Ober Gatlinburg is a ski and amusement park area, and it is the state of Tennessee’s only ski and snowboard destination.

Ober Gatlinburg is mostly known for its winter activities, but many of its attractions are open year-round. And as a bonus, the off seasons are typically good opportunities to see the what the park has to offer with smaller crowds and lower wait times. 

About Ober

Ober is a German word meaning “upper” or “top of”, so Ober Gatlinburg translates to “Upper Gatlinburg.” Claude Anders brought the idea of the Aerial Tramway to the Smokies in 1973 as a way to make it easier for skiers to access the local ski resort. Two years later, the Anders family purchased the resort, and the tram and resort were merged as one. Today, Ober Gatlinburg has grown to include other attractions, rides and an enclosed mall. 

Ober Gatlinburg is a ski and amusement park area, and it is the state of Tennessee’s only ski and snowboard destination.

Photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com

The good, the bad and the nostalgic 

Growing up in East Tennessee, I have always thought of Ober Gatlinburg as a staple in the area. I grew up taking field trips here as a kid and taking dates here as a teen. 

The place today doesn’t quite live up to my memories of it. While it has some unique experiences to offer for the area, parts of it can feel like they are lacking. 

The pros: 

  • Ober Gatlinburg is full of nostalgia and history 
  • The Aerial Tramway is unique and offers a wonderful view of the Smokies 
  • It is a great place to bring the entire family and is very kid-friendly 
  • There are a lot of activities, attractions and shops to experience 
  • It’s the only place in Tennessee to ski or snowboard

The cons: 

  • Paying individual prices for everything can get expensive. If you’re on a budget, drive up mountain in lieu of the tram and pay to park instead. Check into the wristband packages if you plan to do multiple activities. 
  • Parts of it feel a bit outdated. It is a resort from the 70s and it looks like it’s from the 70s. While some things are new (like summer tubing and mini golf,) overall it feels like it is in need of a bit more renovation. 

Parts of it feel a bit outdated. It is a resort from the 70s and it looks like it’s from the 70s. While some things are new (like summer tubing and mini golf,) overall it feels like it is in need of a bit more renovation. 

Photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com

Year-round attractions

Many of Ober’s attractions are open throughout the year. 

Note that the wristband packages include many of the attractions mentioned below, which can save you money if you plan to do multiple activities. Restrictions apply.

  • Aerial Tram — The two-mile tram is one of America’s largest aerial tramways and takes you directly to the park from downtown. The tram has been running for over 45 years and has carried millions of people up the mountain. (Tram tickets are $15/adult, $12/child, children under 4 are free). Insider tip: If you wish to skip the tram ride, you can drive up the mountain (weather permitting) and park for about $8.
  • Alpine slide — Riders push and pull to control their speed in sled-like carts as they curve around the Tennessee mountains. ($8/person)
  • Ice bumper cars — Like regular bumper cars, but cooler. (See what we did there?) ($8/person)
  • Ice skating — Get in the holiday spirit any time of the year with Ober’s indoor, 140-ft arena. ($8/person)
  • Mountain Coaster — The Mountain Coaster is great for families. After a relaxing ride to the top, riders may choose to leisurely cruise or speed down the mountain at speeds up to 25 mph. ($15/person)
  • Scenic chairlift — Enjoy the Tennessee views from a chairlift — no skiing required. This chairlift is the longest of its kind in America. ($8/person)
  • Shopping and dining — The mall has more than 15 shops and a variety of eateries. 
  • Wildlife encounter — See the local wildlife up close. All of the animals in the exhibit are licensed zoo or rescue animals. ($8/adult, $5/child, children under 4 are free)

Spring

Spring is a great time to visit the Smokies and watch the greenery come back to life.

Ober features special events throughout the seasons. For example, last May, they hosted May Fest, featuring ales and inspired relay games such as Beer Barrel Roll and Dizzy Pong. For more events like this one, be sure to check their calendar when you plan your visit.

Also, use this season to plan ahead. Feb. 22- April 21 is the most affordable window to buy a ski area season pass.

