Cross-Country Skiing in Greer

January 13-16, 2024

I was, for many years, a fairly hard-core cross-country skier. Most winter weekends in Québec were spent skiing in the Laurentians, Parc Shawinigan or Parc Jacques Cartier, with a pack on my back. We'd spend the night in a remote "refuge" getting our heat from a tiny woodstove, and punching a hole in a nearby lake for water.

When I moved to Arizona in 2001, my one regret was that I would probably have to give up cross-country skiing. Over the past 23 years, I've tried many times to chase the occasional major snowstorm north into the higher mountains in search of skiing:

The problem is always that when there is enough snow for skiing, it's all gone by the time the roads are clear enough to get there. In January of this year I was sidelined for several weeks by a nasty respiratory virus. I kept myself sane by dreaming about cross-country skiing. Our old skis are long gone, so I haunted eBay for some gently used vintage gear. I studied weather patterns, road conditions and lodging options all over the Southwest, finally fixing on Cloudcroft as our best option for its proximity, soaring base elevation and ease of access. Two big storms blew through the second week in January, but both fizzled out west of the Sacramentos after dumping nearly 14" in the White Mountains of Arizona. On Saturday, January 13, we packed up the camper and headed north, without even reserving a place to stay, since it seemed unlikely that the roads would be cleared so soon after a big storm.

Mogollon Mountains from NM 180

We were astonished to find that NM 180, a minor highway that climbs 3000' in 160 miles, was bone dry all the way to Greer.

Escudilla Mountain in snow

Mount Escudilla from just outside Springerville. It was a beautiful day, windy with dazzling sunshine. We remarked that open areas and south-facing slopes were mostly bare, but there were still deep patches of snow in the woods. Encouraged, we went ahead and booked a room at the White Mountain Lodge in Greer.

room at the White Mountain Lodge

It turned out to be a cozy knotty-pine paneled suite with a full kitchen and a peerless view of the Little Colorado River Valley.

me skiing

Time to try out our new gear!

Dennis skiing

We skied right out the back door of the lodge!

Dennis at the trail sign for Pole Knoll Loop

The next morning it was off to Pole Knoll. The base elevation here 9000', and the trails ascend to more than 9600'. We were stunned to see the forest floor buried in 8-12" of fresh powder!

For the first time in many years, we were able to ski — really ski, with gliding and everything!

thick ice on my skis

Unfortunately, as we rounded the mountain, patches of sun caked my skis with a thick coat of ice. I thought the embedded pine cone was a nice touch!

Dry Lube to the rescue

We returned to Pole Knoll the next morning. A friend suggested we try spraying my skis with PAM, and Dennis substituted some Dry Lube.

our tracks in deep snow

It worked! It was our best day of skiing in many many years!

Raven Loop trail sign

The Raven Loop. Ohhhh, "more difficult"!

skiing in the aspen forest

A thick duvet of fresh snow in an aspen forest. It just doesn't get any better than this!

view of Greer

But after 2½ days on the trail, we could barely walk, let alone ski. It was time to say farewell to Greer.

smoke billowing from a chimney in Greer

It surely was a wonderful trip! I hope we'll be back again soon!