Johnson County is home to some talented athletes involved in a variety of sports. Yet beyond the old standbys of football, baseball, softball, and basketball, few people realize there are other, much more specialized competitors living right here in the area as well. For Daniel Livorsi, a freshman at Johnson County High School, and his brother Bradley, a sixth grader at Roan Creek, freestyle skiing has been a lifelong passion and one that both have shown an increasing ability to excel in.
Like the high flying skiers of the recent winter Olympics in Sochi, neither Daniel nor Bradley shy away from the high speeds or aerial acrobatics that come with shooting down the slopes and landing the biggest jumps the area has to offer. Getting their start at Beech Mountain Resort, where their father Dan has worked for several years, both of the Livorsi brothers have been developing a reputation for themselves as they and several of their friends from around Western North Carolina continue to hone their skills just about every weekend through the winter months.
When I was about two or so I started skiing and learning how to do it, Daniel said about his beginnings in the sport. We just came up here when we were little. We made some friends and started in their park. Dad was an instructor here so came up here every weekend. Its fun. Its all about the adrenaline I guess.
Having not only worked under their father but several other instructors on the mountain, Daniel can now make the jumps, turns, and even mid air flips look easy. Yet the tricks arent just in the air, the Livorsis and their friends also use numerous park features like rails and boxes to grind and perform tricks, skiing backwards just as easily as forwards and often without the assistance of poles.
At just a few miles outside the county, the boys connection to Beech Mountain has been a strong one, leading to lasting friendships such as the one they have with their current coach Dee Desmaris. Managing the Roots Ride Shop at the resort and having guided Beech Mountains Snowboarding team for the past couple of years, Desmaris has been a key supporter of developing an interest in freestyle, which he admits is largely taking over the whole field.
It had been mostly racing, Desmaris said about the sport. Weve always had a ski team. For 30-40 years now weve had a ski team, but the problem came up that we didnt have anything for snowboarders. Snowboarding here started as racing but the progression of the sport is freestyle. Right now its a youth race series, but weve started participating in a lot of slope style events which is the direction that the sport is going. We battle, so to speak, we race against Appalachian and Sugar Mountain. We still race gates, and we do boarder cross which is a four person race. The gates and the Alpine style are timed and the freestyle stuff has features like boxes and rails and each competition sets up its own judges.
As Desmaris pointed out snowboarding and ski racing have been an ongoing part of Beech Mountain for years, though right now there are is no official word on the development of a free style ski team. Yet regardless of whether its organized or not, skiers like Daniel and Bradley still hit the slopes as often as they can simply for the thrill and excitement of it, a fact that applies to their friends as well.
According to Desmaris, Its mostly kids that are local or have houses up here in the winter time or they come up and live in Charlotte or Winston Salem and travel two hours up here and stay up here each weekend. We compete pretty much every weekend. I love it. Everything is getting better. Were progressing and its just going to get better.
Fortunately, this positive trend doesnt seem to be letting up anytime soon, as Beech Mountain continues to see new developments and improvements put in place. Most notably has been the extended season, running several weeks long this year despite warmer temperatures.
This is my sixth season here, said Marketing Director Talia Freeman. The transition from when I took the job six years ago until now is like night and day. The majority of our investments the last several years have gone into snow making and you can definitely see a big difference in that. What we used to be able to produce in five days we can now produce in about two or three days and the turnaround time on how much snow we can produce is really significant. They are doing a really good job at snow making and grooming and we get a lot of compliments on that. Weve been able to really maintain a consistent product this year even in the warm temperatures.
Yet even when the winter finally does wind down, Freeman went on to explain that Beech Mountain has been organizing several summer developments as well. We also offer mountain biking, Freeman said. We have a system on our lifts that carry your bike to the top. You buy a lift ticket and take your bike to the top of the mountain. You can access some of our cross-country trails, which we just got an $80,000 grant to redevelop those, or you can rent or use your downhill bike and ride the trails down the mountain. That will run on weekends June through September on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Other new developments include a new sky bar called 5506, named after its elevation above sea level. 5506 is an umbrella bar on top of the mountain, Freeman explained. It has a 360 degree view, is all glass with a retractable roof and has a 2,800 square foot deck. Thats been really popular, but next summer were planning on remodels of some of the older buildings at the base of the resort and I think youll notice a lot of changes. The last thing weve done this year is to develop our own brewery. Its called the Beech Mountain Brewing Company. We brew all our own beer here and its been very successful. Well have that open this summer too.
While talk of summer plans may be music to most peoples ears, snowboarders and skiers like Daniel and Bradley Livorsi will likely be counting down the days to when the slopes will once again be white with snow. Being this far south, it is surprising to some to even see ski resorts in the lower Appalachian Mountains, but certainly the area deserves some recognition as do the many talented athletes that continue to impress and inspire those that get the chance to witness their amazing performances.