Some people don’t care much for winter and the cold weather that comes with it. But for many others, that’s just when the fun gets started, thanks to places like Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort. Its powdery slopes are the region’s number-one destination for skiers, snowboarders and snow tubers, and when the mercury drops, things really kick into high gear atop Mt. Harrison.
Downhill skiers and snowboarders can choose from as many as nine different trails (the number open on any given day depends on the amount of snowfall), which vary in difficulty, depending on the skier’s level of experience. Seven lifts are ready to transport guests from the main resort to the tops of the respective slopes. There’s even a freestyle terrain park for riders who want to take their skills to the next level.
For those who have never tried their hand at skiing, Ober Gatlinburg offers lessons at the Snowsport Center. Guests can even rent gear, including skis, boards, poles and boots as well as a limited number of helmets, jackets and pants.
Those who want to enjoy the thrill of speeding downhill but don’t want to take on the learning curve of skiing or boarding will enjoy the ease and simplicity of Ober Gatlinburg’s 10-lane snow-tubing course. Just take the Magic Carpet escalator to the top of the hill, plop down in an inner tube and enjoy the multiple peaks and dips that make up the downhill glide.
Because of the resort’s elevation, there’s usually a natural base of snowfall on the mountaintop, but when nature doesn’t pull its weight, Ober Gatlinburg is on hand to top off the surface with its own manufactured powder. So guests typically can enjoy the benefits of all snow-related activities from December through February.
But even during periods where there’s not a lot of snow (including the warmer seasons), there are still several ways to have fun on the slopes of Mt. Harrison. Ober offers a scenic chairlift that provides stunning views of Gatlinburg and surrounding mountains, and the Ski Mountain Coaster is an exciting way to wind down the mountainside at high speed.
In addition, the main facility features an indoor ice-skating rink and a wildlife habitat that’s home to black bears, river otters and several species of nocturnal critters like raccoons, skunks, flying squirrels and snakes. Finally, you can round out your Ober Gatlinburg experience with a wide variety of shops and a full-service restaurant.
To get to Ober Gatlinburg, you can drive to the top of Mt. Harrison via Ski Mountain Rd., but the easiest and most scenic way is to take the Aerial Tramway from the boarding station on the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg. The tramcars, both of which can accommodate as many as 120 guests, offer breathtaking views of the Smokies on their 2.1-mile trek up the mountainside.