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150 and counting: WCU grad student research helps get a handle on impacts of mounting numbers of elk

out fr elkBy Jill Ingram • Guest writer, WCU public affairs office

Covering long distances in and around Cataloochee Valley, a Western Carolina University student is researching the growing, and sometimes problematic, elk population in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The goal is to provide park rangers with data to help manage the herd.

Elizabeth Hillard, a 30-year old graduate student in biology, has gone to great lengths to find out whatever she could about the creatures.

Snow guns get ski season off with a bang

out snowblowAs superstorm Sandy hurled itself toward the Northeast, soon to leave a wreckage of flooded streets, sunken boardwalks and dangling electrical lines, the folks at Cataloochee Ski Area were firing up the snow machines — to take advantage of the early, high-elevation flurries brought on by the hurricane.

While most people were still pulling pumpkin seeds out of their jack-o-lanterns on Halloween, Cataloochee Ski Area had already opened, marking one of the earliest opening dates in the hill’s history.

Case of three slain elk in Haywood County remains a mystery

fr elkThree elk were shot dead last month just outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the Mount Sterling area of Haywood County, and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is asking for the public’s help in finding the poacher or poachers involved.

Voices of the Smokies to go live in oral project

Recordings made some seven decades ago of nearly 60 men and women who lived in what became the Great Smoky Mountains National Park soon will be made publicly available online.

In 1939, a young graduate student by the name of Joseph Sargent Hall traveled through the region’s coves and hollows with an audio recorder powered off his pick-up truck battery, capturing tales of bear hunts, lessons on herbal remedies and authentic mountain tunes. He spent eight months recording the experiences of older residents and the music of young aspiring musicians. Of the 60 interviews, 17 were from Swain County and 16 were from Haywood County.

One of the mountaineers recorded by Hall was the famous Steve Woody of Cataloochee Valley, who was 86 at the time.

“That’s not me; that’s my grandfather,” Steve Woody the younger said with a laugh. “I can remember him.”

Woody owns a tape rendition of the 1939 recording Hall made of his grandfather. It is a story about a bear hunt, Woody said, and there’s also a photograph in the family album of the actual interview taking place, too.

Woody thinks it’s terrific that the old recordings soon will be made easily available.

“It’s a good thing,” he said. “I think people need to know the history of these mountains.”

When the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was created, hundreds of people living in remote Appalachian settlements were forced to move. Hall’s recordings were made just as this was happening, capturing a moment in time and way of life that was coming to an end. Woody’s grandfather was the last person to move out of Cataloochee Valley after the park was created.

The City University of New York will host the non-commercial website where the recordings will be made publicly accessible. A release date hasn’t been set — the project’s members are trying to ensure that living descendants of those recorded are given notice first that the recordings are being made public.

Michael Montgomery, a professor of English and linguistics at the University of South Carolina and a member of the project team, said that the digitized recordings are being made from tape recordings that were, in turn, made in the 1980s from the original recordings.

“They are actually quite clear for recordings made more than 70 years ago,” Montgomery said, adding that the original discs are held in safekeeping in the Library of Congress.

Copies of the recordings are currently available for people to listen to if, that is, they are willing to drive several hours into Tennessee to the Archives of Appalachia at East Tennessee State University.


A chronicler of the people

Using Civilian Conservation Corps camps for home base, Hall ventured throughout the area to record. For this work, Hall used two recorders, one that produced aluminum discs and was operated by cables hooked to a pick-up truck battery and another that made acetate discs and ran on a portable battery pack.

Montgomery said that Hall became close friends with many of the men working in the CCC camps and returned to visit them for many years after the first recordings were made. Hall died in 1992.

Luke Hyde of Bryson City, who had family members who once lived where the park was subsequently created, said he believes it will be helpful to families such as his and for park history buffs in general to have the recordings easily available via a website. In addition to the recordings, searchable texts also will be online.

“I like the general concept,” Hyde said, adding that he is well familiar with the important work done by Hall to record the people of the Smokies.

