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SPECIAL THANKS TO CONTRIBUTORS
Sheila Shoemaker Watson Richard Eller
Sheree Chalfant Troy Carson Sailor
Dianne Taylor Doug Washer
4 Liz Goebelbecker
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David Zealy Wright
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Letter from Editor
In the Foothills, winter is a beautiful, but sometimes frightful thing. More than any other time of the year, we are
at the mercy of nature. Winter has always been a time of coming together and this winter is no different. We do
hope that this magazine will foster communication and conversation and bring you closer to your family and friends.
At Foothills Digest, this winter brings exciting news: we have a new business partner! My husband Jon and I
are BEYOND thrilled to welcome Joey Osborne to our team. There is nothing Jon and I enjoy more than making a
magazine that is both pretty and interesting, but our strengths lie there, not in business details. We think Joey is
brilliant business man, and I just can’t explain how tickled we are to have him on our team. We are pictured below
with our dogs Roxie, Luna and Ritchie, all Norfolk Terriers.
This issue marks the beginning of our children’s book program. Each magazine that is purchased sponsors a free
educational and entertaining children’s magazine for a student in area schools. We will distribute over 5,000 copies
of the kid’s magazine this winter and we will continue to grow this program.
We are also printing domestically for the first time, which has been a major goal since we began the magazine. We
thank you for your patience as we’ve perfected our printing, and we hope you continue to forgive our imperfections as
we are settling into a new printing routine and working out the details.
Contents WINTER 2019
7 Letter from the editor 58 Groundhogs in the Foothills
10 Old-Time Winter 62 Chuck
16 Snow Sports 64 Snowflakes
26 The Mythic Airline 66 Fox & Hound
34 The Winter of 1960 70 Come and Eat
36 Winterfest in Blowing Rock 72 The High Cost of Free Fuel
42 On Location in the Mountains 74 Sweet ‘Taters
48 One-Tank Trip 78 Recipes
84 Catawba Valley’s Hidden Page 26
Treasures 116 Knowing You
120 A Guide to Men’s Health
86 A Grand Vision 122 Where The Wild Things Are: A Look
90 Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn
94 The Folk Keepers at How We Look at Scripture
100 The Quiet Sophistication of
Animal Hides 126 Dear David
129 Eventfully Yours
102 Winter Style 130 Rosemary’s Remembrances
108 Southern Charm Star Teams up 134 A Winter’s Ride
136 A Winter Bluejay
with Donna Steele 138 You Ol’ Noisy Girls
112 A Winter Wonderland in the
Carson L. Sailor, MA
At a Cracker Barrel or local breakfast joint in Anytown USA, there
sits a table of old timers, mostly comprised of the recently and not-
so-recently retired. As soon as the weather starts to chill, this team
of experience-taught meteorologists will start calling for an Old-
Time Winter, like the days of yore where the snow was “twice as
high, the temperature was twice as low, and lasted twice as long.”
Most of us brush off these tales as exaggerated stories or tall tales.
However, it turns out Old-Time Winters were much colder than
those we experience. The truth of the matter is that the winters
of our ancestors were absolutely more brutal than what we face
today. Imagine sitting in a cabin on the frontier while leafless tree
limbs reach like skeletal fingers towards the sky...being alone with
your family on a ridge while 40-mile an-hour howling winds beat
across your home. Winter, for most of human history, has not been a
Thomas Kinkade painting.
It was a time to be feared.
Winter was the time when all of your shortcomings during
preparation and harvests were exposed. Using tried and true
practices and folk beliefs our ancestors made sure their bodies and
minds made it safely through the darkest season of the year.
From the time of the first settlements in the New World, up
through the days of Revolutionary War, the Earth was experiencing
a miniature Ice Age. Winters were much longer and much colder
than the ones we experience today. The Continental Army’s winter
at Valley Forge was far worse than we can imagine. It is important
to remember that the settlers of the Foothills and Mountains of
Western North Carolina were mostly of European descent, including
English, Scottish, Irish, and Germans residents. All of these areas
also had very harsh winter climates, which provided the settlers
with a good baseline of knowledge. They combined this knowledge with the teachings
of Native Americans to create the winter traditions we know today.
But before we talk about traditions we need to look at the practical steps that were
taken to survive the winter. Wool would have been the fabric of choice for Europeans
and Natives alike by the mid 18th Century. Wool blankets were one of the most hot-
ticket trade items on the frontier. Today we consider wool to be a scratchy material
that makes ugly Christmas sweaters, but wool has an incredible warming property.
Wool, spun from the shorn hair of sheep, will keep you warm even when wet and it
also dries from the inside out. This helps your body and under layers dry out far faster
when the outer layer is whool than when it’s leather or cotton. This was an incredibly
important technology because waterproof materials were hard to come by.
In the 18th Century, homes in the region were designed solely around heat
management. Low ceilings, no windows, and a massive fireplace were staples
for winter survival. Many small cabins also had doors mirrored on each side of the
cabin. In the summer months, they served as a breezeway; in the winter it helped to
move the live stock in and out of the house. Many farmers and frontier people slept
with their animals in the home for additional heat and to protect the animals from
the harsh elements. In the winter the this time of year was a prime season for
fresh foods of the summer were gone gatherings. Imagine the joy that gathering
and most of the meals they ate were by a tavern’s fireplace must have brought
stews made from rehydrated, dried, early European settlers. The stories of the
and salted ingredients. Coupled with Native Americans consisted of creation
the fact that the days were very short myths and fables while European stories
and the nights seemingly unending, its focused on biblical themes, ghost stories,
clear that winter was a dark time. The hunting tales, and of course Christmas
hearty settlers and Native Americans traditions.
turned to social activities to pass the
long months. Christmas was a special time of the year
for settlers, but is much different that the
Storytelling is perhaps the most holiday we know today. The celebration
universal commonality between the stretched over 3 separate months from
winter traditions of Native Americans Nativity of Jesus on December 25th
and colonists. Both groups would until the Purification of the Virgin on
spend hours in taverns, homes or February 2nd. Throughout this time
long houses by the fire. Because of there were many celebrations including
the isolation that both the winter and Holy Innocents Day, Saint Stephen’s
rugged life forced on these people, Day, Saint John the Evangelist’s Day and
II’’ A New Year Ann
WW Arr Celebratinn Bii!
