Top 5 Winter Sports Hubs in the Great Smoky MountainsFebruary 23, 2021
The Great Smoky Mountains located in east Tennessee are known first and foremost for the natural beauty of their gentle slopes, making them a prime location for a variety of winter sports. Outdoor adventure enthusiasts, alpine shredders and nature-lovers regularly travel from all across the country to experience the range of exhilarating things to do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg like skiing, snowboarding, hiking, ziplining and so much more. Before embarking on your wintry vacation in the snow-kissed mountains, get the insider’s scoop on the area’s top outdoor adventures and sports hubs.
Ober Gatlinburg is Tennessee’s #1 center for winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing and ice skating. Ski season begins mid-December and typically lasts through mid-March, giving you plenty of time to pack your boards and snow gear before it’s too late. The best part is you don’t have to be a pro athlete to enjoy the slopes. Beginners looking for guidance to get started and amateurs looking to level up their skills are encouraged to book group or private ski and snowboarding lessons with mentors from Professional Ski Instructors of America. Plus, snowboarding and skiing gear are available for rent.
This all-seasons adventure park is so much more than just a collection of beginner, intermediate and advanced snow slopes. Ober Gatlinburg is also a multi-faceted entertainment center, complete with its own indoor shopping mall, unique eateries and amusement rides. Don’t miss out on the Scenic Chairlift, which carries you to the top of Mount Harrison for panoramic views of Douglas Lake, Mount LeConte and downtown Gatlinburg. Come for the gnar shredding, and discover the spectacular views and family-friendly recreation.
Pigeon Forge Snow
When you want to dive into fun snowy rides but aren’t feeling up for suffering the cold weather, Pigeon Forge Snow gives you the best of both worlds. At the nation’s first indoor snow tubing park, the air temperature averages at a balmy 65 degrees while state-of-the-art snowmakers produce genuine water-based snow free of harmful additives. Enter the 35,000-square-foot winter wonderland and race your friends or family members down the snow tubing hills. Afterward, check out the Snow Play area to kick off a snowball fight complete with snow forts and plenty of open space to construct cute snowmen and snow angels. Parents will love to catch a break on the second floor overlooking the kids’ play area, where guests are invited to relax with some hot cocoa and munchies from the snack bar. Pigeon Forge Snow makes snow tubing accessible and fun for all ages, no matter the time of year.
CLIMB Works Zipline
Even if snow sports aren’t your thing, the variety of adventure activities there are in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg will keep you busy for countless hours of fun. With over 14 different outdoor experiences, CLIMB Works Zipline is one of Gatlinburg’s premier ways to experience the breathtaking beauty of the mountains. Their three nature-driven, expert-guided zipline tours are not only thrilling rides that challenge your boldness and awaken your senses, but they are also opportunities to view and learn about the rich natural history of the mountains. Aside from zipping nine times over treetops and mountain ridges from over 5,000 feet in the air, their zipline tours uniquely incorporate ATV rides, sky bridges and even a rappel at the very end of the tour. Spend up to 2.5 hours rediscovering the forests, streams, skylines and wildlife of the Great Smoky Mountains from an extraordinary, high-reaching perspective.
Nantahala Outdoor Center
The Nantahala River has brought millions of visitors to its banks over the decades. Since 1972, the Nantahala Outdoor Center has played a central role in providing a sensational and safe way for nature enthusiasts to experience its glory. Today, they are the leader in whitewater rafting not only for the Nantahala River but also for the Pigeon River and four other Southeastern rivers. While whitewater rafting may be too cold for the winter months, Nantahala Outdoor Center also excels in ziplining and hiking tours. Their five aerial zip lines soar at top speeds over the Great Smoky Mountains and Nantahala Gorge in Western North Carolina. The educational hiking tours are guided by A Walk in the Woods experts, who escort you through beautiful fields, ridges and waterfalls. At the end of your nature excursions, you can even come home to their comfortable cabins, bunkhouses, motel or campgrounds. Don’t forget to check out their store for boats, footwear, apparel and more to stock up on your favorite outdoor gear. Nantahala Outdoor Center is a must for outdoor adventure seekers of all skill levels.
Outdoor Gravity Park
Have you ever heard of zorbing? This unconventional sport of rolling through terrain inside a giant orb-like plastic ball was invented 6,000 miles across the ocean in New Zealand and is now available at Outdoor Gravity Park in Pigeon Forge. In an enormous 11-foot by 11-foot OGO, you will go careening down a 1,000-foot grassy slope, bouncing and tumbling and sliding all around the cushy inside. While the standard zorbing experience includes several gallons of water inside the ball for uproarious splashing fun, the DRYGO is available for visitors during the colder seasons, generally from November through March. With three high-speed and zig-zagging tracks, Outdoor Gravity Park is the only place in the entire United States where you’ll find this outrageous New Zealand zorbing experience.
Wintertime is as good a time for travel as any other season when there is so much outdoor fun to explore in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Experienced and beginner winter sports athletes will revel in the skiing and snowboarding haven of Ober Gatlinburg, while the ziplines at Nantahala Outdoor Center and CLIMB Works Zipline delight nature-lovers with magnificent mountain views. All-ages winter sports aren’t limited to the chilly outdoors at Pigeon Forge Snow, nor do they remotely resemble anything boring at the unusual zorbing arena at Outdoor Gravity Park. Winter sports aficionados of all kinds can look forward to their next vacation among the prime outdoor hubs of the Great Smoky Mountains.