“He was fascinated by a lot of things, and he listened to people,” Hyde said. “He was one of the chroniclers of the mountain people.”

Montgomery said Hall’s interest in making this set of recordings was to record dialect. That meant he didn’t care so much what people said as long as they said something — so what’s on the recordings are such things as “women talking about herbal remedies and fellows talking about bear hunting,” Montgomery said.

Hall himself wrote about his work that, “the topics of the recordings were anything the informant wished to talk about. Men talked about their farm, their crops, their cattle, and hunting. Women liked to tell recipes or talk about their interest in weaving and quilting and the like.”

Hall also recorded the music of the day. Young musicians played country and swing and other tunes they were hearing on the radio.

“Joseph Hall recorded anything people wanted to play,” Montgomery said.

In 2010, the Great Smoky Mountains Association released “Old Time Smoky Mountain Music,” a CD with 34 of the musical selections recorded by Hall.

Montgomery said that one of Hall’s most admirable traits was his determination to stay in the background and not overshadow the men and women that he was recording.

“He thought that was the best way to counter stereotypes. He wanted mountain people to use their own voices,” Montgomery said. “His approach really was to avoid general statements and to let mountain people speak for themselves.”

Not everyone is certain the release of the recordings is a good idea.

Harley Caldwell, 75, was the last person born in Cataloochee Valley before the park was formed. He’s concerned about the privacy rights of the people who were recorded, about whether they realized that one day their stories and tales would be released publicly.

Caldwell, in fact, is involved in a similar project to Montgomery’s. The Cataloochee Oral History Project teamed with Western Carolina University to record and videotape 33 living descendents from Cataloochee. A DVD is set for release in early 2013.

“It’s a bigger project than I wanted to tackle, but I tackled it anyway,” Caldwell said.

WCU provided the equipment and is editing the interviews and preparing the DVD. Caldwell facilitated the project by rounding up the Cataloochee descendents. Caldwell said, perhaps echoing what Hall also found, that he was most surprised by “the willingness of people to talk about their past.”

One of those men interviewed was age 99, Caldwell said, adding that the man remembered historic events as if they’d occurred yesterday.

“It was the most interesting thing I’ve ever done in my life, and I’ve done a lot of exciting things,” Caldwell said of the oral history project.

One thing Caldwell and his team were careful to do was obtain signed releases from those interviewed — and he worries that, in contrast, Hall’s subjects were never cautioned that one day their voices would be heard again.


Speakers recorded by Joseph S. Hall in 1939:

Haywood County:

• Mack Caldwell, 53, Mount Sterling.

• Mack Hannah, 81, Little Cataloochee.

• Mrs. Mack (Fannie) Hannah, 73, Little Cataloochee.

• Millard Hill, 27, Saunook.

• Mark Mehaffey, Maggie.

• Bill Moore, 21, Saunook.

• Howard Moore, Saunook.

• Manuel Moore, Saunook.

• Mrs. George Palmer, 65, Cataloochee.

• Will Palmer, Cataloochee.

• Mrs. Will Palmer, 69, Cataloochee.

• Herbert Stephenson, 25, Saunook.

• Eugene Sutton, 43, Cataloochee Creek.

• Jake Sutton, 63, Cataloochee.

• Jim Sutton, 70, Cataloochee.

• Steve Woody, 86, Cataloochee.

Swain County:

• Mrs. Bill Brown, Towstring Creek.

• Dan Cable, 73, Cable Branch, Proctor.  

• Aden Carver, 91, Bradley Fork, Smokemont.

• Mark Cathey, 54, Deep Creek.

• D. F. Conner, 84, Oconaluftee.

• Bert Crisp, 47, Towstring Creek.

• Zeb Crisp, 64, Hazel Creek.

• Grover Gilley, Bryson City.

• Gladys Hoyle.

• Frank Lambert, 40, Towstring Creek,  Smokemont.

• Grady Mathis, 50, Smokemont.

• Al Morris, 67, Kirklands Creek.

• Rebecca Queen, 70, Cherokee.

• Docia Styles, 66, Indian Creek.

