There’s something about gliding serenely through a white meadow, feeling the cold air in your lungs and listening to the swish of compacted snow beneath your skis that makes Nordic skiing a magical experience, not to mention one hell of a cardio workout. So get out and do it: Colorado’s cross-country skiing areas offer a wide variety of terrain for all skill levels, breathtaking scenery and one of the best aerobic workouts in mountain sports. Here are three Nordic centers we love.
Frisco Nordic Center
Love long, rolling climbs and descents? Then you’ll also love the Frisco Peninsula Recreation Area. You can even ski right up to the edge of the Dillon Reservoir, which can look deceptively like a snowy plain after a recent storm. For every meandering climb on these 27K of ski trails, you’ll be rewarded with views and a long, fast downhill. Frisco has wonderful intermediate trails, such as Crown Point Road, which gently climbs up above the reservoir. Take the local’s favorite, Jodi’s Nugget, for a rollicking ride back down. Kids can spend the day on the beginner hill or tubing at the neighboring Adventure Park while parents get in a good workout.townoffrisco.com
Crested Butte Nordic Center
You’ll want to spend an entire day exploring Crested Butte’s trails, which range from scenic rolling terrain on Magic Meadows to a technical 5K competition loop that will challenge even the biggest Nordorks. In all, the system covers 50K of trails, most leaving right from the heart of town. In classic Crested Butte fashion, most trails deliver 360-degree views of craggy peaks, majestic valleys and alpine meadows. For a half-day excursion, ski through Magic Meadows, then head up the Slate River Valley via Mike’s Mile, an intermediate out-and-back route with some of the best views here. On Sundays, stop at the Magic Meadows Yurt on the way back to warm up by the fire, savor a coffee and a pastry and hobnob with other skiers. Kids 17 and under ski free, and several dog-specific trails prove perfect for a cruise with the pooch. cbnordic.org
Snow Mountain Ranch
With 120 kilometers of expertly groomed trails, the only limit at Snow Mountain Ranch’s Nordic center is how long your legs can last. The YMCA property in Granby offers everything from short, flat beginner loops, perfect for families, to advanced trails that climb through quiet, lodgepole pine forests. You’ll share some trails with horseback riders, snow bikers and snowshoers, but the property is so expansive that it rarely feels crowded. Our favorite route heads up Bamse and on to Ten Mile Creek, a large, rolling loop on the edge of the ranch. If you’re feeling energetic on your way back, pit yourself against one of the formidable hills on Wild Turkey or Old Lynch. Head back to the center for a dip in the indoor pool; then retire to a cozy rental cabin. snowmountainranch.org/nordic-center