Downhill skiing might get more publicity and press, but nordic skiing is an incredibly fun – and perhaps addictive – sport that keeps you in great shape and allows you to enjoy the great outdoors in a different way. A Nordic skiing trip can also make for a great vacation — either for families, as a couple, with friends, or solo. Cross-country ski areas are usually set in scenic, quiet and relaxing environments that allow you to enjoy nature while getting your heart rate up. And did we mention that they often cost a fraction of the price of a downhill ski vacation?
Nobody disputes the allure of Nordic ski resorts with their picturesque trails, pristine natural areas, solitude, and breathtaking views. For people who are more exercise oriented and want to try something new, cross-country skiing is perhaps the best winter experience to allow you to energetically enjoy the enchanting and quieter side of winter. Keeping all the factors in mind, we’ve created a list of skiing destinations that are excellent for a Nordic skiing vacation and offer delicious dining options, great accommodation and most importantly, abundant supply of powder.
A nice advantage of Nordic skiing is the accommodations are usually cheaper, whether you stay at a lodge or a nearby VRBO. Sure, you will need some gear, but it is largely the same gear you will use for cooler weather running or alpine skiing. If you invest in special equipment, we suggest starting with boots. You can always rent skis, but it is nice to have boots that fit your foot very well.
You can also enjoy snowshoeing, sleigh rides, snowmobiling and downhill skiing at these amazing sites in the US. If you are either looking for a romantic getaway or a family trip, these are the places you should go based on our experience and input from our readers:
Yellowstone National Park’s natural beauty, serene atmosphere and scenic beauty bring numerous skiers to the Lone Mountain Ranch, which sits just outside the park near Big Sky and has an extensive 85 kilometers of trails. Striking for the perfect state of the trails, southwest Montana’s most attractive ski resort utilizes the best hardware to keep up the twisting paths all through its Mountainous scenery. The Big Sky Blue Moon Bakery in Big Sky serves up the ideal hand crafted treats to go with you on your ski jaunts. Make a point of picking up some of their top notch brownies, pecan bars, and nutty spread bars to crunch on amid your visit. Lone Mountain Ranch has it all. It comes with the archetypal Nordic skiing adventure and a friendly western lodge with cozy cabins. Dining there offers delicious foods and personalized services. You can also take an iconic tour to observe the local wildlife by taking a shuttle downhill. To get to Lone Mountain Ranch, you fly into Bozeman, Montana and follow beautiful Highway 191 toward Big Sky.
Can you guess which U.S. County has the largest groomed Nordic ski trail network in the country? None other than Cook County, Minnesota. Northeastern Minnesota is an underrated ski destination, especially where it comes to Nordic skiing. Up Highway 61 past Duluth, Minnesota, Lutsen Mountain offers a huge network of Nordic ski trails – about 400 km in total – making for a great ski destination in the region. If you continue up the Gunflint Trail (a famous paved road through the forest), you will get to more trails, including Bearskin Lodge. Since the mid-1970’s, Bearskin Lodge and the Central Gunflint Ski Trail System have been among the best cross-country ski destinations in the country. It is home to more than 70 km of expertly prepared ski trails starting at your lodge and turning through the Superior National Forest and the spectacular solitude of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Here there are no ‘hamster wheels’ of repetitive skiing which means you can stay for quite a long time at Bearskin Lodge and never end up skiing on a similar trail twice. Despite being just 26 miles from Grand Marais and Lake Superior, the higher altitude mean they are frequently influenced by heavy snowfalls. As such, They are blessed by snow when different sites closer to the North Shore have low snow years. Their trails are intended for skiers of many levels. Lutsen and Bearskin both offer great northwoods accommodations, along with several other rustic lodges in the area. Regardless of where you are staying, a couple days of skiing at both Lutsen and on the Gunflint Trail will offer you a great ski getaway.
Every day is a joy at Schweitzer Mountain (Idaho) for cross-country skiers to take to the 32 kilometers extent of fine trails and even more awesome winter backdrop. For those just learning, start with Schweitzer’s Picnic Point Out and Back trail, an assigned 5 kilometer round excursion circuit that begins at the town trailhead and proceeds along the mountainside. Make a point to pack some food and drink as your excursion will provide a perfect chance for an enjoyable lunch break before heading back. Once back, release the strain from a taxing day of physical activity at the Solstice Spa on grounds and/or settle in for a Thai back rub, which specializes in pressure point massage, pressure, and will help to unwind your tense muscles. Schweitzer Mountain is in Northern Idaho, North of the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area.
The Soldier Hollow Cross Country Resort in Wasatch Mountains State Park is one of the oldest skiing resorts in Utah. It takes great pride in its cross country trials that are manicured to perfection as well as the breathtaking views they offer of the Heber Valley, and was originally set up for the 2002 Olympics, which was held in Salt Lake City which was a popular site for cross country skiing events. This resort feature one of the world’s largest snowmaking systems that includes 31 kilometers of trail. It suits the needs of people of all skill levels. If desired, you can start your day on the beginner’s trail and go on to the more challenging 4km Roller Coaster Trail. This trail is winding, free-failing and has sharp turns, and thus attracts professional skiers from all over the world. As far as food goes, we recommend Tony’s Taco. They serve moderate and spicy tacos along with a great variety of other Mexican dishes. Their nachos are something that shouldn’t be missed.
Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
The Bretton Woods Nordic Center in New Hampshire sits on the edge of the legendary White Mountain National Forest. A quintessential New England setting, this Nordic ski area offers 100 km of cross country trails, as well as lifts and excellent facilities. With the adjacent (and historic) Omni Mount Washington Resort, this destination has it all — excellent trails, a spa, good dining, comfortable lodging, and good programming for the children. That puts Bretton Woods on our family Nordic skiing A-list. A little over 100 miles North of Boston, we have a hard time finding a better cross-country ski destination in the Northeast.
If you are an avid cross-country skier, or looking to dabble in the sport, we don’t think you can go wrong with these great ski areas. They all offer their unique type of beauty, world-class trails, and are all cared for by people who are passionate about Nordic skiing. We know there are others, as well, and one of the most important things we consider when we update this list each year is reader input. So tell us where you like to cross-country ski, and we will think about if it makes the cut for our top places in the U.S!
Lake Tahoe Area
It is not easy to choose just 5 great places for Nordic skiing. As we wrote, we realized that we also needed to include the Lake Tahoe area, with some incredible Nordic skiing in its own right stretching from California to Nevada. If you want to put on some miles, and do it in an area with lots of natural beauty, you can’t go wrong at Tahoe – an area that also boasts several of our favorite alpine family ski resorts. Royal Gorge is an incredible place for XC skiers, complete with well over 100 miles of trails, 9 different warming huts, and thousands of acres of terrain to access. Royal Gorge is on the north side of Lake Tahoe, not far from Truckee. If you want to extend your trip and explore the Southern side of the Lake area, head to Kirkwood where you will find another 50 miles of trails in the gorgeous Sierra range.
Given the proximity to the Bay Area, Sacramento, and Reno, skiing in the Tahoe area is a popular destination because it tends to be very accessible for so many….. Not to mention being truly world-class.
Paul Miller is the Founder of Family Skier. He is an advanced skier and has extensive experience with family travel and ski schools. An accomplished skier, he has skied in 15 states and provinces and 6 countries. In addition to FamilySkier, his writing can be found on many ski-related websites, and as curriculum for many ski clubs in North America.