• Zilphie Sutton, 70, Chestnut Branch.

• Jake Welch, 79, Ryan Branch, Hazel Creek.

• Fate Wiggins, 79, Deep Creek.

• Mary Wiggins, Deep Creek.


WCU’s Hunter Library releases online oral history collection

A series of oral interviews with the people of Western North Carolina are now available online through Western Carolina University’s Hunter Library.

“Stories of Mountain Folk” is the first all-sound collection released by Hunter Library. The collection’s interviews cover traditions, events and life stories of regional individuals including gardeners, herbalists, farmers, musicians, artists and writers. The archive is searchable by name, place and topic.

The interviews were produced by Catch the Spirit of Appalachia, a nonprofit organization founded in 1989 by the sisters Amy Ammons Garza, an Appalachian storyteller, and Doreyl Ammons Cain, a visual artist, with the mission of preserving local memory. In September 2008, Catch the Spirit of Appalachia began “Stories of Mountain Folk” as a half-hour radio show.

Catch the Spirit of Appalachia teamed up with Hunter Library to preserve the recorded material. The online archive holds approximately half of the roughly 200 existing radio programs, with Hunter Library staff continuing to upload the backlog.

“The university has provided expertise to preserve the content, which is very different from academic creation of new intellectual content. This content was created in the community, and the library is providing a service in preserving the material,” said Anna Fariello, an associate professor in Hunter Library’s Digital Programs.

For her part, Garza is thrilled with the arrangement.

“I cannot tell you how my heart leapt when this agreement was signed,” she said. “Saving the voices of the mountain folk has been a longtime goal of Catch the Spirit of Appalachia, for listening to the mountain folk as they tell their own personal stories evokes evidence of an unmistakable wisdom and sense of place.”

The collection can be found at www.wcu.edu/library/digitalcollections/storiesofmountainfolk.

Slope bound: Snow, let alone skiing, proves a novel experience for some first-timers

Living in the mountains of Western North Carolina, it is hard to imagine never seeing snow — but Elizabeth Comberg and Amber Damato of Jacksonville, Fla., got their first taste of the fluffy white stuff last Friday at Cataloochee Ski Area.

“The snow is a blast,” 15-year-old Comberg said.

Last week was Comberg and her family’s first trip to Haywood County and first time snow skiing. She didn’t know much beyond the basics of stopping and going, but Comberg was starting to pick it up thanks to a handy mnemonic device well-known among beginners.

“The first thing I knew was pizza and French fries,” she said. French fries, or parallel skis, if she wanted to shoot rapidly down the hill, and a pizza slice, or turned-in skis, if she wanted to stop.

The family spent several hours on a small, crowded bunny slope to the right of the ski lodge and lifts, taking their cues from other skiers while trying to pick up the fundamentals of keeping their balance on the snow.

The beginner slope is neither long nor steep, giving first-timers like the Combergs a safe place to practice before taking on the steeper, more crowded trails.

“This slope is a godsend,” said Laurie Comberg, 45, who last remembered seeing snow in 1989 during a rare snowfall in Jacksonville.

Elizabeth’s younger brother had fallen a number of times and quickly became weary of the slope. After seeing a fellow skier holding onto a child’s ski poles and guiding the child down the hill, Laurie was able to help her son regain enough confidence to ski again.

Elizabeth’s friend, Amber Damato, was not having an easy time either.

“Skiing is hard,” exclaimed Damato, who had fallen several times including a tumble over the blue netting that is supposed to keep skiers from skidding off into a tree.

Damato said the experience of skiing was worth all the spills, however.

The Combergs and Damato planned to stay at Cataloochee until their lift tickets expired at 4:30 p.m. In the end, their goal was to ride the ski lift at least once and then slip and slide as best they could down a trail.

“By the end of the day, we will do it at least once,” Laurie said.

People packed the slopes of Cataloochee Ski Area during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The gangbuster week is the most profitable of the year. Not only is the sheer volume of skiers monumental, but the vast majority are buying lift tickets and renting gear and hitting the lunch counter — as opposed to locals with season lift passes and their own gear who populate the slopes during a more typical week.

