Sugar Mountain Resort: Located in Banner Elk, NC, this resort features 125 acres of skiable terrain. Eight lifts will get you to the top of their 21 slopes quickly. 15 slopes are available for night skiing and snowboarding. Ice skating and snow tubing are also options. [skisugar.com] Wolf Ridge Ski Resort: This Madison County resort is the closest to Asheville, just 30 minutes north of downtown. With beautiful long-range views, the ski terrain boasts 15 runs and four lifts. [skiwolfridgenc.com] DINING IN ASHEVILLE In and around Asheville you can always find great food. It can be said that a great many of the nearly 250 independent restaurants truly understand the principles behind sustainability and farm-to-table. All manner of excellent cuisine can be found, so if you’re a foodie, you will be in your element. Designated as one of the top ten food and wine destinations in the US, Asheville restaurateurs understand the importance of using fresh, locally sourced ingredients. You can enjoy Asheville’s superb and diverse cuisine at any time, but from January 17-26, participating restaurants during Asheville Restaurant Week offer prix fixe menus ranging from $15-$35 per person. Craft brewing is on the rise in the US, and that’s particularly true here. In addition to great food, about 100 local beers can be found in Asheville, which has more breweries per capita than any other US city. BIRD WATCHING Bird watching may be something you think of for warmer seasons, but in winter you will find some of the migratory birds that you may not see at other times of the year. You may also see some familiar birds in their winter plumage. These will look completely different and you may not recognize some of them. For example, the male American Goldfinch, while bright yellow in the summer, will appear to be olive to brownish in color. Winter is the perfect time to observe the nuthatch as they scale the trunks of trees, moving rapidly up and down and even sideways in a rather erratic motion. They jam large seeds and nuts into tree bark before pecking with their sharp bill to dislodge the seeds inside. They also store food under the bark of a tree to eat later. The White-breasted Nuthatch is the most common in this area.
Winter is a great time to visit the Biltmore Estate to see waterfowl, particularly buffleheads, hooded mergansers, teal and ring-necked ducks. Some winters may find flocks of snow geese on the grounds. Year round residents can also be spotted as you walk through the meadows, pastures, fields and woods. It’s easy to see why the Biltmore Estate is an official site on the North Carolina Birding Trail. Another great bird watching site, no matter the season, is the Beaver Lake Sanctuary. This marvelous wildlife oasis, managed by the Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society, is in the heart of the busy north Asheville area. Morning bird expeditions can award you with some great sightings. The 3/8-mile boardwalk through the wetland area and by the lake provides sitting areas to watch the birds. Guided bird walks occur from October through March. Meet at the gazebo on the south end of the lake at 9:00 am on the first Saturday of each month. To help both new and seasoned birders, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has developed the Merlin Bird ID. They recently added an amazing upgrade that analyzes photos taken on your phone that offers bird ID suggestions. Merlin features 650 bird species and you can download the app for free for your specific device. AND DON’T FORGET INDOORS If the chill is too much for you and the kids are itching to take off their gloves, there are plenty of things to do. The Asheville Art Museum is undergoing a major expansion and renovation at its location on Pack Square in downtown Asheville. In the meantime, they’ve opened a pop-up location at 175 Biltmore Ave. This Asheville Art Museum On the Slope is offering programming at that location, and in conjunction with other community locations. Check their event page for upcoming activities. [ashevilleart.org/events/] Everyone enjoys touring America’s largest home, the Biltmore Estate. Their 3rd annual costume exhibition, Designed for Drama: Fashion from the Classics, runs from February 10th through July 4th. The exhibit features over 40 costumes from popular movies, inspired by favorite stories in George Vanderbilt’s 22,000-volume library. For the artist in all of us, a visit to the Folk Art Center, located on the Blue Ridge Parkway, features artists from Southern Appalachia. Daily craft demonstrations are held where visitors can interact with the artists and gain a better understanding of the inspiration behind their work. Continued on page 46 Winter 2017 | Fine Homes & Design 45