Banner Elk: An Epic Snow Sports Weekend In Powder Paradise

Nestled between the snaking nine-mile stretch of NC-184 S between Beech Mountain Resort and Sugar Mountain Resort, the idyllic village of Banner Elk is your winter headquarters for playing on the slopes all day. Plus, Banner Elk boasts a host of top-rated restaurants – you’ll quickly see why it’s regarded as the culinary hotspot of the High Country.

Banner Elk retains a sense of community absent from the more daunting and impersonal ski resort towns out west. So grab your coat and toboggan, kiss hibernation goodbye, and embrace the season: it’s time to start planning your snow sports vacation in Banner Elk!

Snow glistens under the lights of Banner Elk, NC

The enchanting mountain town of Banner Elk, NC, is a winter paradise! Photo by Todd Bush.

The Best Of Both Worlds

While most NC ski resorts are scattered across the mountains, Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountain Ski Resort are close enough to where you can visit them both over a weekend. And before you say something – we can sense your smirk of Southern consternation from afar – you’ll be pleased to discover that both resorts have done an exceptional job of maintaining their “snowmaking infrastructure.”

Win passes to Beech Mountain in Banner Elk, NC

Enter to win a 4-pack of passes to Beech Mountain in Banner Elk, NC

That’s right – you don’t need real snow to enjoy the magic of winter sports in NC. Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain operate high-tech snow guns powered by an intuitive sensor. With the ability to generate much more snow in less time, these resorts are ever-ready to entertain visitors during the NC ski season, which runs from late November through late March. 

Two snowboarders hike to the perfect spot on Beech Mountain in Banner Elk, NC

Beech Mountain, NC, is easily accessible from Banner Elk. Photo from Beech Mountain Resort.

 

*If you can, plan your winter ski vacation for late January through late February, as the days are longer, the snowpack base is at its deepest, and the daytime temperatures are just a hair below freezing. 

A tried-and-true Banner Elk itinerary consists of a day on the slopes at Sugar Mountain and another day at Beech Mountain. Sugar Mountain boasts the most skiable acres and the only double black diamond slope in North Carolina. Beech Mountain is the highest ski resort in Eastern America and the only place in NC where you can order a drink on top of a mountain.

Girl snow tubing

Enjoy snow tubing at Hawksnest! Photo by Sam Dean.

There’s “Snow Way” You’ll Be Bored In Banner Elk

“Oh, I don’t ski…” We get it. We weren’t all meant to be downhill speed racers, and some of us have too much pride for the bunny slope. For the rest of us who generally avoid the perils of gravity, there are plenty of fun things to do in Banner Elk that don’t involve skiing.

Have you tried snowboarding or snow tubing? (The former takes balance, while the latter takes humility). Both ski resorts offer these activities, and Sugar Mountain has an additional ice skating rink. If you do only one thing on our list of Banner Elk recommendations, book a spin at the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster – a twisting, turning 3,160-foot track that takes riders up to 27 mph!

Snow does not stop the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster near Banner Elk, NC

Open year-round! Unleash your inner thrill seeker with a winter run down the alpine coaster. Photo by Todd Bush.

Take a daring walk across the Mile-High Swinging Bridge at nearby Grandfather Mountain. The Wildlife Habitats grants up-close viewing opportunities of local species like bears, cougars, and elk. Next door, you’ll find the just-renovated Wilson Center for Nature Discovery. Kids will be drawn to the panoramic viewing towers, wall of flora, interactive weather elements, and mineral cave. 

People standing outside a fireplace at Sorrento's

Dine at Sorrento's — the best Italian cuisine in the High Country! Photo by Todd Bush.

Dine In The Culinary Hotspot Of The High Country

It’s best to start your ski day with a hearty breakfast. The Banner Elk Cafe & Lodge serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week – guests can choose to dine in the cafe or the lodge, and there is an on-site espresso bar, bakery, and ice cream shop.

Sorrento’s Italian Bistro is another Banner Elk institution – for 40 years, they have been serving delicious pizza, pasta, and crabcakes. The vibrant decor on the wall is painted by local artist Kent Paulette, who finds inspiration from the natural surroundings and adds a sample of creek water to all of his paintings. A tour of one of his Banner Elk showrooms makes for a perfect before- or after-dinner stroll.

Stonewalls is a steakhouse in Banner Elk, NC

After a day on the slopes, recharge in style at Stonewalls. Photo by Todd Bush.

Those searching for an old-school steak and lobster house ambiance will find it by a crackling fireplace at Stonewalls. Known for decadent prime rib, this staple was recently purchased by a Banner Elk local who has stewarded a more chef-driven menu. 

With everything from comfort food to fine dining, you’re likely wondering where to get a good drink in Banner Elk. Kettell Beerworks is a family-friendly brewery on Main Street, regularly offering 10-12 beer styles. The Blind Elk Tap Room offers extensive North Carolina brews and other rare finds. You can even get a local Banner Elk beer right after skiing when you take a seat at the Beech Mountain Brewing Company

Known as “the jewel of the high country,” the Banner Elk Winery stuns guests with arguably the best views of the Pisgah National Forest. There is even a romantic villa in the vineyards that can be rented for overnight stays.

Snow blankets the grounds and roof of Perry House bed and breakfast in Banner Elk, NC

Book your Banner Elk getaway at Perry House.

Experience Mountain Living: Where To Stay In Banner Elk

While a romantic vineyard stay will likely appeal to all, they can only house so many of us…let’s talk Banner Elk accommodations.

There are three hotels in downtown Banner Elk, each in excellent condition and suitable for different itineraries. The Best Western Mountain Lodge is perfect for traveling with children or looking for convenience. Embarking on a romantic winter weekend in Banner Elk? The Perry House has the vibe you’re looking for, with prime hilltop vistas overlooking the charming village of Banner Elk. Larger groups will find sufficient space at the Little Main Street Inn & Suites.

Of course, many people come to Banner Elk to experience the aesthetic of mountain living. We mean rent a cabin where you can soak in a hot tub and warm up by a fireplace. Banner Elk Mountain Rentals is a reputable local company outside downtown Banner Elk.

Two otters at Grandfather Mountain Wildlife Habitats

The Wildlife Habitat at Grandfather Mountain is a great kid-friendly attraction near Banner Elk! Photo from Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.

Banner Elk, NC: Know Before You Go

Generally speaking, Banner Elk is easily navigable, and the main roads are state-maintained. If you book a vacation rental, read the description of the topography. Some first-time visitors are taken aback when they discover they must drive up a steep, meandering path to get to their property.

Three skiers pose on Sugar Mountain, NC

Ham it up at Sugar Mountain Resort. We recommend spending the night in Banner Elk to try both ski resorts! Photo by Todd Bush.

MLK Weekend and Presidents Day Weekend are the two busiest North Carolina ski season weekends. You’ll want to book reservations online whenever possible for accommodations, ski sessions, winter sports activities, and restaurants. Check out the Banner Elk events calendar for festivals, holiday celebrations, and other fun activities happening in Banner Elk this winter. For a complete overview of lodging, dining and activities in Banner Elk, visit https://www.bannerelk.com/.

 

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