Since Sugar Mountain is one of the highest villages in the Blue Ridge Mountains with elevation up to 5,300 feet, driving and weather conditions change rapidly during the winter months. We average 70+ inches of snow per year, and often have snow on the mountain when there is none in nearby lower valleys. In our village itself, an elevation difference of 1,200 feet sometimes create drastic weather changes just in a mile drive.
What Weather to Expect During the Winter?
We can have snow and freezing temperatures during 8 months of the year (October-May). During the coldest winter months, we also enjoy periodic “spring-like” days with highs in 50s. However, conditions may go from 50 degrees and rain in the morning to 20 degrees with snow by afternoon. More frequent winter events occur in December through March. While we have some mild days, expect highs in the 20s and 30s during those months. On some days, highs are single digits with below zero wind chills.
Weather forecasts are very challenging, so we sometimes get surprise snowfalls. We are a prime location for “northwest flow” snows, so we often receive smaller snows of a few inches. We typically only get a major snow of a foot or more once or twice a season. The highest sections near the summit receive more snow and higher wind compared to the base of the mountain – with steeper roads.
Remember to bring winter clothing including your gloves, hats, scarfs etc. Shoes and boots should have great traction. If you are playing in the snow, waterproof pants and shoes are highly recommended. Be prepared for dangerous wind chills on many days.
If you don’t have a 4-wheel drive and you plan to stay in a vacation rental on the mountain, choose one that at the base of the mountain near the ski lodge. See Driving Tips below.
Four Wheel Drive / Tire Chains
ALERT: Snow tires, tire chains or 4 wheel drive are required when snow is on our roads. If you impede traffic and do not have any of these, you can be ticketed and fined. Please plan accordingly! Usually, Sugar Mountain Drive from the main village entrance on NC 184 to the ski resort is kept clearest for ski traffic.
The best local forecast is by Ray’s Weather. The summit of Sugar Mountain is usually around 5 degrees cooler than the ski lodge area. Plus, winds are usually higher near the summit. Since the weather varies so much from the top to the bottom, we are one of the few towns to have two forecasts: Base of Mountain / Ski Lodge Area 4100 ft and Summit 5300 ft
Winter Snow Driving Tips
- 4-wheel drive is highly recommended for any winter visit. During snow events, 4-wheel drive, snow tires or tire chains are required on much of the mountain. If you don’t have a 4-wheel drive, consider renting one for your road trip.
- While the village road crews do a fantastic job clearing our streets, packed snow and ice often remain on many sections.
- If you are renting a home or condo, the driveway or parking lot may not be plowed often. Bring your own shovel just in case!
- In case you get stuck in snow or a traffic jam, pack some necessities in your car: weather gear, food and water, flashlight, ice scraper, blankets, etc.
- Keep at least half a tank of fuel in your vehicle at all times.
- Drive slowly for better traction. Accelerate and decelerate slowly.
- Allow plenty of space between you and the automobile ahead since braking can make you skid.
- Accelerate slowly especially going up a hill. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads make your wheels spin. Try not to stop as you drive uphill.
Need Chains or Towing?
If you need chains after you arrive, check with local auto parts stores. Here are nearby towing services if you get stuck (and many sell chains too).
Banner Elk Exxon: 828-898-5210
High South Wrecker: 828-898-4473
Teasters Auto Repair and Towing: 828-898-4788
Custom Car Cleaning: 828-898-6480
Staying on Sugar Mountain
Staying in a vacation rental on the mountain? Condo parking areas and house driveways may not be cleared as quickly. Since we are a small village, we don’t have any food delivery options. Many nearby restaurants have take-out. So be sure to have some food in your vacation rental in case you cannot get out the next day!
We are a rugged mountain that is almost a mile high. If you are staying near the summit, be ready for high winds – with gusts sometimes reaching 70 MPH. Be especially careful opening car doors and do not leave items outside that could blow away!
Find less people, more parking and lower lift rates if you come midweek (except for Christmas week). See ski specials and discounts.