But during this holiday week, skiers from across the South were hitting Cataloochee in force — with  plenty of newbies among them. The landing at the foot of Cataloochee’s main hill was overflowing with skiers, snowboards and spectators alike Friday. To the side of the slopes, five ski and snowboarding instructors led teams of 10 or more pupils through the basics.


Starting young

Just on the other side of the blue nets on a barely sloping, super-intro-level straight away, Trey Ford, 30, was helping teach his 3-year-old daughter Lexi how to ski as his wife, Kelly Cooper Ford, watched anxiously to the side.

Kelly has never skied before and was a little nervous to let her daughter try, but Lexi’s grandfather, a former ski instructor, was also on hand to help teach her. Sitting on her heels with her knees bent, Lexi glided down the slight decline more than a dozen times, smiling each time she slide into her grandfather’s arms.

“I am so proud of her,” said Kelly, adding that Lexi has been begging to ski since the idea was first brought up this summer.

Trey and his wife both work at Cooper Construction Company in Hendersonville.

Trey’s father was a ski instructor for many years. However, it was not until the last three years that Trey himself became interested in skiing. He said he wanted to teach Lexi how before she was conscious enough to fear the slopes.

Trey said he hopes to take a family vacation to Colorado or another popular ski destination in the future, but first he will need to get Kelly as excited about skiing as his daughter.

“If I can get my daughter excited about it, then I can get my wife excited about it,” Ford said.


Hitting the slopes

It’s now all systems go at Cataloochee Ski Area. The more advanced trails opened last week thanks to plenty of cold weather (finally) and the resort’s state-of-the-art snow-making technology.

Where: 1080 Ski Lodge Road in Maggie Valley

When: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, non-holiday. 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Holidays. Night and Twilight skiing run until 10 p.m. are also available Tuesdays through Saturdays as well as on Sundays Jan. 15 and Feb. 19.

Cost: The price of a lift ticket ranges from $18 to $71 depending on the day, how long you plan to ski or snowboard, and whether it’s a day, half-day, twilight or night session. Adult equipment rentals run $23 for ski or $30 for snowboard. Group lessons are $20, and private lesson are between $25 and $200 depending on the length of the tutorial.

One ski at a time: Anyone can learn how, says Cataloochee’s new ski school director

Mark Rozof sat behind a beat-up white desk surrounded by skis, walkie-talkies, snow jackets and other sundry gear strewn about the office, chuckling as he recalled his experiences as a ski instructor.

During his 23 years of teaching, Rozof, the new ski and snowboard school director at Cataloochee Ski Area, has collected a volume of tales, from those who fall flat on their face to kids who go on to be medal winners.

The most prominent memory, however, is about his youngest student — a three-year-old boy. The boy’s parents had planned to just let their son experience the snow and watch the other skiers, but they couldn’t keep him away.

“He saw the snow, and he got really excited about it,” Rozof said.

So the little boy’s parents bought him an hour-long lesson and stood by nervously watching him learn. Despite his age and lack of muscle development, the boy lasted the whole hour, Rozof said.

People nearby and on the ski lift clapped for the small child as he glided down a beginner, or bunny, slope on his tiny skis, surprised at his adeptness.

“I bet I started a bad problem with him,” Rozof said. “He loved it.”

Rozof talks about skiing and teaching newbies like some people talk about addiction. A life on the slopes is something he can’t seem to get away from, not that he’d want to.

Growing up in southeast Michigan, skiing and snowboarding were a part of the culture. Rozof began skiing with his dad when he was 13.

“I saw the Olympics, and I liked it,” he said.

His first forray as a ski instructor was admittedly self-serving. Like other Michigan-area kids, Rozof just wanted a free season pass to the Pine Knob Ski and Snowboard Resort so he became an instructor.

“That’s where I learned to teach and pretty much learned to ski,” he said.

He went to college in West Virginia, where he continued to teach skiing, and then moved on to Seven Springs in Pennsylvania. He moved back to Michigan and started working in the automotive business, but like many became a causality of the declining industry — and so returned to his passion of skiing.

