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Mike Dojc

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Destination: High Country, North Carolina

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Sugar Mountain
Sugar Mountain

Photograph by Bill Russ/Visitnc.com

Craving an Alpine fix? The peaks in North Carolina’s High Country may be less prodigious than those in Aspen, Stowe, or Park City, but the southernmost winter wonderland is just a five-hour drive away. For families and skiing or snowboarding newbies, this trio of resorts near Boone offers top-flight instruction, ample powder, and unique après-ski diversions.

Terrain park at Appalachian Ski Mountain
Terrain park at Appalachian Ski Mountain

Photograph by Bill Russ/Visitnc.com

Bunny Friendly
With a mere 365-foot drop, Appalachian Ski Mountain is the place to learn. The gentle hill is home to the French Swiss Ski College and a Burton Learn to Ride Center for aspiring snowboarders. At both, one-hour group lessons are just $20, and private instruction is $50 an hour. And while most of the resort’s terrain parks are for the trick-happy, there’s also one with pint-sized jibs, rails, and bonks.

Zip and Slide
Hawksnest is snow-tubing central, with 30 lanes—some stretching up to 1,000 feet—and nifty conveyor lifts to maximize your slide time. For an aerial thrill, fly through the sky along 20 cable zip lines, including a couple of “mega zips” that span more than 2,000 feet. When flakes are falling, it feels like soaring through a snow globe.

Sugar Rush
With runs up to 1.5 miles long, Sugar Mountain is the Big Kahuna of High Country skiing. New this season is a high-speed, six-seat lift to whisk you to the summit posthaste. At Sugarfest, the mountain’s annual slopeside festival (December 11 to 13), you can demo the freshest equipment from Atomic, K2, Volkl, Salomon, and more. Get there on Friday for Olympic silver medalist Paul Wylie’s ice-skating clinic.

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Photograph by Bill Russ/VisitNC.com
Proper
Proper

Photograph courtesy of Proper

Eat & Sleep
“Eat more collards” is the motto at Proper, where seasonal Southern fare—catfish po’boys, North Carolina wild-caught shrimp and grits—is doled out in an old jailhouse in Boone. For ski-in, ski-out rentals, try Dereka’s Sugar Mountain Accommodations. Prefer to stay in a homey inn? Check out Little Main Street Inn & Suites in Banner Elk.

Winter Birding
Perched high on the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge, Grandfather Mountain attracts bird nerds and naturalists. In winter, scout red crossbills, goldfinches, and red-breasted nuthatches while enjoying the year’s most spectacular vistas. “On our clearest days, you can see out to the skyline of Charlotte,” says chief naturalist Mickey Shortt Jr. Provided winds aren’t too blustery, brave the 228-foot, mile-high swinging bridge.

This article originally appeared in our December 2015 issue.

Destination: Hilton Head, South Carolina

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Hilton Head
Photograph courtesy of Hilton Head Island Visitor & Convention Bureau

At Hilton Head, beautiful drives usually mean golf balls soaring over manicured fairways. But for one weekend every fall, motoring becomes the island’s preeminent pastime as hundreds of haute wheels and pristine vintage restorations roll onto South Carolina’s southernmost point. The 14th annual Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival & Concours d’Elegance (October 31 to November 1) will attract 15,000 classic car aficionados to the Port Royal Golf Club. The Life in the Suburbs exhibition takes a nostalgic look at the station wagons and service trucks that helped define the American dream in the commuter neighborhoods of the 1950s and 1960s.

Hilton Head
Photograph courtesy of the Sea Pines Resort/Boomkin Production

Where to eat
Locally sourced Southern flavors rule at Live Oak. Dishes range from a brick-fired pulled pork pizza with collards and a cider barbecue sauce to a three-course vegan feast. The rotunda offers a panoramic view of Pete Dye’s Heron Point golf course. Farther inland, chef Michael Cirafesi’s Ombra Cucina Rustica serves pasta and seafood with an Italian accent.

On the block
Bid, buy, or gawk at the live auto auction (October 31) at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa, the festival’s host hotel. Beauties include a restored 1957 Ford Thunderbird F-Code and a one-owner 1984 Ferrari 512 BBi with just 3,600 clicks on the odometer.

