Get outside for winter activities

Are you packing on those extra pounds after gorging on office holiday cookies and sugared paraphernalia? Are you spending your evenings hiding under your blankets and waiting for spring? Then you may be missing out on the great outdoor events Western North Carolina has to offer. We’ve rounded up some options for activities and great-outdoors clubs that will keep you moving well into the early part of 2015. Because it may be winter, but that doesn’t mean you have to be in hibernation.

Several nearby ski resorts and clubs are here to help you turn those subfreezing temperatures into seasonal adventures (see the “Winter Sports” list), but maybe you never thought winter sports were for you? If you’re looking for a way to ease into a new adventure, the city of Asheville has put together a Learn to Ski & Snowboard program for 2015. Catered toward ages 12-17, the program brings participants to Cataloochee Ski Resort for five consecutive Fridays in the winter with program packages starting at $235 for residents. For more information, contact Christen McNamara at or visit Or if you just want to slide down a hill without the fuss of learning a new sport, all of the local ski resorts also offer snowtubing — which is basically a fancy form of sledding. Many of them offer ice skating and snowshoeing as well.

Or maybe you’re a ski bunny looking for a ski buddy? Outdoor sports are a great way to make friends, and clubs like the Asheville Ski Club invite the public to check our meetup pages and get involved. For the solo adventurer, there are also a number of spots in WNC for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, when the weather permits. For a list of local trails — most located in the Boone area — visit

For more on skiing and snowboarding in WNC, check out the rest of this week’s cover package.

ski cover snowboard winter

Meanwhile, there’s a wealth of upcoming opportunities for running, biking and much more.

If you’re looking to take your Christmas sweater party to the next level, surprise your friends and relatives by signing them up for the Reindeer Run 5K in Hendersonville. Although not required, participants are encouraged to dress up in festive gear while drinking eggnog and eating 10 sugar cookies every half mile during the run. If the potential nausea doesn’t appeal to you, the run also benefits a good cause — the Jones Family Scholarship for North Henderson High School seniors.

On New Year’s Day, iDaph events is hosting the annual Resolution Run 5K.  This is a fun run that hits the streets of downtown Asheville and adjacent neighborhoods at the relatively leisurely start time of 10 a.m. The Foot RX Trail series has two more events on the calendar, and they’re not for the faint of heart:  The Frosty Foot 50K and 30K in Tsali will be on Saturday, Jan. 17, followed by the Yeti or Not 25K in DuPont State forest on Saturday, Feb. 28. But if that doesn’t sound like your style, there’s also the annual Hot Chocolate 10K rolling through Asheville on Saturday, Jan. 24, where hot chocolate will be available for all participants who finish the race.

The YMCA of Woodfin will be also hosting a few hikes this winter. On Saturday, Dec. 27, the Y will lead the way to Glassy Mountain in Flat Rock, and, on New Year’s Day, it will be leading an urban hike leaving from the campus of UNC Asheville.

One of my personal favorites is the 2015 Icycle at Fontana Dam, hosted by Pisgah Productions. This duo of mountain bike events consists of a cross-country race during the day followed by a nighttime downhill race. You can choose to participate in one or both events. There are categories for all levels of racers, so long as you are willing to brave the cold darkness. Lights with more than 150 lumens are required for the nighttime downhill race; so if you don’t have one, add it to your Christmas list. Farther afield, there’s a fantastic road bike ride in Davidson on Saturday, Jan. 10 — the Polar Bear Metric Century, which typically draws nearly 700 cyclists on a course of rolling terrain in Davidson County.

And of course, a winter events roundup wouldn’t be complete without a Polar Plunge, which happens New Year’s Day at Lake Lure and is hosted by the Hickory Nut Gorge Chamber of Commerce. This can be an intense event, but ambulances and medical personal will be on-site — in fact the event raises money for the Lake Lure Fire and Rescue and other First Responders.

We’re also very fortunate to have a handful of weekly group rides and runs that push through the cold-weather season. Every Wednesday at Bent Creek, the Pisgah Area SORBA hosts a mountain bike ride that departs from the Rice Pinnacle lot at 6:30 p.m. This is considered an intermediate-level ride and lights are required.

On Tuesdays, leaving from Liberty Bikes, there’s a casually paced road bike ride at 10 a.m. — Claudia’s Tuesday Ride. Expect a good opportunity to socialize with fellow cyclists. If you’re looking for a Saturday road ride, stop by Sycamore Cycles in Brevard and ask about the Spin and Grin Road Rides. These leave the shop every Saturday and cover some beautiful terrain.

Jus’ Running has a Saturday run leaving the shop at 8 a.m. for an 8- to 13-mile trek (full list of group runs in the area and contact information for each of the run leaders is available at the For the intermediate to advanced runners out there, consider the Run AVL Group (previously the Carrier Park Runners), which has been meeting  for over 10 years every Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the Carrier Park picnic shelter. Email Tom at for more information.

For the height fiends out there, Fox Mountain Guides offers rock climbing, and when the weather permits, ice-climbing adventures and courses for all ability levels.

Lastly, it’s certainly worth noting that the local REI sporting goods store at Biltmore Park Town Square offers a number of outdoor classes and beginner clinics catering to the outdoor enthusiasts. Classes range from camping basics to beginner bicycle maintenance and most of them require you register on the website.

Be sure to check the Xpress Outdoors page for ongoing coverage.

Winter Sports

  • Wolf Ridge Ski Resort:
  • Cataloochee Ski Resort:
  • Sugar Mountain Resort:
  • Beech Mountain Resort:
  • Appalachian Ski Mountain:
  • Saphire Valley:
  • Learn to Ski & Snowboard program: or
  • Fox Mountain Guides:
  • Asheville Ski & Outing Club:
  • Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing:
  • REI Classes & Events:

Runs & Rides

  • Dec. 24: JSF Reindeer Run (Hendersonville)
  • Dec. 27: Glassy Mountain in Flat Rock (Meet at Woodfin YMCA, 8:45 a.m.) Three miles roundtrip. Return about 3 p.m. Bring lunch and water. Dress accordingly. Free, but $5 if carpooling. For more info, contact Blanca Miller at
  • Jan. 1: New Year’s Day Polar Plunge (Lake Lure)
  • Jan. 1: Resolution Run 5K (Downtown Asheville)
  • Jan. 1: New Year’s Day Urban Hike 3-4 miles round trip. Meet 10 a.m. at UNCA’s lower lot (site of the tailgate market). Contact James Cassara at
  • Jan. 10: Polar Bear Metric Century (Davidson)
  • Jan. 17 & Feb. 28: Foot RX winter trail series
  • Jan. 24: Hot Chocolate 10K (Asheville)
  • Jan. 24: 2015 Icycle (Fontana Dam)
  • Feb. 14: Lake James Trail Races 5K, 11 mi., 15 mi. (Lake James State Park)
  • Wednesdays: Bent Creek Middle Rim Ride (Lights required! Wednesdays 6:15 p.m. at Rice Pinnacle)
  • Tuesdays: Claudia’s Tuesday Ride from Liberty (Tuesdays @ 10:am)
  • Saturdays: Spin & Grin Road Ride (Brevard)
  • Tuesdays & Thursdays: Carrier Park Runners Group Run (Carrier Park)
  • Weekly group runs: Asheville Area Group Run Calendar

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About Brad Messenger
@BradMessenger is one of the in-house web developers for the Mountain Xpress. When he's not sitting in front of a computer you can find him out in the woods on top of some knobby tires, on a road bike headed up the Blue Ridge Parkway, hurling tennis balls for his boxer pups or sipping on an Iron Rail down at The Wedge.

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