Surrounded by mountain ridges on every side, Gatlinburg, Tennessee is one of the Volunteer states’ most-visited year-round tourist destinations, especially during winter months when Tennessee’s only ski resort, Ober Gatlinburg, hosts thousands of winter sports enthusiasts. Gatlinburg’s unique geographical location provides near-perfect conditions for all winter sports activities, and with Knoxville only an hour’s drive away, the region is easily accessible.
Originally a private ski resort (Gatlinburg Ski Resort) when it opened in 1962, the facility was a fairly ‘bare bones’ operation in the early years, and it wasn’t until real estate developer Claude Anders, inspired by a visit to European ski resort regions, financed and constructed (in 1972) the Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway, an instant attraction that dramatically increased the overall profile of Gatlinburg. Still, the resort struggled to remain profitable. In the mid-70s, the Anders family purchased the resort and merged it with the Tramway, subsequently creating Ober Gatlinburg.
Four-decades-plus later, Ober Gatlinburg has become one of the East Coast’s favorite year-round tourist destinations, attracting thousands of visitors annually. Gatlinburg’s close proximity to neighboring Great Smoky Mountains National Park is undeniably an asset, but the Ober Gatlinburg team has done a remarkable job in developing its own distinctive brand, providing visitors with everything they could possibly want for a family vacation or just a weekend getaway.
SKIING in GATLINBURG
Featuring ten ski trails, three chairlifts, indoor and outdoor skating rinks, a terrain park, a snow tubing park and numerous ski equipment retailers, Ober Gatlinburg provides almost limitless activities and facilities for recreational winter sports enthusiasts. In addition, they have 100% snowmaking capability, and a dedicated, highly-trained maintenance staff that makes certain their surfaces are top-level. Younger visitors will discover there are more than ample activities to keep them entertained, whether it’s developing their skating and tubing skills, or exploring the arcade games, mazes, mini-golf and countless other attractions at Kiddie Land.
Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort is open year round 7 days a week (other than an 11-day maintenance period in late May – early April), with operating hours: Weekends – 7:45 AM-10:00 PM (9:00 PM on Sundays); Weekdays – 9:45 AM-10:00 PM. Depending on which time of the year you visit, it’s recommended that you dress accordingly, keeping in mind that the mountains can become chilly after dark, even in summer. Otherwise, the best suggestion is to bring along plenty of energy, because there is plenty to see and do.
DINING, SHOPPING & ENTERTAINMENT
After an exhilarating day on the slopes, a ‘can’t-miss’ offering is the Gatlinburg Mountain Mall, centrally located in downtown. The unique shopping experience found here encompasses virtually every imaginable type of retailer, from local arts & crafts, antique stores, bookstores, major clothing manufacturers, jewelers, art galleries and too many others to mention. ‘Foodies’ won’t have to look far to find a convenient cafe, snack bar, diner or restaurant in which to indulge their appetites, and the variety of cuisine choices is nearly unlimited.
Other popular Gatlinburg attractions include: Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, the Guinness World of Records Museum, Haunted Adventure, Doc’s Magic Castle, and a mere ten-mile drive away is Dollywood Family Amusement Park.