It might still be feeling autumn-ish with temperatures in the mid-60s in Asheville, but ski season is well underway in the Western North Carolina mountains.
Gov. Pat McCrory even got in on the action. He took part in Sugar Mountain Resort's Summit Express Grand Opening and ribbon cutting ceremony Saturday, Nov. 14, for a $5 million high speed, detachable, six-passenger chairlift from the base to the summit.
"Sugar Mountain Resort has been an icon in our state for years, attracting families from around this region and our country," McCrory said in a statement. "This investment is a great sign for our economy and the confidence that businesses like Sugar Mountain Resort have in growing here."
The nearly one-mile-long ride to Sugar Mountain’s 5,300-foot peak will take just five minutes with the new chairlift. It will carry 2,518 people per hour.
Sugar Mountain Resort is one of the many businesses benefiting from North Carolina's thriving tourism industry. North Carolina is the sixth most visited state in the nation, and 50 million people from across the U.S. visited N.C. last year. In 2014, N.C. tourism generated record visitor spending with a total of $21.3 billion.
The ski area was open for skiing and snowboarding through the weekend, but is now closed until the temperatures drop low enough to start snow-making again.
Also this weekend, Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley opened Sunday, Nov. 15, and will remain open daily from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. weekdays, and 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. weekends.
Cataloochee, in Haywood County, about 45 minutes west of Asheville, is usually the feistiest of Western North Carolina's six ski areas, always aiming to open first and stay open the longest. The area has been making snow round the clock since 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov.13. This opening day is a little late by Cataloochee standards. They opened Nov. 2 last year, skiing a total of 141 days.
"We got just enough cold weather to get some snow down and get open on Sunday," said Chris Bates, Cataloochee’s Vice-President and General Manager. "We got about 40 hours of snow making in - the coldest was 23 degrees Saturday morning. We did a lot with snow making this summer - we added another compressor and bought 30 low energy guns."
Cataloochee now has four slopes and two chair lifts. Cataloochee’s aggressive snow making has allowed them to be consistently among the first areas in the country to open each season, averaging 127 days of skiing and riding each winter. Bates said they plan to start making snow at Tony's Tube World this week.
"Every year when you get open it's a big relief, and it's also nice to see people having a good time. We plan to stay open through late March or early April and focus on making a more seamless, easier process for the beginning skier."
Right now, Cataloochee is the only one of the region's six ski areas open. The ski area will be open daily 8:30 .m.-4:30 p.m., and on Thanksgiving Day, and will serve a Thanksgiving dinner. It will be open for night skiing on Nov. 27 and 28, and then return to day sessions until Dec. 19. Lift tickets will be at a special rate of $40 for adults and $30 for juniors 5-12. Children 4 and younger receive a free lift ticket with a ticketed adult and adults 65 and over, ski free any day. Regular rental rates will apply.
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Western North Carolina ski areas:
THAT "DIVERGING DIAMOND" INTERCHANGE NC DOT HAS BEEN WORKING ON NOW FOR SEVERAL YEARS IN OPEN AT THE ASHEVILLE AIRFPORT...BUT THE WORK ISN'T FINISHED YET.
The Airport Road bridge reopened ahead of schedule Monday morning. Now, drivers are navigating a new traffic pattern at the intersection of I-26 and Airport Road.
It's called a "Diverging Diamond Interchange," where drivers will shift onto the opposite of the roadway when crossing the bridge.
The DOT describes the pattern as saying that "motorists will proceed through a traffic signal at the entrance to the interchange, and simply follow their lane to the opposite side of the roadway. Motorists needing to access the interstate turn left on the on-ramp without having to stop for additional traffic signals or wait for oncoming traffic to pass. Motorists needing to drive straight through the intersection proceed through a second traffic signal and follow their lane back to the right side of the road. Pavement markings and signals direct motorists to where they need to go."
You can click here for a video that illustrates this pattern
DOT officials say this is the first "Diverging Diamond" traffic pattern in our area and only the third one in the state.
Crews shut down the Airport Road bridge Friday night at 9, working around the clock to install the new pattern by 6am Monday. The bridge reopened ahead of schedule Monday morning.
This phase of construction is part of the overall Airport Road improvement project, to improve traffic flow along the route. DOT officials say the entire Airport Road project is expected to wrap up November of 2016.
