North Carolina just got its best snowfall in three years, with up to 12 inches at higher elevations and 8 inches elsewhere. This kind of unprecedented snow opens up lots of opportunities to get outdoors beyond the ski resorts that make snow. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are the kinds of winter activities that North Carolinians only get to do out of state. So, where’s the best place to cross-country ski in North Carolina?
Randy Johnson wrote the book on Southern snow, literally. The Blowing Rock resident’s first book “Southern Snow” covers the history of skiing in the South, but also provides a wealth of practical information on backcountry and cross-country skiing in the South. “I learned to cross-country ski in the South,” he says. “The quality of the snow all depends on the timing and the elevation.”
Johnson says that when snow comes from the south as it did in this February 2014 storm, the Blowing Rock area is likely to get blanketed and following logic, the higher up you go, the more likely you are to find snow.
For those who are beginners to cross-country skiing, Moses Cone Memorial Park outside Blowing Rock is an ideal place to start. The former estate of ‘Denim King’ Cone has over 20 miles of carriage trails that provide smooth gentle slopes and the park’s hillsides are popular for tubing and sledding, too. Backcountry skiers and telemarkers also flock to the park in the snow. This President’s Day weekend the temperatures are expected to stay in the 20s and 30s, so the 12-plus inches on the ground is likely to stay put for a while.
When snow comes in from the west (as is likely in most storms), Roan Mountain, which spans the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, is a great pick. The 20 miles of trails up and around the mountain offer options for those of varying levels of ability, snoeshoers and skiers alike. The road up to the mountain is gated, so skiers can park on Carver’s Gap Road and ski up. The Appalachian Trail and Cloudland trail both run through the park.
North of Boone, Elk Knob State Park welcomes cross-country skiers and snowshoers (sorry, no shredders) and does a great job of keeping the roads plowed and access open.
Johnson’s hiking books “Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway” and “Hiking North Carolina” also include maps of cross-country skiing trails.
So, Southerners, if you’ve got those cross-country skis packed away, the time is right to get them out. For downhillers and snowboarders, there’s always the ski resorts, a comprehensive list of which can be found here.