Outdoors people are opinionated. Tell them how so-and-so mountain is a gorgeous hike, and they'll say that it hardly compares to some other place. Mention a pristine swimming hole, and they'll tell you it's too crowded.
Some of these prejudices are easy to account for. After all, we live in Western North Carolina, a place that's graced with outdoor opportunities like few others. Say "whitewater," and we ask, "What Class?" Say "trails," and we ask, "How long? How much vertical ascent? Balds? Vistas?" It's easy to have favorites when there are plenty of places to choose from.
Still -- and much like a personal-floatation device in this regard -- some places always rise to the surface. This year, several Hall-of-Famers are back, including Bent Creek for mountain biking, the vast, murky French Broad River for paddling, the Blue Ridge Parkway for road-biking and Wolf Laurel for skiing and snowboarding.
For the first time, this year we also asked you to name your favorite cycling and running events, and you did: Hilly Hellacious is the most fun on two wheels, and the Asheville Citizen-Times half-marathon clinched it for running events.
But enough of all this idle chit-chat. See you out there.
Bike Ride: Mountain
Bike Ride: Road
Place to Hike
Place to Paddle/Kayak
Place to Picnic
Place to Skateboard
3 Cherry St., Asheville, 225-7184
1800 Old Hendersonville Highway, Brevard, 862-6700
Place to Ski/Snowboard
578 Valley View Circle, Mars Hill, 689-4111
Highway 184, Sugar Mountain, 898-4521
1007 Beech Mountain Parkway, Beech Mountain, 387-2011
1080 Ski Lodge Road, Maggie Valley, 926-0285
Place to Swim
Various locations (www.ymcawnc.org)
Place to Walk/Run