment, boots, bindings, and clothing are also available for rent in the building beside the main lodge. 

  • Season and hours: The Cataloochee Ski Area is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from November 29 through December 8; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. from December 9 through March 9; 9 a.m. to 4:30 from March 10 until the trails close for the season.
  • Address: 1080 Ski Lodge Rd, Maggie Valley, NC 28751
  • How to get there: Follow Fie Top Road in Maggie Valley until you reach Cataloochee Ranch and continue to Ski Lodge Road.
Tip: Pull up the Cataloochee Snow Report for the latest statuses regarding mountain conditions, trails, and lifts. 

Sugar Mountain Resort

  • Best for: Adventurous skiers
  • Cost: Slope tickets can range from:
    • $32 – $54 on weekdays
    • $32 – $88 on weekends
    • $42 – $50 on holidays
  • Total slopes: 20
    • Beginner slopes: 8
    • Intermediate slopes: 8
    • Expert slopes: 4
An overview of everything the Sugar Mountain Resort has to offer skiers.

Sugar Mountain is a well-known ski resort with 125 acres of skiable terrain. It’s also the home of North Carolina’s largest ski slope, a big draw for vacationers. Aside from that, Sugar Mountain has 14 well-lit trails, so you can ski at night. Equipment like skis, poles, boots, helmets, and clothing are also available for rent if you need them. 

  • Season and hours: The trails usually open by Thanksgiving, and you can ski to your heart’s content until they close around March. During this time, the slopes are open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for daytime sessions, 12:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. (closed from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.) for twilight sessions, and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. for night sessions. 
  • Address: 1009 Sugar Mountain Dr, Sugar Mountain, NC 28604
  • How to get there: You can take the Village Ski Shuttle or drive up Sugar Mountain Drive. 
Tip: Keep an eye on the Sugar Mountain website for the latest details about events, snowfall, and slope closures. 

Appalachian Ski Mountain

  • Best for: A comfortable skiing experience
  • Cost: Ski sessions range from:
    • $38 – $49 on weekdays
    • $54 – $74 on weekends
    • $38 – $49 on holidays
  • Total slopes: 11
    • Beginner slopes: 3
    • Intermediate slopes: 6
    • Expert slopes: 4
An overview of everything the Appalachian Ski Moiuntain Resort has to offer skiers.

The Appalachian Ski Mountain keeps the slopes fresh by laying fresh snow over a deep snow base and grooming the trails so they’re easier to glide down. On top of that, they light all of their trails for nighttime skiing. They also offer private and group ski lessons and intermediate workshops. You can also rent clothes and equipment at the resort or stop by the Alpine gift shop for souvenirs. 

  • Season and hours:  Skiing is usually available at this North Carolina resort from November 17 through March 17. During those months, the slopes are open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on non-holiday weekdays, 9 a.m. to midnight on weekends and holidays, and for limited hours on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. 
  • Address: The ski resort’s official address is 940 Ski Mountain Rd, Blowing Rock, NC 28605. However, they tell guests to enter “940 Ski Mountain Rd. via 1423 Edmisten Rd.” into the GPS to go around unmaintained back roads. 
  • How to get there: Go through the outskirts of Boone and follow Deck Hill Road until it changes to Edmisten Road. Then, take a left and follow Ski Mountain Road until you see the resort on the left. 
Tip: Check out the Appalachian Mountain Slope Report for the latest weather, road, and slope condition updates. 

Beech Mountain Resort

  • Best for: Celebrating the holidays on the slopes
  • Cost: Skiing prices can range from:
    • $30 – $65 on weekdays
    • $49 – $96 on weekends
  • Total slopes: 14
    • Beginner slopes: 3
    • Intermediate slopes: 7
    • Expert slopes: 4
An overview of what skiers can expect at the Beech Mountain Resort.

The Beech Mountain Resort has 95 acres of skiable land. Like other local ski resorts, they rent out ski gear and offer skiing lessons to kids four and up. However, if your little adventurer is too young for skis, Beech Mountain also offers Snow Kamp, where Preschool-aged kids can make art, participate in enriching activities, and play games. 

Beech Mountain has plenty to offer if you decide to put down your poles for a breather or après-ski (after you’re done skiing) — especially during the winter holidays. Around Christmastime, the ski resort typically hosts movie screenings and Santa meet-and-greets. And if you’re there at 12 a.m. on January 1, you can also catch their awe-inspiring fireworks show. 

  • Season and hours: The Beech Mountain slopes are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends and holidays. However, they do have special hours on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and during the early and late seasons. 
  • Address: 1007 Beech Mountain Pkwy, Beech
  • How to get there: Take Old Turnpike Road NW by the Elk River Airport and head Northeast toward Beech Mountain Parkway.
Tip: Download the Beech Mountain Daily Slope Report for the latest details about events, snowfall, and slope closures. 

2. Set a Budget

Plan to spend an average of $2,500 – $4,000 for a comfortable one-week, two-person ski trip vacation in Gatlinburg. 

