Northeast Backcountry Ski Getaways

Anywhere White, Washington, D.C.
  |  Gorp.com

Washington, D.C. Appalachian Mountain Clubbers (AMC) may well consider themselves citizens of a tropical hardship post. Like citizens of other environmentally challenged outreaches — say Barrow, Alaska, or Tucson, Arizona — Washingtonians view their city's climatic extremes with a measure of pride: It's local legend that European diplomats were paid a hardship bonus to endure the heat and humidity. So it's not surprising that Ellen Kohn, a local resident and avid skier, has a different take on winter than her northern colleagues.

"Let the snow find you," Kohn says. "It's a question of changing your mind set.

We used to plan cross-country ski trips, but it got too frustrating. There were some seasons when we'd have to cancel every single trip because there wasn't any snow."

And then there are those winters when the capital does get snow and northerners watch in astonishment as an inch-deep dusting brings the city to a virtual standstill. Remember snow days from elementary school? In Washington, they're not just for kids: Workers go home, businesses close, and the government activates its liberal leave policy.

"Snow shuts us down," says Kohn. "But that makes for good skiing. Once the roads clear out, you can even ski down major avenues." Not to mention the running/biking paths, for which the capital and its surrounding communities are justly famous.

Potomac AMCers with a taste for adventure can glide over to Washington's Rock Creek Park (which extends into Maryland's Rock Creek Park, north of the capital); the 17-mile-long Mount Vernon Bicycle Path; the Washington and Old Dominion (W & OD) Bike Path (which goes 45 miles west, all the way to Purcellville in Loudon County, just nine miles east of the Blue Ridge Mountains); or the property of the Masonic Temple in Alexandria.

Or ski the Mall itself: It's a four-mile round trip from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol and back, and if that's not enough, you can add on a side jaunt around the Tidal Basin (that's where the cherry blossoms can be found in springtime) and the Jefferson Memorial.

As Kohn says, you can't actually plan for cross-country skiing in Washington. For ideas on where to go when the snow falls, check out Greater Washington Area Bike Trails, published by Potomac Area Council of American Youth Hostels and Washington Area Bicyclist Association, which describes the bicycle trails in this article — and 59 other bicycle routes, some of which make for great cross-country skiing.


Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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