Local weighs pros and cons of the rebranded Ober Mountain
If you want to learn about inertia, there are worse places than a mountain top. For 60 years, Ober Gatlinburg made its money in inertia – skiing, tubing and summer sledding. But over time, another type of inertia set in. Ober was in decline. The quality was lessening. Other places in the mountains were more popular and frankly, better. If you know much about inertia, it takes an outside force to stop it. In this case, the outside force was Joe Baker – a local entrepreneur flush with distillery cash – who stepped in and bought Ober Gatlinburg and rebranded it Ober Mountain. As a local who has been going up the mountain for more than 30 years, it’s something I’m thrilled to see.
Ober Mountain was recently rebranded from Ober Gatlinburg. The park offers a lot of activities that can be accessed for a relatively affordable wristband. So overall, it is worth it. There are a lot of pros to visiting. The main downsides are that it is still a work in progress, and the dining and shopping options can be lacking a bit compared to a place like Anakeesta.
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What is Ober Mountain?
The answer to that question is a little bit dependent on the season. In the winter, Ober is Tennessee’s premier – and maybe only – ski and snowboarding destination. It features top-of-the-line snow makers that provide the white stuff even when Mother Nature doesn’t. The idea is that Ober is a mountain chalet, a getaway with European style and plenty to do year-round for the entire family.
What can you do at Ober Mountain?
There are a lot of activities that put gravity in charge. These include skiing, tubing, sledding, the Alpine coaster (the Tennessee Flyer) and the Alpine Slide – a sled with a break that runs along a concrete path down the mountain. There’s also year-round ice skating and ice bumper cars, a scenic chairlift, an indoor carousel and an outdoor rock climbing wall as well as a wildlife habitat where you can learn more about the animals that live in the Smokies. In the winter, there is also a snow zone where kids can play – weather permitting. And in the summer, there’s summer tubing and downhill mountain biking. There’s some shopping and dining – but not like at Anakeesta.
Pros of going to Ober Mountain
One major upside to me is that there’s no per-person cover charge. You can drive up to Ober and walk around, spending only the parking fee. If you want to ride the Aerial Tramway up, the ticket runs for about $30, though booking with Tripster can save you a few dollars. Also, almost all of Ober’s activities that don’t involve the snow or biking are included in the wristband price. That means for $49 (at the time of this writing), your family can ride the tram and plan a day that includes ice skating, summer tubing, the alpine slide, climbing the rock wall, riding the mountain coaster, see wildlife and more. And all without having to dip back into your wallet to pay for extras. Also, you can get some great views down to Gatlinburg in the valley below.
Cons of going to Ober Mountain
It’s still a work in progress. However, it’s exciting that Baker has purchased Ober and is making massive improvements, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. The ice rink is small and if you’re an experienced skater, it can be underwhelming. The dining options are pretty much just snacks and the shopping still leaves something to be desired. Also, tubing, snowboarding, skiing and any off-site activities (like rafting and ziplining) are NOT included in the wristband price. Additionally, if the weather’s bad or rainy, there’s no a la carte pricing for the wristband activities. In other words, you can’t just pay to do the indoor stuff. It’s all or nothing.
Is Ober Mountain worth it?
Yeah, I think it is. That $50 wristband for all the activities it buys? That’s a legit vacation day in Gatlinburg and you get to do a lot of different things. As a dad of three kids, it’s an excellent deal if you’re staying in a hotel on the strip and don’t have to pay the additional parking fee as well.
Parking, pricing, hours and more
Ober Mountain is open daily year-round. For parking, you’ve got two options and both cost $20 if you use the Ober lots. For the first option, you park down on the Parkway and ride the Aerial Tramway up to the mountain – which is greatly preferred – though I try to find a nearby spot that’s a little cheaper. Alternatively, you can drive up to the top and park in one of Ober’s many lots. The biggest problem with the second option is when the first lot or two fill up, you’ll have a little hike up the mountain to get to the facility. Also, the Tram is a great ride – it feels European – and adds a unique experience to your day. Ober is located at 1339 Ski Mountain Rd in Gatlinburg, TN.
A wristband that includes the Tram and Ober’s other activities is $49 for ages 5-49 or $39 for ages 60 and up. Ages four and under are free with a paying adult, unless restricted by size or age. If you decide to only purchase a Tramway ticket, you can upgrade to the full wristband at the park.
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