Utah, specifically Deer Valley, was Rozof’s most recent home, where he once again donned his skis to help the uncoordinated master the slopes.

About a year ago, Rozof started teaching at Cataloochee Ski Area, and he quickly moved up in the ranks to director of the ski school.

The job “kind of fell in my lap here,” he said.

Teaching at Cataloochee is “fun and a little more challenging,” Rozof said, because some first-time visitors don’t realize how chilly the slopes can get in North Carolina.

Vacationers from Southern states such as Alabama and Georgia are not used to the cold of higher elevations, and some do not dress appropriately for the weather, he said.

Cataloochee is the southern most ski slope in the East, and as a result, captures Southern skiers whose quest for snow leads them to Cataloochee as the closest resort.

“I’ve never heard so many y’alls on a ski slope in my life,” he said.

That close proximity to droves of Southerners seeking a taste of the slopes also means Cataloochee instructors get more than their fair share of novices.

When teaching, the instructors focus on getting their students acclimated to skis, which can feel cumbersome and gangling at first. After mastering the basics of moving and stopping, the new skiers take to the bunny slopes for straight runs, in which they simply ride down the hill with their skis facing forward.

Although the ski school tries to keep the instruction groups small, the holidays can be a busy time. Rozof suggests people pay the extra $30 to $180 for a private lesson, especially if they are already athletic, because the instructors can only move through the lesson as fast as the slowest learner. People who are apt to pick up skiing more quickly may get bored waiting for others to catch up.

Beyond private lessons, the ski school is hoping to remedy the problem by changing its teaching methods. Rather than each group having one instructor, beginners would move from station to station, where they would learn different skills at their own pace, Rozof said.

Rozof has a level three certification, the highest level, through the Professional Ski Instructors of America, meaning he can teach pretty much anywhere.

Eventually, Rozof, who has coached high school and middle school ski teams, said he also wants to bring NASTAR, or National Standard Racing, to Cataloochee. NASTAR is a grassroots ski race program, open to people of all skill levels. Participating ski resorts hold races throughout the winter, and the top racers from across the country are asked to compete in Nature Valley NASTAR National Championships.

Unlike many sports, such as football or basketball, skiing can be a solo activity.

“You can just do it yourself,” Rozof said. People of “any size, any weight, any height” can become great skiers, he said.

Currently, skiers and snowboarders can traverse Cataloochee’s lower trails, but the resort plans to open the upper trails as soon as possible, Rozof said.

The snow that covers the mountains of Cataloochee Ski resort is not visible from U.S. 19 in the valley below, which can be a hindrance when 50-degree weather keeps people’s minds from thoughts of a winter wonderland.

However, Cataloochee is open and ready for business — despite the day’s conditions, assured Rozof.


Let’s go ski!

Cataloochee Ski Area opened its slopes this past weekend and plans to remain open the rest of the season.

Where: 1080 Ski Lodge Road in Maggie Valley

When: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, non-holiday. 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Holidays. Open til 10 p.m. starting December 13.

Cost: The price of a lift ticket ranges from $18 to $71 depending on what day, how long you want to ski or snowboard, and day or night session. Adult equipment rentals run $23 for ski or $30 for snowboard. Group lessons are $20, and private lesson are between $25 and $200 depending on the length of the tutorial.

Stalked by a not so wild elk

An old friend from Mer Rouge, La., George Bowe, was passing through a couple of weeks ago so we decided to take a ride down to Cataloochee and see if the elk were out. We got down to the valley around 3 p.m. and before we got to the Palmer Chapel we spotted elk, grazing and generally lounging around in the fields. It was apparent that the large bulls had already dropped their massive antlers but the young bulls with spikes and small 4-point racks still had antlers.

The elk were brought to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in two groups in early 2001. The first batch of 25 elk from Land Between the Lakes on the Tennessee-Kentucky border was released in 2001. In 2002, another 27 elk from Elk Island National Park in Alberta, Canada were released into the valley. Original reintroduction plans called for a third release, but North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission decided that was too risky (they feared chronic wasting and/or other diseases might be transferred to local deer and/or cattle populations) and the Park Service nixed the last release.

