Gatlinburg, TN

Ober Gatlinburg Preps for Ski Season after Warm Start and Temperature Inversions

John M. Dabbs

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Winter snow and the Ober TramwayOber Gatlinburg

Ski-quality snow has not been on the radar until recently this winter at Ober Gatlinburg. The warm start to winter with a warm December didn't help. Temperature inversions plagued the Smoky Mountains area and kept warmer air in the mountains and cooler air in the valleys until recently.

Recent storms helping

As of noon Friday, the slopes aren't open yet. They are making snow as best they can, with Mother Nature finally giving them a helping hand with the recent cold and snow moving into the region. When asked, they kindly avoid making guesses as to when the slopes will be open. They ask everyone to keep an eye on their website for the latest information. They hope to get the slopes open as soon as possible.

Dealing with warmth

Operators at the ski area and amusement park have been keeping visitors occupied with their other amenities. Many people aren't aware of the indoor ice rink, shops, ski-mountain coaster, snow tubing, ice bumper cars, the carousel, and the wildlife encounter area. There are more amenities available in the warmer months too.

Being one of the Smokies' top winter destinations, Ober Gatlinburg normally provides a great place to ski. Their slopes are beginner-friendly, with professional lessons available and an easily accessible beginner's area. It's not all easy slope country either. The ski area has fun trails for experts and experienced skiers, with intermediate and black diamond runs.

Access

Getting to Ober Gatlinburg, you can take the Aerial Tramway from downtown Gatlinburg and ride it to the top of the mountain. Ober's aerial tramway is one of the largest in the US. Riding the tramway, you'll travel just over two miles from downtown to reach Ober Gatlinburg. They run every 20 minutes and have a 120 passenger capacity on each tram.

Driving is another way to reach Ober'. By turning off the Parkway at traffic light #10, you'll find yourself on Ski Mountain Road. As with downtown Gatlinburg, there is limited parking available. You may also find the road restricted to four-wheel-drive vehicles during inclement weather. The restriction is for your safety and that of other motorists and residents.

Skiing

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Family skiingOber Gatlinburg

The slopes here feature terrain for skiers at all levels - beginner, intermediate, and expert. Purchasing a ticket to the ski area will give you unlimited access to the slopes and lifts for the session. You'll be able to ski or snowboard. Session tickets vary. You can purchase them for full-day, twilight, and night sessions. They also have multi-day session tickets. When planning your ski trip to Ober, you'll want to check out their slope report for the latest conditions and trail openings.

Lessons

The "Ski School" slope is a great place to practice. Lessons are available for beginners and advanced skiers on the mountain. Beginners are encouraged to start in a group lesson, where beginners are grouped together for learning in an environment without any pressure. The beginners will go through the basics on the Ski School slope and can practice using the "Magic Carpet" surface lift.

Once you get your feet under you, if you feel a need for more personal attention instead of practicing on your own, you can schedule private lessons. These are available for skiers of all ski levels too.

Clothing and gear

The shops at Ober Gatlinburg carry a variety of clothing and equipment. You can find the latest trends and gear for purchase. You can also find something to keep you a little warmer too, if you didn't dress for the weather.

If you're just here on vacation and didn't bring your own gear, you can rent clothing and equipment. There are no equipment or clothing reservations, so it's all first-come, first-served. On the bright side, you'll be able to rent anything you need here. You can find snowboards, skis, poles, helmets, jackets, bibs/pants, and other items.

One note of caution - daily gear rentals must be returned at the end of the day, or you'll be charged for another day.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Bristol, TN
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