Travel on a budget: Your winter getaway to the highest ski resort east of the Rockies

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Do the commercials for the 2018 Winter Olympics have you imagining yourself speeding down a mountain on a snowboard? Or are you ready to perfect your ski jump or show off the Axel or Lutz in the ice-skating arena?

A two-and-a-half-hour drive from Charlotte will get you to Beech Mountain Resort in Beech Mountain, North Carolina. Sitting at 5,506 feet, it’s the highest elevation ski resort east of the Rockies.

Live out your winter sports fantasy or watch others do it while sipping on locally brewed craft beer and listening to music. Whether an expert, novice or non-winter sport enthusiast, Beech Mountain has enough entertainment for a cold-season get-away at a reasonable price.

Mile High Tavern

Stay

Beech Mountain celebrates its 50th anniversary this year with special pricing on lodging at several area lodges, hotels and private homes. The best “Ski and Stay” deal for two people is during the week: Sunday through Thursday. Try the $119 per person special. Stay two nights in a condo or hotel room, and receive a one-day lift ticket for skiing or snowboarding, Monday through Friday. Minimum is two people per room. Equipment rental is extra.

Know six to eight people who need a break from the city? The “Entourage Package” includes two-nights in a large condo or private home for $450 – that’s $60 to $75 each for lodging, weekend or weekday. Friends who want to partake in outdoor activities can purchase tickets ahead of time at a discounted rate – $35 for a weekday pass and $62 for a weekend pass.

Pro Tips:

(1) These deals are not available Martin Luther King Jr. (Jan. 12-15, 2018) or President’s Day (Feb. 16-19, 2018) weekends.

(2) Don’t want to leave Fluffy home? Some accommodations are pet-friendly.

(3) Beech Mountain ski season starts the Friday after Thanksgiving and runs through the third week in March each year.

Play

I retired from skiing many years ago after trying it three times. My fear of the chairlift and lack of coordination are a recipe for disaster. But for some reason I can ice skate – probably because my dad owned a roller skating rink when I was a kid and the skills are similar. Beech Mountain has ice skating, tubing and hiking for the ski-challenged.

Ice skate for two-hours in a 7,000-sq. ft. outdoor arena for $15, with a skate rental included. Need the wind blowing through your hair? Race down one of eight 700-ft. lanes in a tube, then ride back up on the Magic Carpet, a conveyer belt that brings you back to the top – perfect for the chairlift-challenged. One-hour and 45-minute sessions for $27 during the weekday and $32 on the weekend.

If you insist on skiing, there are great options for the budget-conscious during this 50th anniversary season. Slip away during the week for Tuesday ladies’ night for a $9 lift pass, Wednesday men’s night for a $9 lift pass or Thursday couple’s night for $24 for two lift passes. Look for other budget friendly deals for senior citizens, children, military and an 80’s tribute weekend on the website.

Use the Explore Beech Mountain app available in Google Play and the Apple Store for free to find 25 miles of hiking trails with views of valleys, forests and waterfalls. Follow Beech Mountain on social media for the list of local, regional and national bands playing at one of two venues at the resort. Most events are free or $5 to $15.

Pro Tips:

(1) Cell service on the mountain is limited. Explore Beech Mountain app will work without the cell service because lodging, dining and maps are embedded into the program.

(2) Need to stow the kids? Beech Mountain has a nursery for children six months old to three years old, Snow Kamp for three to five years old and Traxx for six to 12 years old. Prices vary on type of program and length of stay.

(3) First time skiers who rent equipment on a weekday (Monday through Thursday) get a free lesson during January and February.

Eat and Drink

Beech Mountain has a wide variety of places to eat and drink. Always start with dessert at the White Wolf Lodge’s coffee bar with hot cocoa and homemade fudge. Make your way to Fred’s General Mercantile for breakfast and then head to 5506’ Skybar for a specialty cocktail and a view of the mountains.

5506′ Skybar

Head to Mile High Tavern for sandwiches, salads, burgers and fish tacos and the 20-foot outdoor fire bar, or Fast Eddie’s for their popular fish and chips, Chicago-style hot dog, homemade soups and salads. Prices range from $8-$15.

Splurge at the area’s newest restaurant, Beech Mountain Grille with a Charleston-inspired menu of seafood, fish and grits, low country shrimp and grits, with prices ranging from $13-$25. Try their weekend breakfast menu, too.

Bullwinkels at the top of Beech Inn and Conference Center will remind you of the old mountain lodges of the past. Stay for the pizza, pasta and bar food. Try the Beech Alpen restaurant or Famous Brick Oven Pizzeria with its chocolate dipped desserts.

Close out the night at Beech Mountain Brewing Company and ask for the window view of the brewing vats. They make blondes, porters, pale ales and IPAs, but also feature guest taps.

Pro Tips:

(1) There’s no Uber in Beech Mountain, but there is a free public shuttle Friday through Sunday and it picks up at most of the lodging locations along Beech Mountain Parkway.

(2) Weekend pricing is Friday at 5 p.m. through Sunday at 5 p.m. Weekday pricing begins Sunday at 5 p.m. through Friday at 5 p.m. This does not include MLK and President Day weekends.

Photos: Andy Jay, Sam Dean

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