Skiing without the slopes: cross-country in WV
The slopes aren’t the only way to enjoy winter’s beauty. Explore with the laid-back, more soulful ski trip— cross country skiing.
Cross-country is also called “touring,” or “Nordic style.” Rather than rapidly swooshing down hills, cross-country skiers look for flatter trails that allow them to kick and glide almost effortlessly through miles of winter wonderland.
More solitude, fewer crowds. More cardio, less adrenaline.
West Virginia has some great places for cross-country skiing, whether you are a seasoned skier looking to explore the backcountry, or a beginner looking to rent equipment and learn the basics on easy packed and groomed trails.
For more experienced skiers, the backcountry possibilities are limitless here, as long as there’s a good snowpack. Many hiking trails in the Mountain State make great ski trails in the winter: Long Point Trail in the New River Gorge, sections of the Bluefield River Trail, trails through the Cranberry Wilderness— they’re all fantastic.
Beginners can learn the basics before going off on your own adventures. Pipestem Resort State Park rents cross-country skis, poles and boots to skiers wanting to glide around their groomed trails and golf courses.
If you are already in the Snowshoe area for downhill skiing, you may also want to check out the Elk River Touring Center for both rentals and info on cross-country skiing around some of the highest elevations in West Virginia.
Well, it’s not a resort like our downhill destinations, but White Grass is one of the best places to start out your West Virginia cross-country experience. This place has full rental services, more than 30 miles of groomed ski trails and even a fun cafe to hang out in after a cold day.
For more advanced skiers looking for excitement, White Grass is also the hub of West Virginia telemark skiing– a type of cross-country skiing that takes heavier equipment down steeper hills. You can even join in on their occasional seminars to learn how to get into the whole tele thing!
Keep in mind…
Wherever you want to go to start out your cross-country experience, be aware of a few things that are different from downhill skiing:
- Cross-country skiing is more active than downhill– you’ll likely break a sweat and want to strip away a few layers of clothing as you warm up, but sweat-soaked clothing can also be very cold as you wind down and the day gets colder.
- Many cross country areas will be more remote, and because of the flat nature of the trails, it is not easy to just coast back to a lodge if you get cold or tired, even if you are at a developed resort.
- Be prepared: bring food, water and essentials. Treat it more like a backcountry hike than a resort experience.
With these simple preparations in mind, get psyched to see the mountains, forests and hollows of West Virginia that few people get to experience. Cross Country skiing is truly one of the nicest ways to spend winter in the Mountain State.
Have you tried cross-country skiing in WV?