The Upstate doesn’t see much snow each year, but the little it does get might whet your family’s appetite for more. The good news is that one of the most affordable places to enjoy more snow is only a couple of hours away in Jackson County, North Carolina.
The Sapphire Valley Ski Area and Frozen Falls Tube Park is part of a 5,700-acre resort tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and its slogan is “affordable skiing, snowboarding, and tubing for the entire family.”
If snow tubing isn’t your thing, don’t worry. The area has plenty of other attractions to offer to families looking for a quick weekend getaway.
“One of the reasons we’re such a popular destination is that we’re only a couple of hours from Greenville, which makes it attractive to load the kids in the car and get away to the mountains,” said Nick Breedlove, director of the Jackson County Tourism Development Authority. “One of the most frequent comments I hear from visitors is that they’re trying to get out of the city and away from the rat race for a weekend of relaxation.”
Whether you’re looking for a weekend of fun in the snow or simply want to explore the trails, lakes and mountain towns of Jackson County, the area is a playground for families — and one that won’t break your budget, Breedlove said.
Sapphire Valley Ski Area
The Sapphire Valley Ski Resort in Western North Carolina is nestled in one of the most scenic corners of Jackson County and specializes in family activities in the snow. Its ski area features a 1,600-foot main run with a vertical drop of 200 feet, state-of-the-art quad lift, learning slope and multiple lane tube park. Lift tickets include rental equipment, and lodging is available at the resort and through nearby rentals.
“Families are budget conscious, so Sapphire Valley offers a way for them to get away and enjoy skiing and snow tubing for a day or two without the heavy expense usually associated with many ski resorts,” Breedlove said.
The tube park offers 1.75-hour sessions for $28 or $21 for those lodging at the resort. Cost of lift, ski and snowboard rentals range from $15.75 for children to $63 for adults. On-site lodging guests benefit from full amenity privileges and additional discounts as well as three on-site restaurants.
The newest addition to the resort is The Vordach, a zip line canopy challenge course that sends guests through the trees and over the tube hill. Breedlove said the resort recently invested $1 million in snowmaking equipment so that the slopes are always covered in snow.
If you’re looking for a unique experience on a ski slope, consider visiting Feb. 18 for the 11th annual Outhouse Races, where outhouses on skis are raced down the ski slopes.
It’s a wacky event that always draws a crowd, Breedlove said.
“Kids especially seem to enjoy that event,” he said.
The Sapphire Valley Ski Area is close to several popular attractions, including Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Resort in nearby Cherokee, North Carolina.
“Parents will often take time for themselves to visit the casino for a show or to play in the casino,” Breedlove said. “We’re also home to the Jackson County Ale Trail in Sylva, which is three breweries within a mile of each other. Each one of them has their own distinctive offerings, and people also bring their kids there because these breweries have great food, non-alcoholic drinks, and they have games for children to play with.”
The majority of visitors to Jackson County come for outdoor recreation, he added, and the average daily rate for most hotels in Jackson County is around $100 a night.
“We have repeat travelers I’ve spoken with who started coming here when they were kids with their families, and now they come back every year with their own children,” he said.
If outdoor fun is your intent, Breedlove recommends Pinnacle Park, an 1,100-acre park located in Sylva full of hiking trails, waterfalls and beautiful vistas.
“I remember being a kid when I was 10 years old and my dad taking me on that hike, and it’s one of my fondest memories,” he said. “It’s a beautiful hike any time of the year, and then you get to the top and see a 270-degree view that is unparalleled.”
Panther Town Valley is another mecca for nature lovers, and it’s known as the Yosemite of the East, Breedlove said.
“It has almost a dozen waterfalls, you’ll see wildlife, there are camping opportunities, and it’s simply a wonderful place to visit if you love the outdoors,” he said.
Love to eat?
Jackson County is home to many excellent farm-to-table restaurants, and many are family friendly, Breedlove said. He recommends that parents looking for a date night stop by Library Kitchen & Bar for five-star dining inside Sapphire Valley’s historic library building.
Kids will love Slab Town Pizza in nearby Cashiers, North Carolina, where guests can create their own pizzas.
“No matter which part of Jackson County you’re in, there are a lot of grab and go food options available, but you’ll also find original, one-of-a-kind restaurants throughout Sapphire Valley, Sylva and Cashiers,” he said.
A few more recommendations include Grandpop’s Ice-Cream Parlor in Cashiers and the Sapphire Mountain Brewing Company in Sapphire.
“There are so many things to do for both kids and parents here, you won’t find a better family destination within driving distance,” he said. “Plus, whether you’re enjoying a day on the slopes or taking a hike to a waterfall, this is the kind of trip that will enhance your family bond.”
You can go
Sapphire Valley Ski Area
127 Cherokee Trail, Sapphire Valley, North Carolina
Learn more about Jackson County at www.discover