When most people think of skiing, places like Colorado, Utah, and Vermont come to mind. The southern state of Tennessee is rarely associated with skiing. However, the Volunteer State does offer some surprisingly good options for skiing in Tennessee in December! While the skiing may not rival the Rocky Mountains, Tennessee’s peaks and rolling hills make for a fun winter getaway.
Skiing in Tennessee in December
Skiing in Tennessee in December is one of the best times to go. This is when the state typically gets the most natural snowfall, especially in the higher elevations of the Smoky Mountains.
Resorts like Ober Gatlinburg and Sugar Mountain Resort in North Carolina (right on the Tennessee border) usually open for ski season in mid to late November.
The month of December sees Tennessee’s ski resorts in full swing. School holidays and Christmas breaks also make it a popular time for families to head to the mountains.
Places like Ober Gatlinburg get into the Christmas spirit with festive decorations and events.
While not guaranteed, Tennessee usually sees multiple snowstorms in December. The winter weather transforms the mountain landscapes into a true winter wonderland. Tree branches and mountain peaks become coated in white. It’s a magical sight for skiers and snowboarders alike.
The only downside of skiing in Tennessee in December is that temperatures often hover right around freezing. This means snow conditions can be hit or miss compared to the consistently colder winters out west.
However, when the storms hit just right, the snow is as good as anywhere. Advanced snowmaking equipment at the resorts helps maintain decent coverage on the slopes too.
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Top Options for Snow Skiing in Tennessee
Tennessee has a surprising variety of skiing options across the state. Here are some of the top snow skiing destinations:
1. Ober Gatlinburg
Located just outside of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Ober Gatlinburg is Tennessee’s largest ski area. It features 9 trails ranging from beginner to advanced. Ober also has Tennessee’s only high-speed quad lift. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, visitors can enjoy ice skating, tubing, and a scenic aerial tramway. Notably, this is the best place for snow skiing in Tennessee.
2. Sugar Mountain Resort
Right across the North Carolina border, Sugar Mountain is another popular ski area for Tennesseans. It boasts 115 skiable acres and 20 different trails serviced by 9 lifts. Sugar Mountain is known for getting more natural snow than other southeast mountains due to its high 4100-foot elevation. Night skiing is also offered on select dates.
3. Cumberland Mountain State Park
Nestled on the Cumberland Plateau, Cumberland Mountain State Park has gentle beginner slopes perfect for new skiers. Ski rentals and a 700-foot-long slope are available right in the park. The scenic surrounding wilderness areas provide cross-country skiing as well.
4. Snowbird Ski Resort
Located near Dayton, Tennessee, Snowbird is a small club-operated resort. It features 6 trails ranging from beginner to advanced. Snowbird relies completely on natural snow, so openings are weather-dependent. The affordable lift tickets make it a nice option for families on a budget.
In addition to these resorts, skiers can also find ungroomed backcountry runs and cross-country trails across Tennessee’s state parks and national forests. Places like Roan Mountain and Bays Mountain Park are popular for winter activities.
Is Skiing in Tennessee Worth It?
If you’re wondering “Is there skiing in Tennessee? and is worth going, the answer is yes.
For die-hard skiers used to the slopes out west, Tennessee will likely seem small and limited. The ski season is also much shorter and snowfall less predictable. However, the Tennessee slopes offer a nice option for southeast skiers wanting to get their winter fix closer to home. Lower costs and smaller crowds make it family-friendly as well.
While the terrain and conditions can’t compete with the western mountains, Tennessee skiing has its own rustic charm. Gliding through silent snow-covered forests provides a peaceful experience away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The satisfaction of even just learning on the gentler bunny hills is rewarding.