Check out the fun on the High Country Nordic Association’s Facebook Page
By Randy Johnson
Consistent cold and COVID claustrophobia have brought great attendance to local slopes this ski season—and the same thing has happened for cross country skiing.
Even without big snows, a short list of local Nordic ski sites has seen a lot of striding and gliding over a season now passing the one-month mark. A lull seems likely in the next week but local enthusiasts hope to get all they can out of this weekend at places like Roan Mountain, west of Banner Elk, and Elk Knob State Park, north of Boone. Best of all, the area’s often snowiest months still lie ahead.
Always a High Country winter favorite, cross country is usually less visible due to the need for natural snow and the word-of-mouth required to alert fans to good ski conditions. That goes double on a winter like this, when good skiing creeps in on smaller snow events that add up on lofty peaks but generally don’t bury Boone.
Luckily, there’s a newly popular wrinkle in how skiers spread the word—the High Country Nordic Association Facebook page. It’s a public page, open for anyone to peruse, and it’s increasingly full of great photos of local skiing and inspiring stories of new folks discovering cross country skiing in the High Country.
The best part of the page is that skiers from all over now can see snow reports from popular ski sites on the same day or a day or so after someone else has skied the site. It’s not perfect, but factor in a good weather forecast and a new era has dawned.
Distant skiers now often travel hours to successfully find good ski conditions. It’s nice to see people from deep in the Piedmont raving about their first “real taste of Southern Snow.” Doug Boggie, an investment professional from Raleigh, found himself helping clients from his home during COVID. Recently he’s done some of that from hotels in the Boone area while skiing on Roan Mountain and Elk Knob.
There are reports and pictures from popular places, like the carriage roads in Cone Park and around Trout Lake, the trails of Price Park, and even gated parts of the Parkway, such as the area south of Grandmother Mountain west of Linville.
One discussion of our area recalled a great tour enjoyed by a party that skied Grandfather Mountain’s Linn Cove Viaduct part of the Parkway that is often gated between Beacon Heights and Holloway Mountain Road. The group spotted a car at Holloway Mountain Road, then drove to Beacon Heights and skied across the viaduct back to their other car, a roughly 6-mile ski tour that’s largely level or downhill.
Some people show shots of where they ski on neighborhood or nearby trails, and you get the impression in some cases, secret ski spots are being shared. There’s a lot of free information found in the posts.
The Facebook page occasionally discusses “issues,” like ski trail etiquette, that has been impacted by surging trail use during the pandemic. Back in the “good old early days” of local ski-touring, it used to be that most of the cars at snowy Cone Park and Roan Mountain carried skiers. Now many are walkers, hikers, even sledders.
Today’s skiers increasingly find non-skiers stomping in their ski tracks, a practice that can ruin smooth skiing and even make skiing unsafe. The real rub to some is that great ski conditions are being destroyed to make walking easier on “winter hikers” (aaaarrrggh!?!). Luckily, it’s easy for hikers to make a separate walkers path on road-width trails at Moses Cone, Roan, or on the gated Parkway.
Similar with dogs. Everybody loves Fido but most formal Nordic ski areas restrict dogs to a few trails so skiers can really enjoy themselves. Even dog lovers might agree that skiing with a pet is best on less visited trails.
The Facebook page serves as a forum on such topics and actually educates people about how to share the trails and enjoy the snow we have.
Facebook sometimes seems better at polarizing people and entire societies than bringing them together. But as we hopefully look forward to many more weeks of Nordic skiing, check out the High Country Nordic Association page.
With so many pictures of people smiling and enjoying great scenery and snow, scanning the Nordic Association’s page is almost as much fun as skiing itself if you’re into cross country.
Randy Johnson’s been writing about skiing in the South for 40 years. His classic book Southern Snow includes our area’s Nordic and downhill skiing, ski history and more in a new 2nd edition (available online and locally).