Focused On Vision,
50 More Years Focused On You!
the Feast of the Circumcision (oddly enough there seems to be two separate days
to celebrate the Circumcision of Christ). During this time there were family and
community meals, singing, dancing, and decorating. The celebration of Christmas in
the southern colonies is much more common than in puritan New England. In fact,
the holiday was outlawed in many northern colonies.
Conversely, areas with
Germanic populations had
even more wild Christmas
traditions, like Krampus the
Christmas Devil who would
kidnap bad children to punish
them. The importance, in our
neck of the woods, was placed
on fellowship with friends and
family, instead of on gift giving.
Winter in a historical context
is a fascinating subject.
Today lights, electric and gas
heaters, insulated and fast
transportation, and various
have greatly changed the way
we spend the season. Beneath
it all we are still a society
that suffers from seasonal
depression and longs for
connection during this dark
time of the year.
In many ways we aren’t that
different than the first settlers
who huddled by the fire with
their families telling stories to
pass the time on cold winter
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INSPIRING HOMES AROUND THE WORLD FOR OVER HALF A CENTURY
in the High Country
By Doug Washer
The first official ski resort in North Carolina opened back in 1961—Cataloochee Ranch and Ski
Area. And then by 1970, there were others- Appalachian Ski Mountain (1962, as Blowing
Rock Ski Lodge) Seven Devils (1966, later re-named Hawksnest, and now only offers
tubing), Beech Mountain (1967), Sugar Mountain (1969), and Wolf Laurel (c. 1970, later renamed Wolf
Ridge). Four other small slopes also were developed, but are now defunct.
Although the North Carolina mountains have winter weather that can rival the northern states, there
is really not enough natural snowfall to keep sufficient coverage on the slopes for an entire season.
The invention of artificial snowmaking made southern skiing a reality since the region does have
frequent sub-freezing temperatures, especially at night. Snowmaking is an art, and each mountain
has a team of experts who study the conditions and optimize the snow output, and at the most
economical cost. But it is expensive to produce snow. Electrical costs, water resources, and building
and maintaining the infrastructure are always major factors.
Man-made snow (and it is snow) has some advantage over natural snow. It can be more durable
and resist packing down and deteriorating as quickly as natural snow, under heavy skier traffic. But
in most cases, made-made snow will “ski” just the same as natural snow. Today’s quantity and
quality of snow, as well as the “grooming” (the smoothing of the surface with special tractors) are
vastly improved over the early days.
“Snowsports” has become the accepted term to include both skiing and snowboarding.
The snowsports season in North Carolina can be as lengthy as many resorts in the Northeast or
Western states. October 31st, in 2012, is reported to be the earliest opening date, and April 1st,
2018 is the latest closing date for a regular season. Both of these records were achieved by Sugar
Mountain, near Banner Elk. A typical season runs from about Thanksgiving to the second week of
March, and nature gives us only the amount of cold weather that she thinks we deserve every year.
“Ski Resort” is now really a historical term, since snowboarding has grown enormously since the
mid-1990’s, and roughly equals skiing in overall popularity. But ski resort is a bit simpler to use as a
term, so that’s what I call them. Snowboarding came along gradually. I saw my first snowboard
in 1979 at a ski shop in Boone (an early Burton model, with rubber waterski bindings). The first
two snowboarders I saw were at Sugar Mountain about 1984, and they were having a hard time of
it. Snowboarding got the cold shoulder for a few years at many resorts. Hawksnest, in the town
of Seven Devils, was an early adopter of the sport, in the late 1980’s if I recall correctly. By around
1993 or so, all the regional resorts were getting “on board”.
I got into the sport thanks to my parents, who took my younger brother and me to smaller ski areas
in the Adirondacks, not too far from our hometown at the time of Utica, NY. I was three. In 1965, we
moved to Hickory, and my father became a volunteer ski patroller on weekends at Seven Devils, and
the family would come up regularly. A bit later, we lived in France for two years, and my parents
put me on a bus a couple times each year to go to a children’s ski camp in the French Alps. Not
something that would happen today, with an 8-year old kid being sent on a week-long adventure
with no one he knows, especially when they can barely speak the language (on the initial trip,
anyway, with maybe only $5 in my pocket. Ahh.. the 60’s. Dangerous times, but no one knew
or cared. But it did help me develop independence to better enjoy traveling to new places.
Living in Arkansas for my teen years, I did not get to ski very often. There was a small ski resort
in Arkansas at the time (Marble Falls, near Harrison), and we went there a couple times. And a
couple trips to Ontario Canada to visit relatives, where we squeezed in a day of skiing here and
there. Then I transferred to Appalachian State in 1979 and started skiing as much as I could
afford (and it was a lean time for me). I recall finding a discount coupon and with my student pass
I could ski at Seven Devils for $4.00 on a weekday. I seemed to always pick the most brutally cold
and windy days or nights to go, and at least once found myself the only paying customer on the
hill. The chairlift operators weren’t too happy about having to leave their warming hut just to
attend the chair for one customer.