Biologists in neighboring states don’t appear gripped by the same fears. Kentucky estimates its elk population at nearly 10,000 now. About 1,500 elk were released in Kentucky between 1997 and 2002. Tennessee has seen its 200 reintroduced elk (between 2000 and 2008) double in population and Virginia has plans to release hundreds of elk into the southwestern corner of the state this year.

The original reintroduction in the Smokies was billed as a 5-year experimental release during which time the impacts “on” the elk and “of” the elk would be studied and a determination would be made regarding the herd’s status. Because of the inability to release more elk, the study period was extended for three years. The Park Service changed the status of the elk in Cataloochee, early in 2010, from experimental to an official reintroduction. The herd has grown to between 130 and 140 animals at this point.

I was fortunate enough to get to go to Land Between the Lakes back in 2000 when the original elk were rounded up for the trip to the Park. Kim Delozier and his crew were quite professional and the capture went smoothly. However, it was apparent that these elk that lived in a 700-acre fenced-in enclosure were not the wild and wily beasts of the forests and prairies of the West, alert to every movement and/or scent that came their way; prepared to bolt for safety at a moment’s notice.

And the elk George and I found the other day at Cataloochee appeared to have a healthy dose of those genes. After we passed the Palmer Chapel we saw elk again in the front yard of the old Caldwell house. We drove on down to the end of the road and upon seeing no more elk in the fields, we returned to the Caldwell house.

There were a couple of elk (looked like a cow and calf) still grazing in the yard. We got out to get some photos and more elk came from behind the house.

I wanted to show George the old house so we started across the footbridge figuring the elk would mosey on. Well, they moseyed — only toward us, not away, so we returned to the road. Then about four young bulls came out of the woods and into the yard. A couple decided to practice their sparring moves.

Next, the whole group waded into the stream for a drink. And a really curious cow and calf started towards us. We didn’t want to run afoul of any of the Park’s elk protocol, so we retreated to the truck. The cow and calf came right up and started nosing the back hatch of my white Montero. Made me wonder if the Park Service had done any supplemental feeding during the snow and nasty weather this winter from white, Park Service vehicles or if maybe unthinking visitors have actually been feeding them.

Whatever the reason, it’s certainly not good to have 1,000-pound animals that acclimated to humans — they could present a danger to unsuspecting visitors. But more sadly, fed elk can be just as dead as fed bears.

Don Hendershot can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Snow sports equals big bucks for North Carolina mountains

The rest of the economy might have suffered, but a couple of snowy winters are adding up to big bucks and good times for North Carolina’s ski industry.

Last year, the total economic impact of this segment of the state’s economic pie amounted to $146 million. That number is courtesy of the N.C. Ski Areas Association, which crunched and computed the figures for the 2009-2010 season and recently released its findings.

That good news doesn’t come as a surprise for ski industry workers such as Brittany Heatherly of Skis and Tees in Maggie Valley, who said the store was running out of rental equipment by 10 a.m. each day during the Christmas break.

“It’s been awesome,” Heatherly said. “Everybody is making a lot of money, and having fun. There have been a lot of people because it has been such good weather.”

(Clarification to readers: “Good weather” to the skiing industry would be the snow and cold many people have a difficult time dealing with.)

Heatherly, an avid snowboarder, said skiers and other winter-weather lovers didn’t let road conditions prevent them from getting to the slopes at resorts such as Cataloochee in Haywood County. Folks used four-wheel drive vehicles or put chains on their car tires.

N.C. Ski Areas Association defines “economic value” as the total value to the economy from the existence of ski areas. Winter value, employment value, capital improvements and economic multipliers were considered. The study looked from November to March as the “ski season” when compiling this report.

North Carolina has six ski areas: Cataloochee Ski Area, Sapphire Valley Ski Area, Ski Beech, Appalachian Ski Mountain, Wolf Ridge Ski Resort and Sugar Mountain Ski Resort.

