The French Broad River Academy girls program takes to the slopes in Maggie Valley as part of their weekly field lessons.
Maddy Jones/

MAGGIE VALLEY – It’s finally here – freezing cold temperatures overnight. It might not be fun for waking up and getting out the door in the morning, but it’s great for making snow.

Western North Carolina ski areas are getting up to speed this week. Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley opened Nov. 20 for skiing and snowboarding. The ski area is now open daily through the planned closing date of March 26, said spokeswoman Tammy Brown.

Sugar Mountain Ski Resort in the town of Sugar Mountain in Avery County also opened for the season on Monday. There was an 8-24-inch base on a man-made powder and frozen granular surface. 

The Summit Express is in operation to Sugar’s 5,300-foot peak servicing the Northridge, Switchback, Upper and Lower Flying Mile slopes.

Kim Jochl, Sugar Mountain vice president, said staff started making snow a week ago, but the weather didn’t cooperate. The cold blast on Nov. 18, with below freezing temperatures, allowed them to start really blowing snow.

The ski area also got an inch of natural snow Saturday night.

“It really helps create an excitement for ski season. It looks pretty, it sets the mood,” Jochl said.

Also exciting is that the ski area will be open for the big Thanksgiving holiday, and with a short look at the long term weather, should remain open, unlike last year. The unusually warm weather last year played a game of chicken with ski areas across the mountains, forcing them to close for long periods.

“We opened on Nov. 21 last year, but had to close and didn’t officially open until after Christmas. It was a tumultuous year,” Jochl said.

Full day session runs from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. The half-day session begins at noon and ends at 4:30 p.m. Night sessions may begin Friday.

The Sugar Mountain ski and snowboard school, the equipment rental shop and the Sugar Mountain sport shop, are all open and the ice skating rink is expected to open Wednesday. The Tubing Park will open as quickly as weather allows, she said.

Appalachian Ski Mountain in Blowing Rock is expected to open on…