I always thought I might follow my dad as a ski patroller, but as it happened, I had a college
summer job as a “canoe rental technician”, and one of my fellow workers was the assistant
director at Sugar Mountain Ski School. He said, “Doug… you want to be ski instructor”. So, thanks
to him, I now have 37 consecutive seasons under my belt, as a Sugar Mountain ski instructor. I
started also teaching snowboarding in 1999, after some gentle persuasion for a few years from
my longtime boss, Snowsports School Director Len Bauer. As an additional note, I’ve made it a
lifetime goal to ski as many resorts as possible. My completed list is now at 87 resorts, including
all of the Top 50 in North America, as ranked by Ski Magazine. I like to think I’ve skied just about
every major slope in North America (still a couple more to go in British Columbia, and a couple in
Skiing or Snowboarding?
I often get asked what snow sport I like better. And I answer: “whichever one is on my feet”.
I really enjoy skiing and snowboarding equally, and I have been fortunate to have the time and
location to develop my skills in both sports. But time and money are typical constraints at various
times in our life, and some folks might try both, but then need to move forward with
one or the other. Each sport has its own small advantages and
disadvantages. Also note that for
snowboarding, we often refer to doing the
sport as “riding”, and a snowboarder as a
“rider”. But if you do one sport already, try
the other one!
Soon might be the first day of your
snowsports life…. will you be ready?
Preparation: The usual suspects: hat
(or MUCH better- a helmet!), gloves
or mittens, underlayers, overlayers,
water-resistant pants, either with bib-
style, or with suspenders. Now comes the
unusual suspects: ONE pair of THIN socks is more comfortable
than thick socks or double socks, and your skin will have better circulation and
stay warmer due to less constriction inside the
boot. Thin socks create less pressure points
that cause pain or blisters. Goggles will be
a must if it is cold, windy, snowy, rainy, or
nighttime. If you are skiing in the springtime,
it is suggested you carry also a lighter pair of
gloves, (lightweight work gloves are great),
in case it gets too warm. You should also
have a thinner jacket available, for when
the sun heats things up. And finally, I
typically use a soft fleece “turtle” that
keeps my neck warm and can be pulled
up over my lower face as needed.
Sunscreen is critical! I’ve learned to
apply it every single ski day before
I leave the house, whether it is foul weather or
not. I’ve been caught unprepared in lessons where the dark
skies leave for 15 minutes and the sun comes out briefly, and I’m in serious
jeopardy of sunburn.
Funny stuffed hats: You’re on your own with these. Wear at your own risk (of potential lack of
coolness). Neoprene face masks: Wear at your own risk. Weren’t cool—ever. Ball caps: Not
ideal, but still more common than they should be (remember – helmet is the way to go). Loose
scarves: NOT recommended- ever! They can catch on lift equipment, trees, poles, etc. For
really cold days, I like the fleece full-face balaclava with drawstring adjustment.
Helmet: A must for kids. For adults – highly recommended. You can usually rent helmets. Snug
up the chin strap, otherwise, the helmet is useless. Helmets should have a good fit, and not be
easily moved around as you grab it with both hands. The front of the helmet should be just over
the eyebrows for most people. But consult the helmet manufacturer or sales & rental shop for
specific fit and safety requirements.
Boots: After socks, boots are the most important part of the equipment list. For rentals, insist on
a pair that is in good condition and dry on the inside. Ski boots are stiff, and will feel unusual at
first, but stick with it. Take shorter steps to avoid slipping. All boots should fit snuggly but should
not be uncomfortable. Rental boots are sometimes a crap shoot to expect perfect comfort, but
if you buy your own eventually, you should be able to find boots that fit very well and will provide
better performance. Snowboard boots MUST be laced up snuggly! If not snug, don’t even try the
A helpful trick is to attach your slope pass (lift ticket) to a non-detachable clip on your pants,
instead of attached to the jacket. This will allow you to change jackets if necessary (warm days),
yet always have your pass with you. And it keeps the ticket from flapping under your chin all day.
Skis or Snowboards: Modern skis are much shorter and have more “shape” than ones from
olden days. A very basic rule of thumb on ski length is: with ski vertical resting on the ground –
somewhere around chin high for adult beginners, up to eye or forehead level for advanced skiers.
Child recommendation is typically from chest to chin level. You can go online to find sizing charts
for your height, weight, and skill level. Skis and snowboards are always sized in centimeters,
which makes it easy to understand if you are from any country outside of the U.S. One inch is
equal to about 2 ½ centimeters. Snowboard length is traditionally somewhere between chin and
nose. For a beginner, the exact length of the ski/board is not especially critical. If you buy your own
equipment, you can do research online, and a good sports shop will give excellent advice on dialing-
in the best length for you and the brand and model you are considering.
Bindings: These hold your feet on the skis or board. For beginners, nothing really needs to be
addressed. They are all pretty good these days. When you buy your own equipment, you can
research your choices till the cows come home. Ski bindings allow the foot to release if a fall occurs
(and most often will release when you fall, as the force on the ski increases). Snowboard bindings
keep your feet attached, but this is not a problem in most fall situations. Probably the biggest
difference between skis and snowboards is how the feet are attached to the equipment.
Skis and bindings are the same on each foot—you can put either ski on either foot. But snowboarding
requires the rider (or rental shop) to set up the bindings to face to one side or the other, depending
on the riders natural “direction”. “Regular Foot” riders place right foot forward for the “normal”
direction, and “Goofy Foot” riders (a term originated by surfers) place the left foot forward. As
you progress to intermediate, you will learn to easily ride opposite your “natural” direction, and this
is called riding “switch” (sometimes called “fakie”). How do you determine what is your natural
“direction”? I think the easiest method is to ask what foot you kick a ball with, and that is your
dominant foot—which goes to the back (the tail end). I occasionally see exceptions to this “rule”, but
Poles: Skiing only. Two of them. Call them “poles”, not “sticks”. They should each have a wrist
strap hanging down. Don’t get a rental pole that has a molded handguard instead of a strap. Pole
length is important but not critical for a beginner. To size a pole to your height, turn it upside down
and hold it underneath the round “basket”, standing in boots but not yet in skis. Your forearm should
be level to the ground, and not angling up or down. Wrist straps are important and need to be held
in a certain way to minimize the chance of thumb sprain if you fall down (for information, see “ski
When you rent equipment, keep your rental agreement in a safe place. And keep your eyes on your
equipment. Cheap insurance is to use the lockers, or the equipment valet (valets are much more
common at the larger western resorts). One trick with skis is to place one ski and pole at one ski
rack, and the other ski and pole at a distant rack or around the corner of the ski lodge. Rarely do
thieves want to steal one ski and pole. Snowboards are very easy prey, unfortunately. Ski/board
cable locks are fairly inexpensive and give a little piece of mind.
