Snow Skiing Season in Full Swing at Ober Gatlinburg
It’s been a good season at Ober Gatlinburg. “It has been much better than the last couple years,” says Richard Pajaro, mountain manager at the resort. “We were able to start on Nov. 29 and we haven’t been able to start that early in 25 years.”
Ober Gatlinburg, Tennessee’s only snow skiing resort, has been open for business since 1962 — all through the good and bad at the whims of the weather.
“We are definitely on the edge weather-wise. Sometimes it takes everything we have to open up everything we have,” says Pajaro. “If it wasn’t for the millions of gallons of water we have available for making snow, we wouldn’t be able to operate.”
Coworkers call him “Cube” as in ice cube. He explains there are a number of ponds on the property. When a cold snap hits, like the one the first week of January, the staff has the snow blowers going round the clock. Because of that, on a recent weekend with the temperature in the high 40s the ski slopes and snow tubing park were busy.
The children love those snow tubes. Bundled up in colorful snow outfits, they cart their air-filled tubes to the top of the slope then squeal with excitement on the quick ride down. Meanwhile, skiers leave their cozy seats around fireplaces in the lodge to try out the slopes. Though busy, the lift lines aren’t usually long.
This ski destination has an interesting mix of skiers. The resort nestled in the Smoky Mountains attracts a high percentage of first-time skiers. They just want to give it a try while they are on vacation in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. “During the holidays, we have a lot of people coming up from Florida. Then we get people from Louisiana, who are trying to get out of New Orleans when Mardi Gras is going on,” says Cube.
Plenty of locals buy season passes and hit the slopes during all the winter months. And there is more to do than just ski.
“A lot of people take the scenic chair lift; others go on the alpine slide. We want everyone to have the opportunity to do something.” The resort also includes a skating rink, lounge, restaurant and shops.
Guests can also take the Aerial Tramway from downtown Gatlinburg to the slopes, which for many is the highlight of their entire visit. The view of the snowcapped Smoky Mountains is priceless.
Cube is most proud of the visitors coming Jan. 27-28 when the winter Special Olympics Tennessee Winter Games return to the snow slopes and skating rink.
“We ski the torch down the slope to open the Games. It is something to see,” says Cube.
The ski season at Ober Gatlinburg usually runs until mid-March, so there is still plenty of time to give it a try.