As the winter wears on, and some people start looking for the colors of spring, folks up on the mountain are in a world of white. January at Ober Gatlinburg means the season – and the snow – are still building up.
Right now the Smoky Mountains’ very own ski resort has 8 of 10 trails open and 3 of 4 lifts. There’s 35 to 45 inches of snow as base, the weather’s cold enough to freeze, and the resort just turned the snow-making guns on Grizzly, the long Black Diamond trail that the more advanced skiers have been eagerly waiting for.
Meanwhile the special events keep coming at Ober Gatlinburg, and the most fun to watch are the Freestyle sessions. These are where the more advanced skiers and snowboarders practice their moves with jumps and turns, and rides along rails, boxes and pipes.
If you’re new to this, it seems counter-intuitive to plant solid objects in the snow sticking up from the smooth slope, but the minute you see someone on skis jump up and slide sideways along a round or flat edge before continuing down the slope, it all falls into place.
Like everything on the slopes, it never stops being about getting better at what you can do. Ober Gatlinburg has several freestyle sessions during the season, and some claim the ones are at night are the best. Skiing at night is a special world of its own, and if you’re not actually up for doing this yourself, it’s a relaxing atmosphere worth catching purely as a spectator sport.
Ober Gatlinburg puts a lot of care into grooming its Terrain Park for freestyle maneuvers, piling snow into jumps, and planting the different features of the setup into a smooth sequence of moves down the slope, under the lights and in the view of the spectators.
The sessions vary in theme, from the opening event that terraformed the Snow Tubing slope into a freestyle area, to competitive events with lots of prizes. The Ladies Nights offer a free pass in return for food donations to a local charitable cause, and with tips and tricks from a female coach.
Free Flow Fridays are night-time occasions with “creative setups to encourage progression.” And watch for March, with its Spring Break events including the Pond Skim (hint: not everyone makes it across).
Here’s the whole 2014-2015 season of special events in the Ober Gatlinburg Freestyle Terrain calendar:
November 21 – Back in Blue Rail Jam
January 8 – College Day
January 15 – Ladies Night
January 16 – Free Flow Friday
January 22 – Ladies’ Night
January 25 – Sunday Session
February 5 – College Night
February 13 – Free Flow Friday
February 19 – Ladies’ Night
February 22 – Sunday Session
March 6 – College Night
March 8 – Spring Fling
And here are some tastes of what we’re talking about.