OK, you’ve got your equipment. Now what?
Take a lesson. Take a lesson. Take a lesson. Take a lesson.
Are you an intermediate or advanced skier or snowboard “rider” already? Take a lesson.
Group lessons are inexpensive and will get your career started much more safely and smoothly.
The downside of groups is you will only advance as fast as the slowest learners in the group—and
sometimes it does get SLOW in a big group. And beginner groups will almost NEVER proceed up on
Private lessons (which can include a group of friends or family) are a really good investment, for
beginners and especially for intermediate (second or third day) or advanced skiers. In private
lessons, feel free to request the type of instructor you wish: younger, older (experienced!), male,
female, for special needs, etc. Private lessons will progress as fast as you can handle the drills or
tasks, and the feedback is much more focused and personalized. And private lessons usually have
“lift privilege” so you get priority to ride the chairlift.
Private lessons can take many formats depending on what you want: work on a specific skill?
make beautiful round turns? ski/ride over bumps? (called “moguls) ski the steepest slopes with
confidence? “carve” the edges into the snow like being on railroad tracks? ski more effectively
in hard-packed conditions? (we don’t use the word “ice” in snowsports industry) perform basic
tricks? explore the mountain and find secret stashes of best snow? learn to ski/ride all day without
getting as tired? Out west, you might want to learn to ski amongst the trees, or in deep powder (the
ultimate in snow sports is to experience deep “bottomless” dry powder. Deep powder is rare, but not
completely unknown in North Carolina).
Most, if not all, North Carolina resorts employ some instructors with over 30 years of teaching
experience, and are certified by the Professional Ski Instructors Association, or the American
Association of Snowboard Instructors. The highest levels of certification takes years of training and
intensive testing (and money) to achieve. Certified instructors are required to take regular two-year
updates, at a minimum. So, instructors themselves are always “taking lessons”, even after decades
in the snowsports industry.
What can you do to prepare for a lesson?
I like to say “bring as many skills as you can to the table”. You consider yourself an athlete? It helps.
ANY prior skill is good to have: soccer, running, walking, tennis, yoga, gymnastics, biking, equestrian,
baseball, dancing, weightlifting, kayaking, martial arts, roller skating, surfing, skateboarding, etc.
Just don’t tell me you “snowboard” on video games. Yes- I get that a few times a season from the
kids, and they are being serious. If you have been sedentary for a few years, or if you realize you
are out of shape, you should consider checking with a doctor before getting on the slope. Skiing and
riding are designed to be active sports, and can be physically taxing. It helps to have good balancing
skills, but one of the benefits of snowsports is that you will IMPROVE your balance. Any age is
appropriate—seriously. I’ve had students in their 80’s – and I’ve known several instructors who
were still teaching into their 80’s.
Proper “stance” is key. The fundamentals are the same for skis or snowboarding. A “tall”, relaxed
posture. No crouching down. Head is up. Say again? Head is up. Looking at where you will be
wanting to go, not at your feet. You should feel comfortable just lightly bouncing up and down in
your boots. Flex and unflex your knees and ankles nice and easy. Feel your shins press against the
tongue of the boots. Feel like you are standing with more pressure on the balls of the feet — and
never feel the boot pressing on the calves (sitting back = bad). Hand and arm movement should be
minimal. “Quiet hands” = good skier/rider. And expanding on that thought… “Quiet upper body” is
key. Instructors will offer advice on hand and body position that is most effective and makes you
look like a pro.
Most beginner lessons follow this format: meet and greet, introduction to equipment, introduction
to proper stance, how to put on the skis/board, walking or pushing around on flat area, walking a
few steps up and down the hill, using the poles to push forward and backward across the hill (skiing
only), a little “sliding” or “gliding” run across the hill (gentle, slow, short), then more practice runs to
get better and better with a bit more speed and finesse on each try. Helpful hints are given along
the way, and the ultimate goal of a beginner lesson is to make some linked right and left turns. It
is easier than you might think. Turning is HOW you control your speed, and it is HOW you stop.
Turning is… everything. It is the ONLY reason that snowsports exist. And a proper lesson will also
review safety guidelines, an overview of how to ride the lifts, and where and how to ski/ride after
your lesson is over and as you progress to intermediate. After the lesson, take a little rest or snack
break, drink some water, and then come back out on the slope and get some “mileage”, using your
Most folks in a ski lesson can achieve the basic skills in 1 to 1 ½ hours. In my experience, snowboarding
has a steeper learning curve on the first day, so expect that things won’t always “click” with your
turns until at least into the second hour. But your first lesson is really is like learning how to ride a
bike— you don’t forget it. What you learn in your first lesson will stick with you for a lifetime. The
body never forgets the movement patterns. And the fundamentals you learn in a beginner lesson
will still be the fundamentals you use for the next 50 years, as you become an expert.
Instructors do work hard, and they are actually working for a fraction of the cost of the lesson. So
if you had a nice lesson, and you had fun and learned some
new skills, feel free to offer a tip. This is never expected
but always appreciated. Feel free to request your favorite
instructor for additional lessons, later on the same day,
or whenever you come back for another day or season. It is an
open secret that instructors tend to be some of the more fun and
interesting people in snowsports.