Whether you’ve decided on a ski resort or you’re still waffling, you should start thinking about the financial aspect of your upcoming winter vacation. Start by deciding what you want to see, do, and spend on your trip. Also, figure out:

  • How many people are going 
  • For how many days (and how long each day if applicable)

Once you have a set dollar amount to work with and a better idea of what’s most important to you (e.g., getting ski lessons, exploring the local nightlife, trying new restaurants, and booking a luxury cabin), look into cost breakdowns of:

  • Lift and slope tickets: Most vacationers will pay $30 – $96 for a single ski pass in the Smokies. Also, try to book at least a couple of weeks in advance to avoid surge pricing. 
  • Ski gear: Most ski resorts offer equipment rental bundles for $19 – $55 per person. On the other hand, it usually costs $1,000+ to buy everything one person needs to hit the slopes. 
  • Transportation: Price the cost of plane tickets, rental cars, public transit, rideshare services, taxi cabs, and other ways of getting around Gatlinburg and the surrounding areas. You should also be ready to pay additional parking fees and gas bills as needed.
  • Accommodations Figure out the average local cabin rental or hotel room cost. You might be able to find a budget-friendly stay for around $100 a night. You’ll likely have to pay more to find a comfortable cabin with desirable amenities — especially if you’re traveling with family or a group of friends. 
  • Food and dining: You can typically expect to pay $68 daily to feed one adult if you eat out for every meal in Gatlinburg. If restaurant dining isn’t particularly important to you, consider making your own dinner — breakfast and lunch prices tend to be considerably lower. You should also check food prices before going to the ski resort since some upcharge visitors. 
  • Entertainment and activities: Everyone coming on the trip should try to budget $19 to $50 a day to visit attractions and shows and participate in other Gatlinburg winter activities and events

3. Know What Gear to Pack

Before you take off on your whirlwind ski trip, make sure you have everything you need. Insulated outerwear, thermal layers, loungewear, and ski gear will be essential for a fun and comfortable vacation. 

Still not sure exactly what to bring? Just follow along with our ski trip packing list — here’s what you need to bring: 

Ski Clothing and Accessories

  • Ski jacket (waterproof and insulated)
  • Ski pants or bibs (waterproof and insulated)
  • Thermal layers (tops and bottoms)
  • Moisture-wicking base layers
  • Fleece or insulated mid-layer
  • Ski socks
  • Gloves or mittens (waterproof and insulated)
  • Balaclava, neck gaiter, or scarf
  • Ski hat or beanie
  • Goggles with UV protection
  • Hand and toe warmers
  • Comfortable clothing for après-ski (after-skiing) activities
  • Boots (waterproof and insulated)
  • Casual shoes or sneakers
  • Swimsuit (if your accommodation has a hot tub or pool)
  • Sunglasses 

Ski Equipment

  • Skis and poles
  • Ski boots
  • Helmet
  • Equipment bag

Safety Equipment

  • Personal identification and health insurance cards
  • Avalanche safety gear (for backcountry skiing)
  • First aid kit

Personal care items

  • High-SPF sunscreen
  • Lip balm with SPF
  • Personal toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.)
  • Prescription medications

Other odds and ends

  • Ski pass or lift tickets
  • Trail map
  • Camera or GoPro for capturing memories
  • Portable phone charger
  • Cash and credit cards
  • Snacks for the slopes

4. Reserve a Cabin

Enhance your ski trip in the Smokies by booking a cozy mountain cabin with unmatched views. Make sure you get the best deal by reading reviews and looking for lavish amenities like hot tubs, saunas, and fireplaces. Here are a few cabins we offer near the best slopes the Smoky Mountains have to offer:

Camp Cozy

Escape to this budget-friendly haven nestled in the heart of the Smokies. Ideal for a fun family getaway, this stay boasts a jetted tub, a King bed, bunk beds for the kids, and a gas fireplace. With the bonus of arcade games and a lovely veranda, this spot is the perfect place to unwind after a long day of skiing. 

Ski Mountain Overlook

Reserve this spacious and unique cabin that accommodates up to six guests. With a circular design, you can enjoy unencumbered views of the Smoky Mountains. You can also unwind on the deck around the fire table or thaw out in the 101-degree hot tub while taking in the panoramic scenery.

Mountain View Mansion

Elevate your ski trip with a stay at this luxurious chalet-inspired retreat. This 2-acre estate offers a private escape with convenient access to popular attractions and local slopes. The property also has a heated pool house, hot tub, theater, and kitchen. Given its popularity, early booking is recommended for those seeking the epitome of luxury in their ski trip accommodation.

Also, don’t forget to book a cabin six to nine months before your trip for better availability odds. 

5. Hit the Slopes, and We’ll Ski Ya Later

With so many great Smoky Mountain ski resorts in the area, you can’t go wrong. Wherever you choose to go, have fun basking in the wintery wonderland and creating lasting memories. And when you’re done playing in the powder, we hope you’ll head back to an Elk Springs Resort mountainside cabin to warm up and get ready for your next adventure. 

FAQs about Skiing in The Smoky Mountains

Still have questions about what you can expect from a Smoky Mountain ski trip? Here’s what you need to know. 

When Can You Snow Ski in Gatlinburg?

The snow skiing season in Gatlinburg, TN, usually runs from late December to early March. However, it’s impossible to guarantee specific dates, depending on local weather conditions. 

Do I Need Travel Insurance To Ski?

You don’t have to buy travel insurance to go skiing, but it’s recommended. Skiing is an amazing sport but it, and traveling, comes with risks like injuries, lost baggage, and other unforeseen events. Investing in travel insurance can help you mitigate unexpected financial expenses. 

What Type of Skiing Is Available in Gatlinburg?

Ober Mountain in Gatlinburg offers Alpine and freestyle skiing. Some skiers find suitable cross-country ski trails in the Smoky Mountain National Park, but this isn’t always possible due to limited sn