A Winter Weekend Road Trip: Cataloochee, NC


I had never heard of Cataloochee, North Carolina until a close friend went with her kids a few months ago. A short three-hour drive from Chattanooga and close to Asheville, North Carolina, you’ll find Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley. With all of this rain and gloomy weather, we decided to head there with our kids. We have made multiple trips out West and are eager for our kids to learn to ski early, but didn’t want to put a lot of money into traveling and accommodations until we knew whether they’d like skiing. We saw this short trip as a way to get their feet wet snowy!

The drive was scenic and relatively short, so that is always a plus. The actual ski area does not have accommodations on site, so we opted to rent a cabin in Maggie Valley. There seemed to be multiple options from relatively inexpensive hotels and motels, to larger cabins which can accommodate more people. The cabin was a nice two-bedroom with plenty of room for our family, and it had a kitchen that was great for afternoon snacks. The ski area is a ten-minute drive from Maggie Valley where most of the hotels and cabins are.

The first night we had dinner at BrickHouse Burgers and Pizza, which was yummy, casual and perfect for our crew. The next morning we headed to the ski resort where you can get lift tickets, skis, and all that you need to ski. We didn’t sign up for ski school in advance and it ended up being full, which put a wrench in our plans because my six- and four-year-olds have never skied and we weren’t planning on being their teachers!

We signed up online for the next day’s ski school and headed to the small slope which has a magic carpet lift perfect for beginners. We worked with the kids a bit, headed to the lodge and had lunch, then took turns skiing the slopes with my son, who is seven and a little more comfortable skiing.

Despite the man-made snow, we were pleasantly surprised that the snow was relatively powdery and the lines for the lifts weren’t too long. There weren’t a ton of runs, but it was perfect for an introduction to skiing. We were worn out after our day of skiing and ended up coming back and having snacks for dinner at home.

The following day, we dropped the kids at ski school (which ran from 9:30am to 3:30pm) and headed out to ski without the kids (which was fun!). It was very strange to be skiing in 58°F degree weather! The morning was fun, but because it was President’s Day weekend, Saturday afternoon was very crowded, so we decided to head to the lodge and relax.

The kids had a great ski school experience and we were happy because we wanted them to come away feeling positive about their time learning to ski. That night we ate dinner at Los Amigos, a Mexican restaurant in Waynesville, North Carolina, about 10 minutes from our cabin. It was very good and casual, and the restaurant employees were so friendly and great with our kids and handling a large group.

The next day it was supposed to rain, so we decided to drive to Asheville and have brunch at the Grove Park Inn. This side trip was a great addition to the weekend. Their Sunday brunch was amazing and I would highly recommend adding this to your long weekend! You can also add a tour of the Biltmore, which we did on another trip and our kids really enjoyed. They have an audio tour made for kids.

We also drove to the Soco Waterfalls which is a quick, easy spot to check out with beautiful waterfalls. It is a short walk to the falls from the parking by the road.

Overall, we think Cataloochee is a great place for the kids to have an initial ski experience and a fun, easy weekend road trip from Chattanooga for the family.

Here are some things to remember when planning your trip:

  • Book ski school for your kids in advance because it books up on busier weekends. Make sure the weather looks good because they don’t do refunds and still offer ski school if it’s raining.
  • Ski school is all-inclusive (skis or snowboard and a lift ticket are included), so don’t rent skis and get a lift ticket for that day if you’re taking lessons.
  • Ideally, don’t go on a holiday weekend — it’s too crowded.
  • Add on a day trip to Asheville if you don’t ski every day. It’s a 35-minute drive and there are great breweries, the Biltmore, outlet shopping, and the brunch at the Grove Park Inn, which is awesome.
  • Be prepared to spend a good bit of money on everything, including lift tickets, ski rentals and ski school. Check out the prices online before you go.
  • Head to the grocery store the day you arrive (you’ll find an Ingles and Publix in Waynesville). You can also stop at Trader Joe’s in Knoxville on the way if you are a TJ’s fan!
  • Bring some fun activities for the kids to do while relaxing at home. We enjoyed hanging out together at the cabin; there aren’t a lot of activities outside of skiing.

We were pleasantly surprised with our fun weekend and were especially pleased to go somewhere relatively close to home!