Ober Gatlinburg has rich history and lots to do

6:33 PM, Feb 1, 2013   |    comments
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It was a place to snow ski in the south.

The Gatlinburg Ski Resort opened in 1962 as a private club but quickly opened to the public. It featured a lodge, some slopes, a rope tow.

In 1973 Claude Anders built the tramway connecting downtown to the ski resort. His son, Kent Andes, explains what happened next.

"Unfortunately in 1974 there was a bad lift accident up here. Due to the financial situation that caused they were going to go out of business," Kent Anders said. "We didn't want a tram to nowhere so the Anders family reluctantly got into the ski business."

The Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway and the Gatlinburg ski resort merged in the mid 1970s and became Ober Gatlinburg.

"Most of us had never heard of a terrain park or a snowboard. It was strictly skiers. That's all you saw out here," Jerry Huskey said.

He remembers a Christmas day experience back then.

"It was snowing up here and raining downtown and we pretty much skied all day nothing going on no one up here. Now you come up here on Christmas and it's packed out," he said.

When he started working ski patrol at Ober skiers wore leather lace up boots.

"The boots were very low as opposed to the ones that come up much higher on the calf now. They caused what was called a boot top fracture. When the new boots came out and the bindings got better you didn't see so many fractures after that," Huskey said.

Over the years the boots have changed, the fashions have changed, and Ober Gatlinburg has changed.

"It is larger. We have better lifts we have more lifts then we had then. Our snowmaking capabilities are much broader now," Anders said.

The equipment that makes the snow or shaved ice is essentially the same as when Ober started. It uses a combination of water and air. But the modern version can make it no matter what the outside temperature.

"Our biggest challenge skiing on the south is weather," Anders said.

Ober has met the challenge and added attractions. Skaters have enjoyed the indoor ice rink since 1981. The snow tubing park opened four winters ago.

Even with all those developments, some things remain the same.

Kent Anders said, "We are a family business and we will remain a family business as long as we possibly can."

Jerry Huskey said, "When there's snow on the ground there's people here."

You may remember this from the early days of Ober when visitors could summer ski on artificial turf. It was kind of like shag carpet.

It eventually wore out and the supplier stopped making it but workers at Ober sometimes discover remnants of it.

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