Once upon a time, I lived in Colorado where skiing and other outdoor activities are the predominant lifestyle rather than the anomaly. I’ve always missed the mountain life, so when we moved from flatlands to Nashville, I felt like I was getting a wee tiny bit of that lifestyle back. While not in the mountains, Nashville has some beautiful undulation in its landscape. Tall wooded hills to hike and get your blood pumping, great parks within the metropolitan area, all make me want to be outside more than in and it feels soooo good. But the best perk is we’re now only a few hours away from the Smoky Mountains, and we camp and explore the mountains at least once a year during the warmer months.
I wanted my kids to learn to ski fairly early, so when Thing 2 was about 5, we packed up and headed to Colorado and did the whole thing.Â At this point, I hadn’t skiied in about 15 years and OH, I had forgotten how much I loved it… and to my relief and delight, the rest of the family loved it too. Problem is, we don’t live out there, and it’s EXPENSIVE to get us all out there and skiing. We needed to find a way to get our winter sports on in between the big trips out West. We were overdue for a winter Smokies trip.
We headed East to Maggie Valley, North Carolina so we could ski Cataloochee over the Thanksgiving weekend. I’d always read very mixed (leaning toward negative) reviews about North Carolina skiing, and I did my best to prepare everyone that their expectations needed to drop considerably from the skiing we had done out West.
Much to our delight – it all worked. Was the snow light and fluffy? No, but it was skiing! Only 4 hours from where we live, for a fraction of the cost. The whole place is a little rustic, and could use a bit of love and attention, but they make their snow every night and we were A-OK with it. This changes EVERYTHING.
The town is a little odd. It looks like it was in its heyday in the 60’s, Lots of motels with motor courts, and my best guess is the boom of neighboring Waynesville has caused Maggie Valley to suffer. I saw so many shuttered up businesses right on the main road that leads straight into Cherokee. I couldn’t figure out why they couldn’t make a business work there? With skiing in the winter and fishing and hiking in the summer, (and gambling all year) it would seem ideal for setting up shop. But we saw a LOT of this.
Starvin’ Marvin got tired of starvin’ I guess and closed it all down…..
But there was the cutest little A-Frame development we drove through, some for rent and some for sale, so maybe next time we come we can try and rent one.
We rented a tiny cabin and I tried to make Thanksgiving festive. Not knowing if the cabin would be equipped with spices or anything, (it had nothing) I precooked most everything so all we had to do was roast our chicken and warm up the rest. I was grateful for minimal effort after a long day on the mountain.
At the weekend, we decided to ski half day and we drove into Cherokee for a little exploring. I kept seeing signs for Santa’s Land, so we thought the kids might get into the holiday spirit if we went to check it out. Apparently NOT. How silly of us to assume Santa’s Land would be open in the Christmas Holidays!!
Despite all the quirks, this trip was a great revelation of what was available under our noses for the past 5 years we’ve lived here. We’ll be back to enjoy that mountain again, and would love to make it an annual Thanksgiving tradition. There were no lift lines on Thanksgiving day, and we were able to get Thing 2 snowboard lessons for a song compared to other places. We’ll be back, sooner rather than later, that’s for sure.