A Quick and Dirty Guide to Becoming a Nashville Snowboarder

Snowboarder in Cat Cage Terrain Park at Cataloochee.
Snowboarder in Cat Cage Terrain Park at Cataloochee. Courtesy of Cataloochee Ski Area
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Most Nashville residents with snowboarding on their minds imagine places like the Rockies, with towering peaks, thick powder, and steep slopes. For newbies, that's a little intimidating. And even for seasoned riders, the trek out west (and the big bill that comes with it) can be too much for some seasons. But this shouldn’t stop you—there are local options to help you become a Nashville snowboarder without crossing the Mississippi.

Get the Gear

Neptune's board room stocked with all the best brands.
Neptune's board room stocked with all the best brands. Courtesy of Neptune Diving and Ski

This is the easiest part. Despite having no riding hills in city limits, there are a couple of great shops for renting and/or buying your snowboarding gear.  On the west side sits a locally owned shop run by a dad and his son:  Neptune Diving & Ski (yes, all you divers, they have you covered as well) has the best selection in town and even better service. They’re a family of skiers and snowboarders and test all of the gear they carry. You can rent boots, bindings, and a board for $30 a day, and they service all of the gear themselves. They also take trips every season to local ski hills. These trips are definitely the best for beginners who want some good, on-the-spot lessons.

Sun & Ski in the Opry Mills Mall is another great place for gearing up. They typically have a good selection of gloves, helmets, and goggles. Their staff is really helpful and for they’ll get beginners fitted and feeling like a pro.

If you’re just starting out and have no snow pants, riding jackets, or even a good beanie, the best way to save money and still be ready to ride is to hit up friends and family. Ask around-more than likely someone is bound to have some old (or new) gear that they’d be happy to lend. The most important thing to remember is getting gear that will keep you dry.

Planning a Day Trip

Rider carving those well groomed runs.
Rider carving those well groomed runs. Courtesy of Cataloochee Ski Area

The best thing for any snow-deprived skier or rider—whether you’re a life-timer or a beginner—is to just get out there. A three-and-half-hour drive up north gets you to a little ski hill tucked between Indiana and Ohio. Paoli Peaks typically has decent coverage, and when the season is abnormally dry they keep it well groomed. The drive is surprisingly quick and a day pass won’t cost you more than $45. This hill is great for beginners, with several runs that are nice and wide for those sideslips and wide turns. For those of you with a little more skill, there are three runs, Walnut Alley, Oak Trail, and Powerline, that are great for fast carving. The lines for the lifts are unbelievably short and the runs are equally uncrowded.

Paoli also has some really good terrain parks that are thoughtfully tucked into a couple of the easier runs. For groups with all levels of riders, it’s easy for those beginners to practice while the seasoned riders get some air. So get up before the sun, ride all day, and come back worn out and ready to ride next weekend.

Plan a Weekend Trip

Night riding at Cataloochee Ski Area.
Night riding at Cataloochee Ski Area. Courtesy of Cataloochee Ski Area

Cataloochee Ski Area near Knoxville is one of the best spots for a long weekend snowboarding trip. It’s not as spread out as places like Paoli, but it’s taller and tucked into the Smokies with which beautiful views and awesome shredding. They have the runs split up nicely, keeping the beginners lower while the more seasoned snowboarders can take the lift all the way up and shred some good, steep runs. The terrain park halfway down is the best spot to perfect that 180 you’ve been working on.

Cataloochee is a great place for a mid-winter weekend trip. A Friday night drive will get you to a weekend of riding, and you can find nearby cabins for cheap without draining your wallet dry.

There’s no special order to becoming a snowboarder or getting back out on the slopes in Nashville. Start with a day trip or go head-first into a long weekend session. It’s all good when you’re getting out on the hills—and your next trip out west will only be better.

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