Food Feature: Things that go Boone

North Carolina's powdered Sugar offers a last taste of winter

For cultural opportunities in music, art and theater, Atlanta is a great city where variety abounds.

I can't say the same about the terrain. It's a ho-hum mix of foothills and small trickles of water — no beach, no mountains. This means that to enjoy extreme environments, a person must hit the road. After weeks of Salt Lake winter sports-overload, I was ready for some snowboarding. It's easily found five hours away in the cozy mountain town of Boone, N.C.

I headed north into the Appalachian Mountains to the snowy bosom of the High Country Inn, which caters to skiers and people visiting nearby Appalachian State University. There are three ski resorts in the immediate area: Sugar Mountain Resort, Ski Beech and Appalachian Ski Mtn. There used to be a fourth, Hawksnest, but just this year it closed its doors to skiing and boarding and now only offers tubing (think waterslides made out of snow). We chose Sugar for its 1,200-foot vertical drop, 1 1/2-mile run from top to bottom, and five chairlifts. Starting March 4, Sugar is offering "March Madness" pricing. Full-day weekend tickets are only $37 (compared to the regular $49). Rentals also are reduced. March Madness continues until the end of the season (usually before March 20) — still time to get those last runs in.

My friends and I jumped the lifts as soon as possible, at 9 a.m. When we reached the mountain top, the sky was clear and blue. A fog covered the mid-section of the mountain, but it had burned off toward the end of the morning, leaving a beautiful sunny day. By then the temperature had climbed into the mid-40s. We couldn't have created a better day for hitting the snow.

All four of us are at the same skill level, so we roamed the mountain as a pack. The three "youngsters" are full snowboarding converts, but Uncle Dave still rides the two planks.

As far as snowboarding goes, Sugar has a small but nice terrain park serviced by its own tow lift. It features about three different sized jumps and a few rails to slide across if you don't mind risking falling on them. While Chance and I enjoyed the jumps, Eric braved the rails.

For those who don't snow or skateboard, a rail is like a handrail (that would normally guide a person down a flight of steps) that you would see a skateboarder slide down. But here, it's placed in the snow at the end of a small jump. You can ride snowboards anywhere on the mountain, but the terrain park features jumps and rails only for snowboards. It's like a skateboard park in the snow.

Our favorite run was down "Tom Terrific." An exposed boulder at the top would be something for most people to avoid, but our daredevil buddy, Eric, launched over it into the moguls below every time. The other expert runs were less crowded but eventually spilled out into the intermediate runs, where you had to avoid slow skiers instead of moguls. I would guess that almost 40 percent of the people on the mountain were snowboarders, showing that the sport has really grown in popularity over the past decade. Most boarders used to ski, and the transition can be difficult. The end of your first day boarding is greeted with the sorest rear-end you will ever have. But after that, the learning curve is very fast.

We boarded nonstop, until eventually we were kicked off the mountain and forced to go back to the High Country in Boone. Seems that just because they stop running lifts, a person has to stop running the mountain. But we were back as soon as possible the next day. There was no fog, only sun, which sent the temperature up into the 50s. There is nothing better than spring skiing, and we took full advantage by getting in as many runs as possible.

A tent had been set up in the terrain park for a snowboarding competition. Music blasted and announcers kept everyone informed as to whose turn it was to show their stuff. Once the contest got under way we couldn't use the park, but we'd stop by on our runs down to check out the competitors. We saw a few impressive back flips, but it didn't look like anyone was ready for the X-Games quite yet.

Sugar Mountain is just big enough to keep you interested for a weekend, but it's not quite big enough for an extended trip like many resorts out West. And even though the day went by quicker than I'd hoped, I wasn't too upset when, yet again, we were kicked off the mountain. We changed out of our snow gear and headed back to Atlanta. Even though I was ready to go home, it's nice to know that there's a good place within driving distance to stretch the legs and eat some snow. And March Madness leaves just enough time to squeeze in another trip. ?travel@creativeloafing.com??

Where to Eat
Food Events