Chincoteague is a can’t-miss summer destination for residents of the East Coast, south, and Mid-Atlantic. It has everything a summer vacation needs—pristine beaches, a quaint town, and world-renowned wildlife. However, Chincoteague isn’t just a summer town. In fact, thousands of visitors flock to the island every year to experience one of the area’s most unique, rewarding, and treasured winter pastimes: Nordic skiing.
Chincoteague is renowned for its beauty, seclusion, and spectacular vistas. Cross-country skiing enthusiasts pursue the sport for those three experiences, making this a felicitous destination for practitioners of the winter pastime. Though the island has no designated cross-country ski trails (at just seven miles long, it’s a fairly small island), there are plenty of opportunities for limitless winter adventure.
Take, for example, the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. With permission obtained by calling in advance, visitors can cross-country ski on the snowy shoreline of this stunningly preserved area. Though beach relocation planning and lingering nesting shorebirds may hinder your ability to take advantage of this area, visitors should—at the very least—call ahead to gauge availability. If you have any questions, we recommend filling out one of the Refuge’s general special use permits to ensure your ability to ski.
If because for any reason you are unable to ski within the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, you have no reason to be disappointed; the island has dozens of miles of unprotected shoreline perfect for lovers of Nordic skiing. You’ll experience some of the best views of the island and its flora and fauna. In fact, circling the island on Nordic skis is one of the best ways to experience Chincoteague. Due to its length, this route should only be attempted by experienced cross-country skiers, but the payoff is unforgettable.
Additionally, be sure to dress for the weather and forecast. Virginia winters are warmer than those in the Northeast, but it can still be very cold on the water. If the temperature and precipitation aren’t cooperating on the coast, you can still find reliable and more traditional downhill skiing just a few hours away at Massanutten or Wintergreen ski resorts in Virginia.
We also run into a lot of would-be skiers who didn’t realize skiing would be accessible on their Virginia vacation. If you’re traveling to Chincoteague without your ski equipment, there are plenty of places to rent on the mainland either for a Nordic adventure or on your way to one of the state’s ski resorts. Either way, once you have your gear secured, you’re ready to experience Chincoteague the way it was intended to be explored.