Photos by WHKP News Director Larry Freeman
Whether some like it or not, the 32-acre Osceola Lake is being drained for some state-mandated repairs.
Todd Leoni is the owner of the lake…and he points out his biggest concern with draining the lake is killing the fish. Having put a lot of fish into Osceola Lake, Leoni told the Times-News there are a lot of bream, bass, and carp in the lake who mostly feed off the grass in the lake.
The plan is to leave a small reservoir in the lake for the protection of the fish during the drainage. Still, some are concerned about a large fish kill similar to one in the 2980s when the lake was drained.
The lake should be completely drained this coming week.
NCDOT will be working to remove stumps from the lake from trees that were cut down last June…and owner Leoni will be constructing a new spillway for the safety of some 4,000 cars per day in the Kanuga Road area and an electrical sub-station at the intersections of Kanuga Road and Drake Street.
Photos by WHKP News Director Larry Freeman
Fletcher Community Tree Lighting to be held Thursday, December 3rd
On Thursday, December 3rdthe town of Fletcher will kick off the holiday season with its Annual Tree Lighting at Fletcher Community Park.
This event will include the lighting of the Town Christmas Tree by Mayor Bill Moore, visits with Santa and plenty of delicious hot chocolate and cookies to help keep warm.
This is a perfect opportunity for children to give Santa their Christmas letters and to get a photo with the jolly old elf. Rugby Middle School Chorus and Fletcher Elementary School Chorus will be performing a wide variety of Christmas Carols during the event. This event is free and open to the public. Canned goods will be collected for a local food pantry so please bring a can or two for a good cause. The Tree Lighting will begin at 6 p.m. and visits with
Santa will begin at 6:30 p.m. This event is sponsored by Mission Pardee Health Campus.
For more information on this event please visit fletcherparks.org or contact the Parks and Recreation Department at 828-687-0751.
Following a large, popular and successful Ingles Supermarket, other businesses are now looking to develop along the five-lane Boyleston Highway in Mills River.
The Mills River Planning Board has received a request from Twelve Oaks LLC for a special use permit to develop a medical institutional care facility at 183 Old Turnpike Road. The property also faces Boyleston Highway. This will not be a de-tox center, and clients of the facility will be those dealing with mental health and behavioral issues that have led to substance abuse. Town sources in Mills Rive say the 10 thousand square foot house already on the property would be used to house up to 15 patients.
Another business is proposing to develop 20.4 acres of farmland along Highway 280, across from and a bit south west of Ingles. Owned by the Moore family, that property is currently zoned for neighborhood commercial use and a change to a general business zoning classification would be needed by the proposed developer. The Town Zoning Board says there are a number of factors that make such development of that property a good idea…including its proximity to general business to the south, the large Ingles development to its north, and a five-lane thoroughfare that carries about 20,000 cars per day.
Mills River’s town Council will be considering all this at its December 10th meeting.
Another new business…a uniform rental business…has also broken ground along Boyleston Highway and Turnpike Road.
And Mills River Fire and Rescue plans to construct an all new department headquarters and main station on nearby property within the next five years.
After two years of planning, months of construction and one change in location, Bold Rock Hard Cider is ready to begin production in Mills River, just a few miles from the big Sierra Nevada brewery.
Bold Rock has completed renovations of a 22,000-square-foot building at 72 School House Road in Mills River, installed equipment and received its federal permit, company founder John Washburn said. Cider making could begin by this weekend, with the first completed batch in about three weeks, Washburn said.
A public tasting room that includes a deck has not yet opened, but Bold Rock might be welcoming visitors in a few weeks, general manager Frank Merritt said. That venue will offer Bold Rock ciders on draft and the plan is to include food trucks and occasional live music, he said. The cider maker has 10 workers on the job now, but that will double to 20 by the end of November and by summer of 2016 the work force will reach 25-30, he said.
Bold Rock, which also operates a cidery in Nellyford, Virginia, already has a presence in local grocery stores and on tap in Western North Carolina. To expand, Washburn took aim on WNC and its renowned apple-growing country. The company initially bought a 10-acre site in Mills River, but shifted gears and moved ahead in an existing building. Originally, plans called for a June opening, but there was a delay in receiving and installing tanks, Washburn said. "It's been a long way for us, and it's been frustrating, but we are 100 percent done," he said. "The apple crop was very successful this year, and everything is ready to go." Bold Rock is sold in both Carolinas, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia and Pennsylvania.
