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July 22, 2014

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International skiing sensation Jean-Claude Killy participated in the High Country’s ‘Snow Carnival of the South’ at Beech Mountain in the early 1970s. From the collection of Appalachian Ski Mountain

Originally published: 2014-01-23 09:06:42
Last modified: 2014-01-23 09:07:27

There’s no business like snow business

A half century ago, new snowmaking technology combined with the High Country’s steep slopes and cold winter nights to create a revolution in the ski industry.

Thanks to innovators such as Blowing Rock’s Grady Moretz, skiing suddenly became a reality in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, the farthest south this winter sport had traveled in the Eastern United States.

Today, skiers and snowboarders take for granted that they can enjoy terrific slope conditions when they visit the resorts of the High Country, but it took a lot of work and creativity to make this winter wonderland a reality.

The Blowing Rock Art and History Museum salutes that work with a new exhibit, “The History of the Ski Industry in the High Country,” in the museum’s Historic Artifacts Gallery.

A reception for the new exhibit will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 24, at BRAHM. The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

“The History of the Ski Industry in the High Country” takes a look back at the area’s iconic ski resorts, including Appalachian Ski Mountain, Ski Beech and Sugar Mountain, as well as some that are no longer in existence, such as Mill Ridge, Hound Ears Ski Resort and Seven Devils Ski Resort (now a tubing and sledding mountain).

The exhibit includes antique skiing equipment, artifacts from the industry’s early days, and tons of  photos of the resorts and the skiers who enjoyed them.

Jean-Claude Killy

The new BRAHM exhibit features a number of photos of downhill skiing champion Jean-Claude Killy, taken by photographer Hugh Morton with Grandfather Mountain.

Killy was in the High Country to participate in the “Snow Carnival of the South” at Beech Mountain in the early 1970s and gave a number of skiing and slalom demonstrations and met with his numerous fans.

Killy was born in Saint-Cloud, a suburb of Paris, in 1943 during the Nazi occupation of France. He gained international fame by winning the gold medal in all three alpine skiing events during the Winter Olympics in 1968 at Grenoble, France. He also won skiing’s World Cup titles in 1967 and 1968.

His rugged good looks and suave French accent earned him the adoration of countless female fans and led to a brief career in feature films and commercials.

French Swiss Ski College

Appalachian Ski Resort in Blowing Rock was one of the first area resorts to implement an intensive ski instruction team on its slopes. Its French Swiss Ski College filled a serious need as many Southerners traveled to the High Country with little or no skiing experience.

French Swiss Ski College director Jim Cottrell worked to establish a Winter Games component for the Special Olympics and with the help of Eustace Kennedy Shriver made the games a reality at Appalachian.

Earlier in January, Special Olympics North Carolina held its 36th annual Winter Alpine Games at Appalachian Ski Mountain, with more than 85 athletes competing.

The Blowing Rock Art and History Museum is located at 159 Chestnut St. in downtown Blowing Rock. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday. It is closed on Sunday and Monday.

Admission to BRAHM is $8 for adults and $5 for students and military personnel. BRAHM is featuring $3 off admission today, Friday and Saturday in conjunction with WinterFest currently taking place in Blowing Rock. For more information, call (828) 295-9099.

For more information and stories, see The Blowing Rocket.

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