Oh, yes… falls. Everybody falls. Everybody. It is part of the sport.
You know you are improving when you fall less often. Experts fall
(I’m good for about one or two “official” falls a season). If you feel
yourself going into a fall, try to stay relaxed and “go limp” as you fall.
In a lot of fall situations, if you let yourself loosely “slide it out” on
the snow just a bit, rather than coming to an abrupt stop, it will make
things easier on your body. As I see it, falling on the slopes can give you useful experience for if you
encounter a fall situation in “real life” such as on wet grass or on an icy sidewalk.
And as a final comment… Be sure to familiarize yourself with the Skier/Rider Responsibility Code,
and the North Carolina Skier (and Rider) Act. This information is made available from by ski area,
and is usually posted in public areas and on the trail map or resort brochure. Read and understand
these points—they are extremely important and useful.
Skier Responsibility Code
1. Always stay in control, and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects.
2. People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.
3. You must not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above.
4. Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others.
5. Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
6. Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.
7. Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely.
Doug Washer has been teaching snowsports at Sugar Mountain Resort for 37 years. He and his wife Pam
reside in Blowing Rock. Doug’s brother, Bruce, and sister, Carolyn Sinclair, both of Hickory, also were ski
instructors at Sugar Mountain at one time or another.
Before we used them for fun, skis
were used for hunting during the
winter months, when walking on
2sn4ow was difficult and arduous.
Appalachian Ski Mtn
365 ft vertical, 12 trails, 6 lifts
Cataloochee Ski Area
740 ft vertical, 17 trails, 5 lifts
200 ft vertical, 2 trails, 1 lifts
830 ft vertical, 15 trails, 10 lifts, 95 skiable acres
Sugar Mountain Ski Resort
1200 ft vertical, 20 trails, 6 lifts, 115 skiable acres
Wolf Ridge Ski Slopes
700 ft vertical, 15 trails, 3 lifts, 72 skiable acres
Image is Piemont
By Richard Eller
North Carolinians are a resourceful bunch. flight. According to everyone, he scrimped on the
Given a problem, they solve it, with no things that didn’t matter to support the thing that
prodding nor fanfare needed. That’s why did: safety. As a result, Piedmont tested the first
at one time North Carolina proudly served collision-avoidance system in American aviation.
as headquarters to the nation’s best airline. “Pacemaker” planes were retrofitted with uniform
This company and its employees became instrument panels to improve pilot reaction times.
famous for customer service. Passengers During training at Piedmont, one pilot noted that
running late would call the terminal and find their flight school “showed you how to build the
the plane waiting for them. Ever efficient, plane” so pilots would have all the knowledge
the crew usually made up the time in the needed in case of emergency.
air. Employees of this Tarheel aviation
company refused to take a sick day because Piedmont flew into airports both big and small
the feared missing out on workplace in pursuit of customers. In some of the smaller
activities. For 40 years this airline proved stops, pilots kept the engine going on the opposite
how ingenious, dedicated (and friendly) North side of where passengers got on and off while the
Carolinians could be. It was all just part of crew unloaded and loaded baggage (sometimes
what it meant to “Fly Piedmont.” the co-pilot helped) in a span of three minutes
to help keep flights on schedule. Between
Piedmont Airlines flew its first flight on a Greensboro and Winston-Salem, Piedmont’s
cold February morning in 1948 with a route home base, planes were only in the air for 17
that took passengers over the Appalachians. minutes between runways. As a local service
Founder Tom Davis envisioned an “air bridge” airline Piedmont suffered nicknames like “puddle
over the mountains that would significantly jumper” and “Pete Who?” However, the hard
cut travel time on both sides of the divide. With work of crews to make each flight a positive one
a small fleet of used DC-3s, each uniquely began to build and with the coming of the 1960s,
christened with a regional “Pacemaker” name Piedmont’s reputation took off.
(like “Catawba Pacemaker” or “Sandhills
Pacemaker”), in the early days, the company More customers meant more flights. The
carried more mail than passengers. But as the company could afford newer planes (they were
still used) and eventually bought jets before the
1950s came and went, more people 1970s arrived. They even began to hire female
began to trust Piedmont to carry flight attendants. Maintenance chief Eddie Culler
them from their homes in the proudly claimed he never took a sick day; his
excitement for the job was so intense, he said he
Carolinas to stops like Cincinnati, didn’t want to miss a thing. He watched an airline
Ohio, and back. It wasn’t the build a stellar reputation. His coworkers reflected
most exotic destination, but it
was a start.
In its infancy, aviation
was something of a
didn’t expect much.
Piedmont passengers were
served a Coke and a Krispy Kreme
donut and felt privileged. As time passed,
amenities grew, but efficiently. Originally, a
practical CEO, Tom Davis wanted only male
flight attendants because they could handle
the sacks of mail that accompanied each
Flight attendant for Piedmont
Airlines at the Tri-cities Airport, 1959.
Photograph by David Peirce.
Courtesy of Archives of the City of Kingsport
this attitude; ticket agents, flight crew, said he’d fly Piedmont all the time if they kept
cleaners, mechanics, and just about everyone, that up.
saw Piedmont Airlines as much more than
only a job. One pilot revealed a common joke By 1984, Piedmont flew high. That year the
around the company when he asked, “How’d company received the prestigious national
you spend the holidays, with your loved ones? award, “Airline of the Year.” Mr. Davis remained
Or your family?” modest in Piedmont’s achievements, noting
he was like the turtle on the fencepost. He
When deregulation arrived in the late 1970s,
didn’t get there by
management, himself. But Tom
Davis created a
including Mr. culture unlike any
other in American
Davis, feared business.
