A regional history of oil embargoes, skyrocketing interest rates, warm winters and the first state zoning legislation to affect the Sugar Mountain region — HB 661 was ratified by the N.C. General Assembly on June, 14, 1985 — might have deterred lesser leaders, but not Gunther Jochl.

And for his persistence as decades-long owner and operator of Sugar Mountain Resort, Jochl was awarded Christmas Eve with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine — North Carolina’s highest civilian honor.

That Jochl received the surprise honor during the resort’s 50th anniversary dinner speaks to the longevity and ingenuity the native Austrian used to engineer his significant part in the success of Sugar Mountain. This portion of the High Country would not look the same today, and would not be among the top Southeast ski destinations, without his efforts through 43 of the resort’s 50 years.

Expectedly, Jochl during the ceremony deflected credit from himself and onto his staff, which numbers in the hundreds during peak season.

With the Dec. 24 award, Jochl joins a select company of North Carolinians who have been honored with the state honor, including former Appalachian State football coach Jerry Moore, Fred and Marjorie Pfohl of Beech Mountain and longtime Ashe County EMS employee Robert Poe.

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