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Snow or Shine: Asheville is a Winter Wonderland

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15 Nov 2019

Snow scene in Montreat, NC

“How much snow does Asheville get?”

Asheville residents get this question A LOT. We get it, we’re a mountain city and there are a lot of movie caliber "snowpectations" that come to mind when you think of Asheville. While snow in Asheville is always a possibility, it’s also not as common as many think. 

 

Asheville’s relatively mild climate contributes greatly to the uncertainty of snowy winter conditions. While Asheville rarely gets above 90 degrees in the summer, the average temperature in the winter is a balmy 45 degrees- not exactly conducive to snow production. Asheville also sits nestled in the midst of the Blue Ridge Mountains, creating a sort of weather barrier for some of mother nature’s harshest weather conditions. This “bubble effect” is nice when it comes to severe weather, but can be disheartening for those of us desperate for some of that flakey white gold. While you shouldn’t expect a lot of snow, know that it can happen and when it does happen, Asheville is a truly magical place to live. 

 

The average snowfall in Asheville is approximately 12 inches a year. Compare that to the national average of 28 inches and you’ll suddenly understand why residents are always so blase about snow. On average, January through March is the prime time to expect snow, with average totals around 3-4 inches. However, December also has the potential to deliver some of the season's best snowfall totals. In 2017 and 2018, December dumped nearly 11 inches of snow onto Asheville with many surrounding towns receiving 15-18 inches. These “snowmageddons” aren’t common, but they’re spectacular. You’ll have about 24 hours to get out and enjoy it as snow days are fleeting and they rarely keep Asheville down for long.

 

Asheville experiences all four seasons, sometimes within a 24 hour period of time. Winters are unpredictable and shifty. There’s always the possibility of a huge snowstorm or light dusting and

Asheville winter views


 there’s also the possibility of warm, spring-like days that lure you into dreaming of picnics and barbeques. While perplexing, it offers
Asheville the unique advantage of being an ideal, year-round destination where you get to experience so much, no matter the season.   

Downtown Asheville may not get the snow perks of other mountain communities, but it’s located near some of the best ski terrains in the south. The same mountain range that protects downtown from the wrath of winter is also ideally situated to absorb precipitation and create ideal conditions for those who love to hit the slopes. 

About an hour and a half from Asheville is Beech Mountain Ski Resort, the highest ski resort in the Eastern United States. Receiving about 84 inches of snow a year, Beech Mountain is one of the top destinations for skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and ice skating. There are 17 different slopes to accommodate all skill sets, and Beech Mountain is open 7 days a week starting at the end of November. Once you’re done shredding the slopes, unwind with drinks and dinner at The Lodge or in the Village at Beech Mountain Brewing Co. or the Taproom & Grill. Nearby Sugar Mountain Ski Resort in Banner Elk, is also another top destination for winter sports. Sugar Mountain has 21 slopes with 15 lighted for night time activities. Asheville’s ski resort is Wolf Ridge Ski Resort, located in Mars Hill- just 30 minutes north of Asheville. Wolf Ridge has 15 lighted runs with two black diamond runs for those looking for more of a challenge. This family-friendly location is an economical and convenient day trip from Asheville. 

Time to ski!

Some of Asheville’s very best golf days take place during the winter. Scheduling a tee time from December to March is certainly unreliable, but if you’re flexible with your plans it’s common to have a weekend or two of incredible temperatures to enjoy a round of golf in the offseason. Again, our average temperature in the winter is 45 degrees. Our highs can swing 10-20 degrees on any given day so there’s frequently winter days perfect for dusting off the clubs. Western North Carolina is home to some of the best golf courses in North Carolina. Lake Lure’s Rumbling Bald Resort has two championship golf courses to choose from: Bald Mountain Golf Course and Apple Valley Golf Course. Both courses have been given a 4-star rating by Golf Digest and both courses feature breathtaking mountain and lake views throughout. One of the most treasured courses in Asheville is the Grove Park Golf Course. This course has been played by PGA professionals, as well as President Obama. This course, first designed in 1926, is one of the top resort courses in North Carolina. An hour south of Asheville is Tryon’s Cleghorn Golf and Sports Club at Tryon Resort. This 18 hole course was designed by George Cobb, famous for the Quail Hollow Club and Par 3 at Augusta National. This course was designed to challenge you are every tee and was named one of the best courses by the PGA and Golf Digest. Stay local and economical with a round at the Asheville Municipal Golf Course or Black Mountain Golf Course.

Winter hiking is a massively overlooked perk of living in Asheville. First and foremost, the trails are not nearly as crowded. You’re essentially out frolicking in the woods alone, lost in thought and lost in nature. It’s a welcome reprieve from the bustling fall season. Winter hikes also produce some of the best views (leafless trees mean views for days), magical moments like snow-lined trails or frozen waterfalls, and cooler temps for sweat free hikes. Some of the most well-known hikes will clearly be weather dependent. Mount Mitchell State Park, Linville Falls, and Craggy Gardens are located off the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is often closed during the winter due to road conditions. Temperatures are also typically 10-20 degrees different than they are in the valley so even if it’s nice in Asheville you can’t always depend on the parkway being accessible. No worries, there’s plenty of other areas to explore. 

DuPont State Forest is about an hour south of Asheville, but is certainly worth the drive as you can hike 4.4 miles roundtrip to see four distinct waterfalls. You can also hike to Cedar Rock Mountain for long-range views about a 4.5-mile hike. About 20 minutes east of Asheville and tucked away from most tourists, Montreat features hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails with varying degrees of difficulty. Many of the trails are easy to moderate hikes through the woods, running adjacent to mountain streams. Lookout Trail is a steep, but short hike (approximately 0.6 miles) up to Lookout Mountain, a rocky precipice overlooking Montreat and Black Mountain. Lookout Mountain is a perfect spot to take in an epic winter sunrise or sunset. South Mountains State Park in Morganton is approximately an hour east of Asheville. There are over 40 miles of trails throughout the park for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. South Mountains features elevations up to 3,000 feet so weather conditions are typically mild for most of the winter. The highlight is the two-mile, roundtrip hike to the 60-foot cascading High Shoals Falls. There’s even an observation deck right beside the falls so you can really take in its power and beauty. 

Winters here will certainly keep you on your toes, but there’s really no better time of year to peel back the layers and explore what makes Asheville special.