By Leif Palmer
With the holiday season nearly behind us for another year, and the summer sun still months away, you might just find yourself contemplating your skis with a look of longing. It's time to head for the Great Smoky Mountains and some of the best outdoor fun snow lovers will find anywhere in the country.
Whether you enjoy skiing, snowboarding, tubing, or just gazing at the stunning scenery nature provides, you'll find plenty to see and do in Tennessee come January.
Perched atop Mt. Harrison and overlooking the city of Gatlinburg, you'll find the area's premier ski resort. Ober Gatlinburg features nine groomed runs perfect for novices and advanced skiers alike. Those new to the slopes will enjoy the opportunity to learn from some of the best instructors around, while the more experienced tackle one of two "black diamond" trails. For the truly adventuresome, the Freestyle Terrain Park lives up to its name with an anything-goes attitude and plenty of moguls, rails, and other obstacles to keep you entertained.
After a day on the slopes, be sure to spend some time warming up in one of the on-site restaurants. You'll find hot drinks and warm food, plus some indoor fun to take the chill off. Test your skills on dozens of arcade games, or lace up your skates for a spin around the indoor rink. You can even get up close and personal with the native species at Wildlife Encounter.
There's nothing quite so stunning as watching the sun rise over the mountain tops while last night's snowfall sparkles in the trees. The silence of a winter morning offers the perfect time for relaxation and reflection, and the Great Smoky Mountains provide miles of easy hiking trails where you can enjoy the solitude of nature. Simply step outside and lose yourself in the peace and tranquility of the mountains.
Want to see the world from a different vantage point? Saddle up a horse and venture into the backcountry much like the earliest settlers did. You'll see areas of the park no hiker will ever encounter, and you and the kids will be talking about your adventures on horseback for years to come.
Those who prefer warmer activities won't feel left out in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, either. World-class shopping, a spectacular array of dining choices, museums, and other attractions offer plenty of things to see and do on your trip. Parents with young children love the family-friendly attractions such as Titanic Pigeon Forge and Ripley's Believe It or Not, while couples enjoy the romance of a secluded cabin rental with in-room massage.
Don't let winter pass you by. Pack up the kids and the winter gear and head for Tennessee's best-loved outdoor recreation spot, the Great Smoky Mountains. You'll enjoy the chance to get outside and play in the snow, perhaps do a little shopping, and take in a show or two. Whatever your idea of a fun winter vacation, you'll find it in Tennessee.
About Leif Palmer
Leif Palmer loves residing in east Tennessee. He is an avid outdoorsman: rowing for exercise on the lake, trail hiking, and free climbing rocks in the mountains. He indulges his arty side by periodically beating up pieces of marble by sculpting. He is always frustrated by his inability to sink long putts, and hates his curly hair (but his wife loves it). Leif has been known to muster enough courage to change a diaper, and hopes his son will become a chip off the old block.