He knew his
they would lose employees by
name, even when
their customers, the company
but the “can thousands. He
took care of them,
do” attitude of and they loved
him for it. When
his employees he retired, they
all chipped in and
caused him bought him a new
to look at the Mercedes Benz.
aviation business It wasn’t easy
differently, a high spirited
group. One of
helping him the legendary
realize that gambled away
his plane during
Piedmont could a poker game on a layover. That same pilot,
supposedly, flew his “Pacemaker” naked
compete with (although he claimed he didn’t because he
was wearing his captain’s hat). But for every
any other airline. antic (and there were lots of them), there
was a maintenance man back in Winston-
And they did. Salem whose job it was to clean the “honey
pot” (plane toilets) between flights. Caught
Prudently, they complaining one day, a co-worker suggested
he quit. The man shot back, “And leave
took on new Piedmont? NO.”
those filled, they
added others. By
the early 1980s,
non-stop to the
west coast. But
in doing so, the
company displayed an ethic not often seen in
business. On that first flight to Los Angeles
Captain Bill Kyle was aware he would have to
stop for fuel. At that point, the company didn’t
have their extended range jets. Upon arrival
to LA, he apologized for the delay, which was
only a few minutes and directed passengers
to look in the pocket in front of them. The
company gave each person a $100 bill for not
living up to the ‘non-stop’ promise. As Captain
Kyle thanked departing passengers one guy
Wish to know more? Order the full–length documentary
on DVD from the CVCC Bookstore at bookstore.cvcc.edu,
or visit the gift shop at the Catawba County Museum of
History in Newton. Produced by Historian-in-Residence
Richard Eller, the documentary offers an in-depth look at
Piedmont Airlines, its people, and its impact on the area.
The 1980s were triumphant days for the little airline that had
now grown into the 9th largest in the United States. The tagline
to their commercials proclaimed them, “The Up and Coming
Airline.” They flew to London, planned a transportation empire
that including trucking, railroads, absorbing other airlines. The
sky was the limit for the company. Hubs had been established in
Charlotte, Baltimore, Dayton, Ohio. Profits soared. But soon, the
“Pacemakers” came in for an abrupt landing.
The death of Piedmont Airlines came in a merger that many saw as a buyout. USAir paid the highest
price ever up to that time for another company, claiming it were going to blend the “cool northern
efficiency” of their company with the “warm southern hospitality” of Piedmont. The union didn’t
work out. Eventually, the Piedmont logo, the “Speedbird,” vanished, replaced by what folks from the
old company jokingly called “UselessAir.”
2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the last flight of a Piedmont plane from the original company.
But those that were part of the Piedmont tradition cherish their time doing the work they loved.
One stewardess (as women flight attendants were called in those days) said that USAir passengers
would ask her regularly if she came from Piedmont. They recognized spirit of Piedmont. It shone
through her. After USAir had gone through
its second bankruptcy, letters to the
Charlotte Observer begged for the return of
Piedmont, a decade after its demise.
Many employees offered to follow Mr. Davis
to a new aviation company if he only would,
their faith in him so strong. It was not to be.
Forty years went rather quickly for those
who started with Mr. Davis at the beginning
as well as those who joined along the way.
But the reputation of the “Speedbird” left
its mark. These North Carolinians, their hard
work, their care, their enterprise, created
a company that now retains the stuff of
legend, a mythical airline that once flew our
Richard Eller is the creator of two works on
Piedmont Airlines. His book, “Piedmont Airlines:
A Complete History” is published by McFarland
and Company, Publishers He also produced
and directed a documentary, called “Speedbird:
the History of Piedmont Airlines” which has
aired regularly on UNC-Television. The DVD is
available at www.bookstore.cvcc.com
By Carmen Eckard
The winter of 1960 changed the course of history for Western North Carolina.
The winter started out in normal fashion. November and December 1959 brought relatively normal
amounts of snow. By the New Year, 19 inches of snow had fallen in Boone, which was not strange
for the area. January came and went with not much snow at all. In fact, only 8 inches fell. But by
the time February hit, the winter became one for the history books.
It wasn’t a matter of one storm. Folks in our hills know how to handle one storm, but the winter of
1960 brought 5 blizzards in a row. Snow never had time to melt before the next storm hit. In less
than two months, it snowed almost SEVEN FEET across the Southern Appalachians. It was much
colder than normal, although the record is incomplete. That’s because the official temperature for
the region was taken at the top of Grandfather Mountain. In March of 1960, workers could only make
it to the top to measure the temperature 9 days out of 31. The average temperature of the days they
were able to measure was just under 20 degrees.
The roads all over the region became undrivable, as there wasn’t anywhere else to push the huge
mounds of snow lining every road. Drifts covered mature apple trees, and even whole houses
were swallowed up. One woman in Boone froze to death just walking from her road to her house.
However, most of the folks in the Foothills handled this snow with grace. Many of our
homes had only had electricity a decade or so, and our people still remembered how
to rough it. They stayed home, sitting by their fires, and they waited it out. They ate
food they’d saved for winter and took advantage of the extra time with their families.
Eventually, things were shut down so long that the government got worried. They airlifted packages
of food to the more remote areas of the region. The Red Cross went door to door, ready to offer help.
At one home, their crisp knock brought a woman to the door. They announced that they were Red
Cross, and she said,
“I’m sorry but we don’t have anything to give this year. It’s been a hard winter.”
That’s just the kind of people we have in our parts. By the time the snow melted in April, 112 inches
had fallen at Grandfather Mountain. That’s almost 10 feet, which is an incredible amount of snow.
