Is Ober Mountain worth visiting for a day if you’re not going skiing? We hadn’t visited Ober Mountain in several years. The original attraction, previously known as Ober Gatlinburg, has been around since 1962, and the look of the attraction in recent years could be described as run down.
In late 2022, a local group of investors purchased Ober Gatlinburg and renamed it Ober Mountain. So, in February 2024, we were excited to see what changes had happened since the new owners took control.
Unfortunately, it’s not there yet. We know Ober can’t be completely renovated this fast, but after a year under new ownership, much of Ober Mountain still feels like it hasn’t been touched since it first opened.
There’s a lot of potential for Ober Mountain, as it’s a great location. And while we expect some good improvements in the future, it needs some (ok, much) work before we would return.
Disclaimer: Our review is based on a family visit without skiing and snowboarding. Ober Mountain is the only place to ski and snowboard in Tennessee, so it’s really your only choice for that.
If you’re planning on visiting for a family day and not skiing, there’s better choices in Gatlinburg.
There’s better ways to spend your time in Gatlinburg. We would only recommend Anakeesta in these cases:
- You’re skiing or snowboarding, or
- You want to see snow (manufactured snow). It’s one of the few places to find it without going to North Carolina. Ober Mountain is about 1300′ in elevation higher than downtown Gatlinburg, so it will only be 2-3 degrees colder. Read more about snow in Tennnesse. There are also other options for snow tubing near Gatlinburg.
- You’re ok with paying $50 per person for all the rides, as the individual rides are priced too expensive.
There are two options for getting to Ober Mountain: the tram from downtown Gatlinburg or driving up to the mountaintop (which has very limited parking).
The tram is a scenic way to get to Ober Mountain, and if you’re buying the wristband (more on that below), it’s included in the price. The tram holds about 120 people, and there are two tram cars.
Riding the tram is the most popular option if you stay in Gatlinburg, as it’s easy to walk to. The base station is at 1001 Parkway, in downtown Gatlinburg.
Parking is $20, though parking drops to $15, then $10 as you drive to parking lots further away from the Parkway.
The tram station is right next to the Hampton Inn Gatlinburg. This is looking from the balcony in our room at Hampton Inn to the Ober Mountain tram building. We’ve stayed in this hotel several times. It’s an older motel-style building (though it’s being renovated) in a great location.
Note: If you take the tram up, it’s the only way back down. There’s no bus backup, like at Anakeesta. So keep that in mind when planning your return trip. We’ve talked to people who have waited 2 hours for a tram back down. On our visit, there was no wait.
Parking at the top: driving up to Ober mountain
The other option is driving up to the mountaintop. This is only an option if you’re getting up there early.
To drive up, the address is 1339 Ski Mountain Rd, Gatlinburg. The Ober Mountain website says the address will not work in most GPS systems but it worked just fine in Google Maps.
We drove up this trip, getting there at around 10 AM. There’s a two-lane road leading up to the top of the mountain, with a sign at the bottom to let you know if 4-wheel drive or chains are required because of snow on the road. That’s usually not an issue.
The road has condos and a few small restaurants along it. There are a few steep places, but it isn’t any worse than other mountain places.
Note: The elevation in downtown Gatlinburg is 1400 ft, and Ober Mountain is 2700 ft, so there’s not a huge difference in altitude. If there’s no snow in downtown Gatlinburg, there’s not going to be much on the way up, either. The temperature is only 2-3 Fahrenheit degrees colder on Ober Mountain than in Gatlinburg.
As you get to the parking lot areas, you’ll be directed to which one isn’t full yet. When we arrived at 10:00AM on a Saturday in February, lots 1 and 2 were full and we got one of the last spots in lot 3. Parking is $20 cash only.
This is lot three, you can see it’s pretty small.
There’s an assortment of small and big buses running back and forth, depending on which lot you park in. Lots one and two don’t require a bus ride as they’re pretty close.
Lots three is far enough to ride the bus up, and four definitely is.
This is the road up from lot three. We rode the bus up, but walked back down in about 5 minutes. There’s not much of a shoulder but not much traffic.
If you’re in parking lot two, there’s a gravel sidewalk going up the rest of the way on the right.
Ober Mountain is in the upper right corner, so it’s a short walk. Parking lot one is right next to the Ober Mountain building.
This is the same gravel sidewalk returning to parking lot two. It’s a bit steep if you have a stroller.
