A Lift to Winter Tourism, Cataloochee

Skiing at Cataloochee in February 1964. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.On September 11, 1961, North Carolina’s first ski resort, Cataloochee Ski Slopes, was incorporated. The Haywood County recreation area opened to skiers on December 22.

Tom Alexander, the resort’s owner, was a true pioneer, as Cataloochee was not only the first ski resort in the state, but the first south of Virginia. He and wife Judith operated Cataloochee Ranch on top of Fie Top Mountain, which offered horseback riding, fishing, hiking and lodge and cabin accommodations during the summer months.

The plan for an all-season resort was driven in part by Alexander’s desire to keep his staff employed year-round.

Because skiing was new  to the area, Alexander and his family had to learn by trial and error about such things as creating a functioning tow line. In order to cater to novice southern skiers, Cataloochee’s first slopes were not steep and had no turns or moguls.

The novelty quickly attracted visitors from across the South and was a boon to local hotel and cottage court owners, who were delighted when their accommodations booked up during the winter months.

North Carolina now boasts six ski resorts in a number of western counties, contributing significantly to winter tourism in the region.

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