Other parts of the foothills faired better, although no one was spared a lot of snow. In Catawba
County, folks remember it as the year it snowed every Wednesday in March. They don’t call it
a blizzard, but they did get over a foot of snow accumulation which is rare. Three of the storms
covered the whole state, causing problems as far East as Raleigh. In March, Charlotte measured 19
inches of snowfall. March 1960 remains the snowiest month of all time in Charlotte and parts of the
In the midst of all of this, one intrepid spirit birthed a new pastime for the region.
The US was hosting the Winter Olympics that year, and interest in skiing was high. Wade Brown
saw opportunity. When the first heavy snow of 1960 fell, he found a proper hill and he strapped on
some military skis he’d purchased in Hickory. The hill he found was at a local golf resort, and he had
a photographer document his first run. He appeared in local papers and a new local craze was born.
Within 2 years, a ski resort opened on land purchased from Grover Robbins, of Tweetsie Railroad
fame. Appalachian Ski Mountain struggled financially at first, but within a decade, it was a staple
of Western NC and other ski resorts began opening. A skiing school, called the French-Swiss Ski
College, opened and was a huge success. In less than a decade, 3 other ski slopes had opened in the
region, including Hawksnest, Hound Ears Lodge and Club and Ski Beech.
People in Western NC are resourceful. I don’t know how else to explain taking the worst winter
anyone can remember and using it to start a massive industry that saved the tourist economy of the
Special thanks to the website CarolinaCorner.com, which is full of fascinating history of our region. I
recommend perusing the site.
Also, I want to mention that introducing skiing to the area was just a tiny part of Wade Brown’s service: he
also served one term in the state Senate and two terms in the House of Representatives. He was also mayor
of Boone from 1961 to 1968, and his daughter ran the Chamber of Commerce for many years. He helped
shape the region in many palpable ways.
By Carmen Eckard
The Town of Blowing Rock is beautiful during the winter. It gets awfully cold, but in
Blowing Rock, they celebrate winter. The festival began in 1998, dedicated to showing
the “fun side” of the season. In the years since then, the festival has raised thousands
of dollars for charitable institutions and has become known as one of Western North
Carolina’s most important festivals.
The festival has been named a “Top 20 Event” be sure to use the QR code to get registered.
by the Southeastern Tourism Society and a Create art in a relaxed atmosphere facilitated
“Top Pick” by AAA and we are rating it “Can’t by trained art instructors. In this session of
Miss.” Cork & Canvas, attendees will paint Wassily
The festival is packed full of events, but Kandinsky’s “Winter Landscape”. Everything
perhaps most well-known are the ice- you need is included, so just be sure you come
sculptures. Also featured are wine tastings, a ready to paint and sip.
beer garden, live music, a “Winterfeast”, a Polar The Polar Plunge is definitely the most
Plunge, a fashion show, and a chili cookoff. memorable event of the festival, but for the
Starting this year on January 24th, and less brave, there are still plenty of memorable
running through the 27th, the event is sure things to do.
to be fun for all. The whole town gets in A free hayride is offered as well, and we think
on the action, with special deals in stores there aren’t many things more delightfully
downtown and free admission at the Blowing Southern than a hayride.
Rock Art and History Museum downtown. Another local favorite is the adorable dog
We are particularly impressed by “Wintercraft: show called WinterPaws. It’s produced by the
an outdoor handmade craft market.” That will Humane Society, and money raised goes to
be on January 26th, from 4:00-8:00 pm, in support their programs.
the courtyard next to the Mountain Thread With all those activities, it’s no wonder
Company. This market will gather together the event is so popular and has become
many local artisans, which will allow you to an important gathering time for locals and
bring home a piece of authentic Appalachia. tourists alike.
If making art is more your style,
don’t miss the Cork and Canvas at
the Blowing Rock Art and History
Museum. It’s Friday the 25th at
8 pm, and costs $45. You’ll need
a ticket before you arrive, so
he event has won several awards over the years,“
such as a Southeastern Tourism Society top 20
Tevent in the southeast. We hope you will join
“us for all four days to celebrate winter and get out of
Charles Hardin -President &
CEO, Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce
would like to invite all of our High Country residents and our tourists to “
Blowing Rock for the 21st annual WinterFest. Itwas organized to pair winter-
“Ithemed activities with philanthropic benefits to the community. Many of
the events return their profits to important non-profits located in the area; for
example, the Polar Plunge benefits the Western Youth Network and Hospitality
House of Boone, the Silent Auction & Raffle benefits Mountain Alliance, and
the Rotary Chili Cookoff benefits 15 local non-profit participants. Last year we
had a record breaking number of people participate in the Polar Plunge with
145 participants. Also enjoy the ice sculptors producing art work around our
beautiful town. Hope you will join our community during this 4 day event.
Charlie Sellers -Mayor of Blowing Rock, NC
THURSDAY, JAN 24 FRIDAY, JAN 25
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Rotary Charity Chili Challenge
11:30 am - 2:00 pm
K9 Keg Pull
11:30 am- 4:00 pm
Ice Carving Demonstrations
12:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Arctic Art at BrrrAHM!
1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
WinterFest Beer Garden
1:00 pm - 4:30 pm
WinterTastings & Auction at The Green Park Inn
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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Sunday Brunch at Foggy Rock
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WinterPaws Dog Show
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M :in our ountains
E , Mbbingoutside of issouri
by Carmen Eckard
Much of this Academy Award winning
movie was filmed on location across
Western North Carolina. We’ll help you
visit the most iconic spots in the film.
North Carolina has been Fox/Searchlight
a popular destination for
location filming for decades.
Dirty Dancing, the Fugitive,
Last of the Mohicans and
even parts of The Hunger
Games have all been filmed
in Western North Carolina.
The latest hugely successful
film to come out of our hills
is Three Billboards Outside of
This film is the winner of
two Academy Awards®,
five Golden Globes®, three
Screen Actors Guild (SAG)
The Sylva Herald Awards, five BAFTA film
The Sylva Herald awards, three critics’
choice awards and eight
awards at film festivals
around the globe.