The company will likely focus on its current distribution area before taking on more territory, Merritt said. In WNC, the cider is distributed by Budweiser of Asheville.
The hard cider scene is growing quickly across the country and in the Asheville area. Bold Rock will be the seventh and biggest cider maker in Western North Carolina, joining such other players as Noble Cider (which recently opened a new cidery in Asheville), Urban Orchard in West Asheville, Black Mountain Ciderworks in Black Mountain, Naked Apple in Flat Rock and Three Sisters and Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards, both in Hendersonville.
Across North Carolina, 17 cider makers are in business. There are two in South Carolina including the newly opened Hub City Tap House: Home of Cyclops Cyder in Spartanburg.
As WHKP News has been reporting this week (see story on this web site), the Henderson County School Board has voted to save the existing Hendersonville High School facility…and make renovations and add additional new building at an estimated cost of 52.6 million dollars.
But the final decision on what to do with the land-locked HHS facility, which dates back to 1926, is in the hands of the county commissioners. The HHS Alumni Association, and others with emotional ties to the facility, favor that option over one that would build a new HHS facility n the nearby Boyd property at Five Points, which the county already owns, at a cost of about 50.4 million dollars.
The school board also this week voted to move forward with spending 24.1 million to build a new Edneyville Elementary School on its current site.
The county’s elected school board also wants to move forward with an Early College facility on the campus at Blue Ridge Community College. As county manager Steve Wyatt has pointed out on WHKP’s news on the radio, the ultimate objective would be to free up the Balfour Education Center property for a new EMS, Rescue Squad, and Emergency Management facility on the old Balfour School property.
As was pointed out in an interview with WHKP News, school board chairman Ervin Bazzle remains hopeful that the multi-million dollar cost for all this construction can be covered by some of the county’s previous debt that is now retiring.
County commissioners will next meet on Wednesday November 18th. All this is sure to be a topic for discussion.
By WHKP News Director Larry Freeman 11/12/15 7am
WLOS-TV is reporting this week that Hendersonville authorities say seven cars were broken into while sitting outside some popular area businesses Monday night.
Police say the incidents all happened between 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. at apparently random locations that span across town.One car was hit in the parking lot of the Hendersonville Walmart, another was targeted while sitting outside of the Firehouse Subs restaurant on Spartanburg Highway. Three of the break-ins took place at businesses along Asheville Highway, which included a fitness center and bowling alley.Another two break-ins happened at motels near Flat Rock.Police say, in all of the incidents, one window was smashed on the passenger side of the car. In several, items ranging from a wallet to a laptop to a Bluetooth speaker were stolen.Law enforcement is telling residents who run errands in the area to make sure valuables are hidden or locked in the trunk.
According to documents, in two of the break-ins Monday night, a window was smashed but no items were taken.Police say this string of break-ins stands out from others because, generally, incidents will be clustered together in the same general area, thieves leave and arrive on foot, and usually steal from unlocked cars rather than breaking windows.On Tuesday, police said they are searching surveillance video and asking for the public's help in finding a brown, late 80s or early 90s model Oldsmobile in connection with the incidents.
In a split 4 to 3 vote the county school.board has voted to reccoment to the county commissioners that the current Hendersonville High School faclity be saved and used for clsssrooms...and the school board recommends replacing the two gyms and other structures on the campus.
The facility dates back to 1926...snd the school board and county commissioners are looking at upgrading and replacement costs of between 50 and 60 million dollars.
HHS is one of three major county school projects being planned by the school board and commissioners.
The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office is requesting the public’s assistance in identifying the persons or vehicle from the below listed photographs.
Detectives are investigating several motor vehicle break-ins around the areas of South Rugby Road, North Rugby Road, North Hills and Alpine Drive.
The vehicle pictured was occupied with 3 persons and appears to have front end damage with part the front bumper missing. The center caps on the wheels are missing and it has a rear spoiler. Should anyone have any information please contact CID Detective, Corporal Darrin Whitaker at 828-694-3098.