Prices and Tickets
If you take the tram up, you need to buy either a tram trip for $29 per person or a wristband for most attractions for $49, including the tram.
The wristband includes the tram, mountain coaster, wildlife habitat, ice skating, ice bumper cars, chairlift, carousel, rock wall, and a snow play area. It doesn’t include skiing or snow tubing, which is $40 per person per hour and must be reserved in advance.
If you’re planning on going with kids, you might as well just buy the wristband. They’ve priced the individual attractions, most of which are not very good, so high that you’re forced to buy the wrist band. We’ll talk about that next.
When you walk into the Ober Mountain building, it feels like a old roller skating or ice skating rink from the 1960s. A huge metal building that looks like it hasn’t seen a paint brush in decades.
It’s not dirty, but just doesn’t look like it’s had any maintenance. Like instead of a “wait here” sign for the ice bumper cars, it’s scribbled in marker on the door.
The building is centered around a sad-looking ice rink, which is split with some road barriers into a combination of ice skating and ice bumper cars.
Things To Do
For the individual attractions that we asked about, many were priced at around $22 each. We didn’t find this number advertised on the website, or on any signs.
Some prices are listed on the website, like the family snow zone for $10. But we couldn’t find any for the ice bumper cars, and had to go to the ticket booth to find out what the price was. We’ll leave it up to you to decide if it’s worth $22.
Ice Bumper Cars
We’ll start with the ice bumper cars. We paid an unbelievable $45 for our two kids to ride the ice bumper cars in the picture above. Two of the cars sat deflated in the right corner. We waited approx 45 minutes for this, and the line was about double when we were done.
The ice skating appeared to be the same price as other attractions, and wasn’t too crowded. It’s the only place in Gatlinburg for year-round ice skating.
Snow tubing is one of the biggest draws to Ober, other than skiing and snowboarding. Snow tubing (during winter) requires reservations, and is bookable online for $40 for an hour (per person). It’s an additional charge on top of the wristband, and is usually fully booked on weekends and holidays.
The snow tubing has an enclosed conveyor belt to haul you and the tube back up to the top. The tubing is fun, and the best place for tubing in the area. But the tubing lanes are shorter than other places we’ve been tubing.
The mountain coaster was the most fun attraction that we did. But again, we paid over $22 each to ride on it. Even for a child ticket. That’s compared to $18 for most other mountain coasters in the area, or even cheaper for a child.
The combined weight limit is 300 lbs for 2 people on this ride, lower than many of the others also. Kids need to be at least 9 years old to ride by themselves.
What is a mountain or alpine coaster?
Alpine coasters, first developed in Europe, are coaster rides on tracks built on hills or mountains. A chain system pulls you up to the top, then races back down. You control the speed of the small cart with brakes, which are simple to operate.
You push down on the levers to go and let go to slow down. These coasters are popular in the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg areas. One adult and child can ride, with a combined weight limit that varies depending on whether the track is wet or dry.
And it’s a good enough mountain coaster. The line is frequently pretty long for it, as the wrist band includes the ride.
And there are plenty of better mountain (alpine) coasters around Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Like our favorite, Rocky Top Mountain Coaster, which has multiple hills. Or Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster, which is the longest in the country.
Also unfortunately, they built the alpine coaster right next to the snow tubing and ski area, and it’s usually closed when the snow making machines are in operation.
Rock Climbing Wall
We didn’t try the rock climbing wall, which looked similar to the portable units that our school rents for field day. We didn’t ask about the stand-alone ticket price, but with all the other attractions being around $22, we can take a good guess.
Family Snow Zone
The family snow zone is the fenced in area on the right in the above picture, where you can pay to go in and play in the snow made by the snow making machines.
It’s located at the bottom of the ski run. The cost is $10 per person.
Since we visited in winter, the alpine slide wasn’t open on this visit. The alpine slide is different from the mountain coaster. While the mountain coaster is attached to the track, this is a cart that sits on top of a slide-like track.
The wildlife encounter is a mini zoo, with the main feature being black bears. There’s many other animals including bobcats and smaller creatures, but it’s not a full sized zoo.
We expect Ober Mountain, formerly Ober Gatlinburg, to eventually transform into a mountaintop destination worth going to for activities other than skiing and snowboarding. As of February 2024, we can’t recommend it for a day of other activities, there’s too many other great options in Gatlinburg!