Downtown Sylva served
as the location for most
of the movie. The spot
and was an excellent
backdrop for the talents
of Woody Harrelson, Sam
Rockwell and Francis
“Sylva’s downtown had
the perfect mix of being
vibrant and active, yet
also is one with oodles
of smalltown charm
every direction you look,”
location manager Robert
Foulkes said. “Sylva truly
had the whole package,
and in my opinion, is the
best and most interesting
looking small town in all
of North Carolina.”
Perhaps the most iconic
location is the Ebbing
Police Department which
catches on fire during the movie. That
building spends the rest of its life as
Sassy Frass Consignment. Welby’s
office (above and on next page) was
filmed in the upstairs of Sassafrass
Designs. These are both in Downtown
Sylva and even the smallest details
were tended to, assuring a complete
transformation from Sylva to Ebbing.
The director even created a mascot for
the local high school team and plastered
stickers to cars. Locals helped the
The Sylva Herald transformation by making their own
Ebbing themed shirts and memorabilia, and many people even made the cut as extras in
the film. The unusually open set allowed all residents to feel like they were truly part of the
Cullowee Elementary School provided the location for Ebbing High School. A private home
on Cowan Street became Dixon’s house. The dentist office is the actual office of Cardwell
Family Dentistry, who we can assure you are more professional than the dentist in the film.
While Sylva provided the perfect small-town setting for the film, it didn’t have the long
stretch of road needed for the billboards and for the house of McDormand’s character
Fox/Searchlight Mildred. After searching
Fox/Searchlight Western North Carolina roads
for the best spot, the team
decided on a road called North
Fork Left Fork Road. That road
circles Black Mountain and
provided a perfect backdrop
for the film’s most iconic
scenes. The billboards were
built by the production team
and have been removed,
but you can still enjoy the
scenery and take pride in
our natural beauty. Mildred’s
house is also on this road.
There is a lovely scene in the
film where a deer comes up
to Mildred as she’s tending
to her billboards. That deer
came from The Western
North Carolina Nature Center.
This organization provides a
safe home for white-tailed
deer, black bears, red wolves
and other animals native to
the region and allows people
to observe these animals
in a natural environment.
In the film, James and
Mildred go out to eat. You
can visit the restaurant they
visited! It’s called J. Arthur’s
Restaurant and it’s located in
Maggie Valley. The restaurant
offers high-quality food and
they have enjoyed the extra
attention the film has brought
In the past, North Carolina
had a truly booming film
industry, and some people
thought we were poised to
become a true movie making
hub. That changed when some
policies at the state level
changed, eliminating some of
the tax credits that brought
production companies here.
Three Billboards Outside of
Fox/Searchlight The Sylva Herald
Ebbing, Missouri is quite important for North Carolina because it proves our movie industry
hasn’t died at all. We hope that the future brings many more feature films to our state.
Movies filmed in North Carolina include: The Last of the Mohicans, Dirty Dancing, Patch
Adams, Richie Rich, Blue Velvet, The Fugitive, The Hunger Games, 28 Days, Deliverance,
Empire Records, The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Lolita, Little Monsters, Nights
in Rodanthe, The Color Purple, I Know What you Did Last Summer, Cabin Fever, The Crow,
Religilous and The Green Mile .
We know you’ll be impressed with Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri. You can find
it anywhere you purchase DVDs, and we hope that you do.
Special thanks to VisitNC and the Jackson County TDA, as well as the Sylva Herald, Fox/Searchlight and Nick Breedlove.
The Sylva Herald
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One -Tank Trip
By Carmen Eckard
The foothills are centrally located to make travel to all manner of places quite accessible.
We aim to tell you about a place you can visit with less than one tank of gas in each issue.
We are tickled pink to bring you the first trip in this series.
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, is an excellent place to visit and as a perk, you never have to leave
our mountains. This idyllic vacation spot is fun all year round, but we especially enjoy a
winter trip. Winter is beautiful across the Southern Appalachians, and it offers a peacefulness
that’s hard to find elsewhere.
We stayed at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa and we learned a good rule of thumb,
pretty quickly: If Dolly’s name is on it, you can trust the quality. In Pigeon Forge, a lot of
things have her name on it, which we think means it’s awfully easy to have a good time there.
Pigeon Forge, and neighboring Gatlinburg, are filled to the brim with activities and attractions,
and a trip there means you won’t be bored. This trip is great for families, but it’s also a fabulous
option for a romantic getaway.
Truly, Dollywood’s DreamMore
Resort and Spa is exceptional,
with care taken to ensure all of
the details are top-of-the-line.
The 299 room resort sits on 20
acres of land with a gorgeous
view of the Smoky Mountains.
When we arrived at the resort,
we were greeted by a beautiful
sculpture of Dolly’s signature
butterflies, as well as incredibly
friendly and helpful staff who
helped us get checked in quickly.
The common spaces, like the lobby
and the indoor pool, managed to
be “country” and “lavish” at the
same time, which is hard to pull off.
Landscaped gardens bring some
green into your life, and help shake
off the chill.
A delicious full-service farmhouse-
style restaurant is on site, offering the
best and most elaborate breakfast
buffet I’ve ever experienced.
An award winning chef creates
exciting dishes that blend traditional
southern cooking with a more
sophisticated style, and eating at the
restaurant was one of our favorite
parts of the stay.
But when you just want some
Starbucks and a snack, they have you
covered as well! A second restaurant
fills in the gaps for when a sit-down
restaurant isn’t in the cards, with
fresh fruits, ice cream and much
A full-service spa is available to
pamper you during your getaway.
Like most other experiences at the
Resort, the Spa is meant to help you
slow down and savor the moment.
The rooms at Dollywood’s
DreamMore Resort are lovely, and
just the right size. Since many of