Surviving snowstorms in the North Carolina mountains comes with the territory of living in the High Country. The winter and the colder months are a great time to be in the Appalachian mountains, so knowing how to prepare for snow in Western North Carolina is a lifesaving skill to have!
Use our snow survival guide for the North Carolina Mountains to understand what winter is like so you know what to expect for our next snowstorm.
What is Winter Like in the NC Mountains?
Winter in western North Carolina can vary considerably. The main factor is elevation and every winter is different from the last.
The average temperature during January of 2010 was 27 º in Boone and the average January temperature was 31º in 2022.
An even more telling statistic is the snowfall accumulation totals. During the winter of 2009-2010 Beech Mountain saw 122” of snow! Compare that to the 2021-2022 season of 65” of snow or the famous Blizzard of 1993 that saw 24 inches of snow in a single day!
What to Expect From Winter Storms in North Carolina
Weather patterns can produce a variety of winter storms in North Carolina. Mountains and valleys create orographic lifting that changes conditions tremendously.
In the North Carolina mountains, a snowstorm can be very different from an ice storm. During an “icing,” every surface is covered with ice. Roadways, parking lots, trees, cars, and sidewalks will all be glazed over with a casing of ice.
An ice storm can become very dangerous for traveling and electrical outages. School and business closings, power and/or water outages, limited visibility, downed limbs and trees, and every now and then road closures.
Here are 4 things you need to expect during different types of winter storms so you can better prepare.
#1: You Need to Winterize Your Home
While outdoor sports are loads of fun, you will need to properly winterize your home. A winter cold snap can create real problems when subzero temps meet high winds.
Before a snowstorm homeowners have to prepare. Keeping your house heated and your plumbing system drained is critical.
When water is left in pipes it will freeze and expand. In the winter cold water in your plumbing system can lead to pipes bursting or slow leaks after the thaw.
Fortunately, a few easy and inexpensive steps of winterization can save you thousands of dollars and a lot of headaches in the long run.
#2: Stay Connected with Weather Alerts
Staying connected to the local weather channel is key to staying up to date on what is happening in the High Country. Rays Weather is an excellent source of information.
All of the advisories, watches, and warnings will be posted and regularly updated on Rays Weather’s website and app. A nice feature of this station is that each section of Watauga County has its own forecast and detailed discussion.
#3: Know Your Driving Conditions
It is critical to check the local weather stations before making the decision to drive up in the North Carolina mountains. Anyone that has driven up Highway 421, 105, or 221 during winter months knows when they are getting close to the mountains as the weather can change quickly.
What once was a drizzle can become sleet, snow, or even ice once you’ve passed a certain elevation. The weather systems that pass through the mountains are very different for a number of reasons.
The weather at the top of Beech Mountain is quite different from than winter weather in Deep Gap. Using the NC Department of Transportation is helpful when you plan your trip “up the mountain.”
Another excellent resource is Ready NC. There are great tips on how to have a safe and exciting winter getaway.
Ice on the Road
Ice is something that even the best vehicle or driver cannot overcome.
If there are any black ice warnings the best plan is to stay put, don’t drive. Nothing is more important than safety.
Be sure to always have supplies like food, water, and a blanket in your car in case you ever have to stop due to driving conditions.
4WD or AWD Maybe Advised
Driving a 2WD vehicle in the mountains during the winter months is not advised. If 4WD or AWD vehicles are available to rent, it is wise to rent instead.
Make sure you read your owner’s manual so you know how to go from 2WD to 4WD. Whenever a rental property tells you that 4WD is required, they are telling you that because the access to the property is likely steep or subject to snow and ice!
#4: Excellent Conditions for Winter Sports Are Coming
After a snowstorm and winter weather, you can expect excellent conditions for winter sports. The High Country of North Carolina is well-known for skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, ice skating, and cross-country skiing.
Winter Storm Preparation Tips
The main way to survive a snowstorm in the North Carolina mountains is by being prepared. As long as you are aware of the surroundings in your home, with the weather, and on the road, you can handle any winter weather the mountains send our way.