Open attractions in the spring include:

  • Amaze’N Maze — Those who finish with the best times may win a prize. ($4/person)
  • Kiddie Land — This is free play area for kids. It includes play equipment, rides and picnic areas. (Kiddie Land is free, rides are extra)
  • Rock wall — This outdoor, 30-ft rock wall allows for good, friendly competition, allowing five people at a time to race to the top. ($4/person)
  • Snow tubing — Fly down the mountains in an inner tube and relax on the way back up via the “Magic Carpet.” Catch this one in the early spring, as tubing season ends in late March. ($25/person, children under 2 are not permitted. Children aged 3-4 are free)  

This mini golf course was refurbished in 2018, but while it is new, it’s also a bit dinky. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com

Summer 

One of the most exciting features of summer in Ober is summer tubing. Guests can enjoy the thrill of tubing – without having to bundle up in a mountain of clothes. (I have to admit that I have not tried this one yet, but it sounds like a blast). 

 Open attractions in the summer include:

  • Chair swing — This swing lifts you up five feet in the air and can be enjoyable for everyone more than 42 inches tall. ($4/person)
  • Mini golf — This mini golf course was refurbished in 2018, but while it is new, it’s also a bit dinky. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. ($6/person)
  • Summer tubing — The slippery lanes of this attraction can make riders feel all the joy of snow tubing without the frostbite. This trend has been popular in Europe but is brand new to Ober Gatlinburg. ($8/person)
  • Water rides — Ober has three water raft rides, with Blue Cyclone being the largest. Up to two people may ride in one float on these water rides. ($4/person/ride)
  • Amaze’N Maze
  • Kiddie Land
  • Rock wall

Fall

Fall in Tennessee is one of my favorite sights to behold. The fall colors are simply breathtaking.

Come in for the annual OktOberfest event for authentic German food, live music and more.

Open attractions in the fall include:

  • Amaze’N Maze
  • Chair swing
  • Kiddie Land
  • Mini golf
  • Rock wall
  • Snow tubing (begins mid/late November)

The two-mile tram is one of America’s largest aerial tramways and takes you directly to the park from downtown. The tram has been running for over 45 years and has carried millions of people up the mountain. Insider tip: If you wish to skip the tram, you can drive up the mountain (weather permitting) and park for about $8.

Photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com

Winter

Last but certainly not least, winter is the peak season at Ober Gatlinburg. Unfortunately, wait times may be at a peak as well — especially on holidays and weekends — so be sure to plan accordingly.

For ski and snowboard beginners, Ober has ski instructors and lessons available for purchase. For novices who are also afraid of commitment, Ober offers snow pants, jackets and helmets for rent. (This is on a first come, first served basis). 

Winter is also the longest season to experience snow tubing. As someone who has skied, snowboarded and tubed, I would say tubing is my absolute favorite thing to do in the snow. It is a great way to experience the thrill of sliding down the mountain with minimal skill involved.

Ober features a total of ten ski trails with two beginner slopes, two advanced slopes, and the rest are intermediate.  Summit elevation is 3,300 feet, with the longest run measuring at 5,000 feet. It can be hard to predict exactly when ski season starts, so check their website for the most current information.

Open attractions in the winter include:

  • Cubbies Snow Zone — This play area for kids is the perfect way for small children to play in the snow. Unfortunately, you may not throw snowballs or bring your own sled. ($5/child, free for area pass holders)
  • Skiing/Snowboarding — Ski or snowboard down all ten slopes! (or the two easiest ones if you’re like me.) Prices for ski area depend on time of day and amount of days purchased. See site for details.
  • Terrain Park — This is a freestyle park for brave, dedicated riders to expand their snowboarding and ski techniques.
  • Snow tubing

 

Visit website

Address: 1001 Parkway Suite 2, Gatlinburg TN, 37738

Hours: Open year-round, hours vary by season. Operational maintenance scheduled for April 27, 2020 through May 7, 2020.

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Disclaimer: While we do our best to bring you the most up-to-date information, attractions or prices mentioned in this article may vary by season and are subject to change. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any mentioned business, and have not been reviewed or endorsed these entities. Contact us at [email protected] for questions or comments.