How to Spend a Snow Day in Asheville

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You've been watching the weather channel like a hawk, eyeing that storm as it swirls towards Western Carolina, and when your phone chirps in the early morning hours, you already know what it's going to say. Work is canceled, school is shut down: it's a good old fashioned snow day.

If you have the snow tires, the four wheel drive, and the wherewithal to get out of town, take advantage of this soft layer of natural powder by hitting the slopes of Wolf Ridge Ski Resort or Cataloochee Mountain. If you can brave it to Boone, Sugar Mountain Resort offers tubing, snowshoeing, and ice skating in addition to skiing and snowboarding.

But for those of us left marooned on the unplowed side streets of Asheville, fear not, because this town knows how to enjoy its rare collection of snow days like none other. Here is how to spend the ultimate winter day in Asheville.

Anna Levesque in an Asheville snowstorm.
Anna Levesque in an Asheville snowstorm. Melina Coogan

Start your morning with a cappuccino or an artesian pour over at  Waking Life Espresso . This pocket-sized West Asheville coffee house opens daily at 7 a.m., even when weather forces other businesses to close. "We are happy to be here," says barista Sarah Winkler. "Some of our customers still have to go to work on snow days. Either way, Waking Life is here to give you a cozy spot to warm up and drink great coffee." Relax inside the cafe's bright, inviting interior as the jolt of caffeine hits  your bloodstream and prepares you for a day of chilly exploration.

On any winter day, sledding should be first on your agenda. You will find ideal conditions in the Malvern Hills neighborhood, as well as a protected basin for short, steep runs in Montford Park. Sleds sell out quickly in Asheville, but if you can't get your hands on one, don't despair. Innovative citizens of this active mountain town can be found cruising the hills and side streets on everything from trash can lids and baking trays to cardboard and kayaks.

A warming cup of cinnamon chai.
A warming cup of cinnamon chai. Melina Coogan

For some cross-city adventure, head over to the The Greenway Trail that runs alongside the French Broad River, connecting West Asheville to Hominy Creek and Carrier Park. The Greenway becomes a protected tunnel of white after a snow storm, perfect for cross country skiing and even snowshoeing.

Across the ice-choked river from the Greenway, The Biltmore Estate boasts an impressive 8,000 acres of wilderness. Snow transforms this outdoor oasis into a true winter wonderland. Enjoy a quiet hike on over twenty miles of wooded trails, or explore the ornate grounds which include an orchid house and a working farm. (The Biltmore is privately owned and price of admission is not cheap....but it does include a free wine tasting.)

Richmond Hill Park and Disc Golf Course is another wild place in the heart of Asheville. Despite being just across the railroad tracks from the bustling River Arts District, this park feels distinctly secluded. Because the forest is so thick, Richmond Hill's trails are often left bare even after a blizzard. Mountain bikers can explore the 180 acres of rolling hills and tight, twisting single track through frosted trees and frozen streams.

Exploring Snowy Richmond Hill Park.
Exploring Snowy Richmond Hill Park. Melina Coogan

Nothing works up a hearty appetite like vigorous exercise out in the cold. When you're ready for lunch, warm up over a steaming bowl of Wonton Soup at the Noodle Shop in Pack Square. You're sure to thaw out in this fragrant and inexpensive eatery.

Perhaps the most breathtaking winter endeavor in North Carolina is a trip up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. With a few exceptions, this sublimely scenic mountain road is unmaintained during the winter. Intrepid adventurers on snowshoes and nordic skis can take advantage of this track of smooth snow that winds through the Appalachians for hundreds of miles.

Night sledding at Montford Park.
Night sledding at Montford Park. Melina Coogan

By evening, most of the ice has been salted from the streets and you should have your pick of bars and restaurants. But for truly inclement weather, the stalwart West End Pub has never been known to close. Wind down with a Hot Toddy or sip a spiked hot chocolate or cider as you shoot a game of pool. If there's anything else left on your blizzard bucket list—like having a snowball fight, building a snowman, or whipping up some delicious snow cream —you'd better do it soon. After your ultimate snow day, you'll be asleep before your boots can dry.

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