Cross Country Skiing

The slopes aren’t the only way to enjoy winter’s beauty. Explore with the laid-back, more soulful ski trip— cross country skiing.

Skiing without the Slopes

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.

Backcountry

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:

For a true backcountry experience plant your trip to Monongahela National Forest. Explore anywhere from open fields to secluded forested trails. Travel on unplowed, forest service roads ranging from easy gentle rolling trails to the more difficult steeper slopes, sections of Dolly Sods Wilderness, or trails through the Cranberry Wilderness— they’re all fantastic.

Visit one of West Virginia’s most popular areas during the snowy season. When there is enough snow Coopers Rock State Forest turns into a cross-country adventure. During the winter there are no facilities but don’t let that stop you. Coopers Rock offers easy roadside trails to the more intermediate and more advanced ski terrain.

Beginners

Beginners can learn the basics before going off on their own adventures. Pipestem Resort State Park is located a half hour’s drive from Winterplace Ski Resort. Pipestem rents cross-country skis, poles, and boots to skiers wanting to glide around their groomed trails and golf courses. Enjoy the fifteen miles overlooking the gorgeous Bluestone National Scenic River.

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. Discover more than 25 miles of trails on your own or take advantage of the lessons offered at Elk River Touring Center.

Resort Skiing

No reservations are needed, walk right into White Grass Ski Touring Center for your cross country adventure. Located in a snowy corner of the Cabin Mountain range of West Virginia’s High Alleghenies. Open December through March. Explore 30 miles of maintained trails. Experience traveling through rolling hills with over 1,200 vertical feet available. Fuel up and recharge at White Grass Café.

If you want to mix things up Canaan Valley Resort State Park is also home to cross-country skiing trails. Canaan Valley offers more than 19 miles of marked, ungroomed cross-country skiing trails. The park’s cross-country skiing center offers ski rentals, lessons, snowshoe rentals, and guided cross-country tours.  In addition to their sled run, Blackwater Falls State Park has a full-service cross country skiing and snowshoeing center that offers lessons and equipment rentals. From mid-December through March 15 enjoy more than ten miles of groomed and maintained cross country skiing trails. Blackwater Falls State Park accommodations include the 54-room Blackwater Lodge and 26 cabins. 

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.

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