With the last few days of 2015 drawing to a close, I was enjoying the scrumptious leftovers from a particularly gluttonous Christmas, when my friend Dayvee invited me on a ski trip with her in the mountains of North Carolina.
As a professional journalist, she often goes on press trips around the world, and this time she'd be writing about her first experience at ski school for Huffington Post and Matador Network.
I was delighted that she invited me to go along. After all, I hadn't been skiing since a particularly memorable run-in with a New England mountain in middle school (the mountain won).
Always keen for a roadtrip, I tossed a few things in my bag, and on New Year's Day we found ourselves coasting through the Carolinas on 85 North. The short winter days soon plunged us into darkness, but our car was jolly, full of conversation, laughs, and a slightly intermittent GPS.
As we climbed to ever higher elevations, the route lead us through hairpin turns on inky black roads, which were not for the faint of heart. We traded stories of times we've found ourselves on switchback roads in the past; most recently for me when I rode a caravan up a mountain in South Korea, for Dayvee in the Dominican Republic.
Five hours after we left Atlanta, we arrived at our little lodge on Beech Mountain. Once her other friend Ewanda arrived, we retired for the night with hot cocoa in the cozy living room, chatting to the wee hours of morning.
The next day was a chill day because the unseasonably warm weather meant that the snow had to be made and the mountain wasn't ready for skiers yet. So after a tasty breakfast at Famous Fast Eddie's, we took a hike.
^^ Dayvee, E, and me.
The resort told us about a nearby trail that snaked its way around a lake, strewn with boulders, brooks, moss, and tall trees. Leaves crunching beneath our feet, understory trees lightly brushing our shoulders, this was a place to feel peaceful. My imagination danced at the thought of how even more beautiful and alive it would be in the springtime.
At 5,000 feet above sea level, it was the perfect spot to unwind from city life and enjoy the sunshine and crisp mountain air.
It was nice seeing elements of people's life in the woods as well.
^^ Looks like I found a little moss-covered toadstool for myself!
After our hike, we headed to the town's general store for provisions (read: snacks).
Where we found the holiday spirit very much alive and well!
The altitude reared its head in ways we didn't expect, such as the almost-bursting potato chip bags inside the country store; it looks like a balloon.
I mean, we always suspected that "they" fill up the bags with mostly air to cut corners, but come on... LOL.
That evening, we were treated to the best shrimp and grits I've eaten outside of Atlanta, while we sat near the fire and a live bluegrass band had the whole lodge tapping their toes.
I'll take this moment to point out that we seemed to be mini-celebrities on Beech Mountain. Maybe no one is used to seeing anyone that looks like us there, or maybe our ravishing beauty rendered folks starstruck (we did receive a great deal of wonderful compliments and warm welcomes), or perhaps people knew who we were because Dayvee was writing an article, but we seemed to cause excited energy everywhere we went. And every time we sat down for a meal, someone pulled up a chair to join us! It was very sweet. Except the drunk guy who sat with us for dinner that night. That was weird. Both the general manager of the restaurant and the marketing manager had to rescue us.
But again, my shrimp and grits were awesome. Even had little bits of chorizo in it. You know I like to eat.
The next morning, we rose with the sun and headed for the slopes.
Wearing every layer of clothing we brought with us. I even had a cute little activewear jacket that would have looked more attractive than my great big blueberry coat... but I decided to sacrifice cuteness for more insulation.
Once we got all our gear organized (thanks Talia and Doug!), we were ready to tackle that mountain.
We trundled through the resort with our boots and snow pants and skis, feeling thoroughly tickled at the prospect of ski school.
The lesson was great (thanks Tristum!), teaching us how to start, stop, turn, and walk up the mountain if necessary, while wearing skis.
Feeling like absolute champs by the time the lesson was done:
I might add, I also felt trés on trend, since the snow machines gave my hair every ounce of the granny grey hair that is all the rage at the moment:
Shall we call it Santa Chic?
After the lesson we had a quick lunch and then learned that the snow tubing was open. We each grabbed a donut and took off down the icy slick.
^^ Quick selfie while I rode the conveyor belt back up to the top... so I could ride down agaaaaain!
After we had our fill of tubing, I wanted to ski again. While the other two went off to make sure they had enough pictures for Dayvee's story, I grabbed my skis and hopped on the lift.
Though I felt comfortable being back on skis (I was in the ski club in my formative years), I wasn't 100% sure if I was really ready to move from the bunny slope to the ski lift slopes in so short a time. Yet I felt it would be a waste to come all this way and not experience the mountain. And there was nothing in between: it was either the bunny, or one of the slopes.
I bit the bullet and went.
And lived to tell the tale! I actually went down a few times.
Felt perfectly at ease actually. Kind of surprised myself.
In fact, it was awesome.
I recommend Beech Mountain Resort; it's charming and friendly, and besides skiing, there's tubing, ice skating, and an on-site brewery, among other amenities.
A great way to start the new year.