Collectively, these ski areas provided 96 year-round jobs and 1,557 seasonal jobs during last year’s ski season. The industry generated over $32 million in gross revenue from ski area operations, including lift tickets, lessons, equipment rental, retail stores and food and beverages.

David Huskins, who heads the regional tourism group Smoky Mountain Host that is headquartered outside Franklin, said the rockslide and subsequent closure of Interstate 40 in the Pigeon Gorge section of Haywood County “obviously … impacted our region’s ski economy.”

“But, generally, reports are that it was offset by the continued natural snowfall through December-March 2010,” he added. “Good news for our region.”


Money breakdown on individuals at ski areas

(Per person spending, and percent of total)

Lift tickets/tubing/ice skating: $44.78; 33.5%

Ski/snowboard lessons: $5.75; 4.8%

Equipment rental/demo at ski area: $13.81; 10.7%

Equipment rental/demo at other N.C. locations: $1.97; 1.4%

Food/beverage/restaurants on mountain/base: $16.88; 13.2%

Food/beverage/restaurants in other N.C. cities: $14.22; 9.8%

Lodging accommodations (nightly rate): $18.88;14.4%

Shopping/gifts/souvenirs/retail stores: $9.04; 6.6%

Entertainment/activities: $3.85; 3.0%

Local transportation/rental car: $1.54; 1.6%

Other spending: $0.98; 0.9%

Total per person spending: $131.70  

Source: N.C. Ski Areas Association


09-10 statistics at N.C. ski areas

Total Visits: 671,554

Total Revenue: $32,526,608

Year-Round Employees: 96

Seasonal Employees: 1,557

Capital Expenditures: $3,341,237

Source: N.C. Ski Areas Association

Cataloochee collects coats, food for the needy

Cataloochee Ski Area continued a long tradition of holiday giving to the local community recently with its 9th Annual Can-U-Ski Food and Coat Drive.  

Cataloochee skiers and riders turned out in record numbers to participate in the area’s annual event benefiting Haywood Christian Ministries.

Thousands of cans of food and hundreds of coats were donated to the area during the event. All donations will be given to the local non-profit organization in order to stock its pantry for the Christmas holiday season.

Skiers and boarders from across the Southeast came to Maggie Valley to take part where ten cans of food or a winter coat could be redeemed for a free lift ticket for the day.

“What better way to start the season of giving than by giving back to your local community to folks in need.” said Chris Bates, Cataloochee Ski Area general manager. “We appreciate all of our guests who participated in this worthwhile event and thank them for their support.”

Many customers showed up at the ticket window on Sunday with more than the minimum required to be able to ski for free.

Cataloochee’s 50th season off to a great white start

Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley is off to another strong start to its season.

“We’ve been open since Nov. 6,” said Cataloochee General Manager Chris Bates. “We have a base of anywhere between 18 to 80 inches. And the weather for snowmaking looks great for the next couple of weeks.”

Currently there are 11 trails and three lifts operating over a groomed surface.

Despite a lot of equipment upgrades during this offseason, Cataloochee ticket prices will remain the same for this season and all of the ski area’s great programs like Family Day, which starts Jan. 12, will be in place.

According to Bates, last Sunday’s partnership with Haywood Christian Ministries drew its largest crowd ever.

“And we are happy to be able to partner with them to make a difference in the community,” he said.

Additions to enhance skiing at Cataloochee this year include 30 new snowmakers and two new grooming tractors. Bates said the advance in equipment and computerization since Cataloochee revamped in 2004 has been amazing. “It’s like going from a car that gets 18 miles to the gallon to one that gets 35 miles to the gallon.”

The new equipment and dip in temperatures are really aiding Cataloochee’s snowmaking abilities. “We can make snow at 28 degrees,” Bates said, “but with the new equipment and technology, when the temperature falls to 7 degrees, like now, our capacity increases 25 fold.”

Cataloochee also boasts over 4,000 sets of snow sports equipment. According to Bates that includes 700 new pairs of rental skis.

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