Hilton Head
Photograph courtesy of Hilton head Island Motoring Festival & Concours D’Elegance

Hot wheels
The Concours d’Elegance (November 1) features 180 gleaming specimens in a wide variety of classes—from brass pre-1916 models and vintage motorcycles to spellbinding sports cars—all competing for best of show, an honor that was bestowed upon a 1938 Bugatti Type 57C last year.

In the air
At the inaugural Aero Expo (October 31), aircraft past and present will be paired with apropos cars. Sip cocktails and scope out the hangar the night before at the Flights & Fancy Aeroport Gala (tickets start at $150).

Hilton Head
Photograph courtesy of the Coastal Discovery Museum

Two-wheelers
Bike rental shops abound on the island. Cycling on sand can be killer, but for a leisurely ride, hop on a fat-wheeled cruiser and pedal along the hard-packed beach at low tide.

What else to do
Steep yourself in natural history at the Coastal Discovery Museum. The 68-acre property brims with Lowcountry intrigue, from grazing Marsh Tacky horses (descendants of Colonial Spanish breeds) to a carnivorous plants bog. Stroll the marsh-front boardwalks, and check out the butterfly habitat.

This article originally appeared in our October 2015 issue.

Destination: Aiken, South Carolina

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The sport of kings at Aiken Polo Club
The sport of kings at Aiken Polo Club

Photograph by George Buggs

Unbridled equine excitement permeates the air in this charming 1,000-horse town. Journey east on U.S. 78 a half hour past Augusta, and you’ll find yourself clopping through the Carolinas’ equestrian epicenter. This is primo sandy-soiled horse country, where sheikhs with dreams of Derby glory train their prized ponies, and the hottest to-dos are typically thrown in an infield under a tent. The spring season starts next month with the Aiken Triple Crown, three consecutive Saturdays of racing, steeplechase, and polo action; the galloping zeal continues through June.

The Willcox
The Willcox

Photograph courtesy of the Willcox

Where to stay
The white-columned Willcox brims with antebellum charm and a guest roll gilded with luminaries from Winston Churchill to Elizabeth Arden. Golf nut looking for an opulent perch during the second weekend of April? This 22-room boutique books two years in advance of Masters week. From $189

Where to eat
Graze on grits, country ham, eggs, and other down-home staples at Track Kitchen (420 Mead Avenue, 803-641-9628), a low-key breakfast joint where you’re liable to bump into a jockey or trainer. For a formal yet unpretentious dining experience, visit Malia’s for nouveaux American cuisine.

Hopelands Garden
Hopelands Garden

Photograph courtesy of city of Aiken PRT department

What else to do
The golf exhibit at the Aiken County Historical Museum  provides a glimpse into the Palmetto Golf Club, an elite haunt. The Alister Mac-Kenzie–designed course is private, but during the Masters, you can play for $225 a round.

Stroll through the azaleas of the 14-acre Hopelands Garden, then visit the quaint on-site Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame & Museum. For rail buffs and those with children, the Train Museum at the Visitor’s Center is a must-see.

Horsing around
During the season, Aiken Polo Club holds court every Sunday at Whitney Field, the oldest continuously used field in the U.S. If your closest experience with polo is the Ralph Lauren logo, it takes only a couple of chukkers (periods of play) to warm up to it. $5–$25

The Aiken Spring Steeplechase (March 21), a riveting test of speed and jumping, is the Super Bowl of Aiken’s calendar, drawing upwards of 30,000. Admission starts at $25, but for upscale eats, optimal sight lines, and hobnobbing, spring for the Tent Party by the finish line ($120).

Following that, the Highfields Event Center hosts the Aiken Spring Classic Finale (April 22-26), a United States Equestrian Federation-sanctioned premiere hunter-jumper show.

Photograph by Tiziano Scaffai
Photograph by Tiziano Scaffai

Dress the part
Rider or not, look like one in custom Franco Tucci polo boots. $1,525

This article originally appeared in our February 2015 issue.

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