Snow Survival Guide for the North Carolina Mountains

White SUV driving down an icy and snowy rural road in the North Carolina mountains

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.

5 Smart Rules For Winterizing Your Home

#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.

The Best Ski Resorts In and Around Boone

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.

About the Author

Susan is proud to be a native Tarheel, but as a military brat she also spent many years growing up in Kodiak, Alaska. Her father was a helicopter pilot in the Marines and then the U.S. Coast Guard, which allowed her to experience and appreciate both the South East and the Pacific NorthWest. After spending most of her High School years in Kodiak, her family was stationed back to Elizabeth City, NC. When the time came to choose a college to attend, Susan longed for something that reminded her a bit of the beautiful mossy forests of Alaska and the mountain culture that she had grown to love. Upon arrival in Boone in 2002 she immediately felt like she had come home. Although Susan is not a “true Wataugan,” she now considers the High Country of North Carolina her home. Susan loves to travel and even spent a semester abroad in County Cork, Ireland. Susan graduated from Appalachian State University in 2006 with a Bachelors degree in History, Secondary Education. Susan met her husband, David Stelling, while attending ASU. David is a Professional Fly Fishing Guide and Outfitter in North Carolina, Tennessee and Alaska. Susan spent 10 years dedicated to teaching High School Social Studies and also helped create the award winning alternative education program, Blue Ridge Academy, located in Avery County. Susan and David had their first child in 2015. Sophronia Woods Stelling and welcomed Hardiman Hill Stelling in 2019. Susan and David feel fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful places and supportive communities on earth. The High Country is a wonderful place to not only vacation, but also to raise a family. Susan has been with 828 Real Estate since its creation in 2018 and has enjoyed every moment of working for a locally owned and operated firm. The last couple years have been very exciting and Susan looks forward to working with more people looking to either buy or sell in the High Country.