Cross-country, or Nordic, skiing is one of winter’s greatest outdoor pleasures. Cross-country skiers can glide through urban parks after a winter storm, explore the deep backcountry on skinny skis and head for a cross-country ski center for marked trails. Some are track-set trails for traditional ski technique and others are wide, super-groomed boulevards of snow for the demanding, aerobic form of cross-country skiing called “skating.” You can also find rustic trails – marked but ungroomed – for the backcountry flavor but within the safe bounds of a Nordic center. The Colorado Cross Country Ski Assn. (colorado-xc.org) has information on centers all over the state, but here are some of the closest to the metro area. Cross-country centers charge a trail-use fee, but they provide places to warm up, some food service, rental equipment, lessons and security because they check their entire trail systems each evening to make sure everyone is off the trail. Here are some of Colorado’s best.
Beaver Creek/McCoy Park
1280 Village Rd.
Avon/Beaver Creek, CO 81520
The Beaver Creek image is of a pricy, super-luxe Alpine skiing resort, but its cross-country system is low-key. The Nordic Sports Center is located at the bottom of the Strawberry Park express lift (Chair 12). Skiers ride it from Beaver Creek Village to McCoy Park, which features more than 32 plus kilometers of superb trails for cross-country or skating (and snowshoeing too). Elevations range between 9, 840ft and 10, 200feet and the views of three mountain ranges are spectacular. Stop at a trailside picnic table to rest, have a snack and admire the scenery.
Eldora Nordic Center
2861 Eldora Ski Rd.
Nederland, CO 80466
(303) 440-8700, Ext. 267
Proximity to metro Denver combined with a remote high-mountain ambiance make the Eldora Nordic Center ideal for a quick escape that really feels “away.” The center shares a parking lot with the Alpine day lodge, making it ideal for a mixed group of Nordic and Alpine skiers/snowboarders. Forty kilometers of trails pass through quiet forests, cross beautiful Alpine clearings and offer wonderful mountain vistas. And as bonus: an RTD public bus from Boulder’s Walnut Street Station goes straight to Eldora.
Frisco Nordic Ski & Snowshoe Adventure Center
18454 Colorado Hwy. 9
Frisco, CO 80443
Among the Frisco Nordic Center’s 45 kilometers of trails, there are beginner routes across flat meadows, rolling hills with moderate ups and downs and some steep and challenging trails too. The trails that skirt a peninsula jutting into Lake Dillon provide fabulous views. The Frisco, Breckenridge and Gold Run Nordic Centers are under the same ownership, and a joint season pass is available for all. The center is also host to the Frisco Gold Rush, a February Nordic ski race first held in 1960.
Snow Mountain Ranch
1101 Grand County Rd. 53 (off U.S. 40)
Granby, CO 80482
(970) 887-2152. Ext. 4173
Some 100 kilometers of Nordic trails lace through the sprawling 5, 100 YMCA of the Rockies/Snow Mountain Ranch facility. Trails include short, flat loops around the Nordic Center for beginners, demanding routes with epic climbs and thrilling descents for expert skiers, and lots of in-between options for recreational cross-country skiers. Three kilometers are lit for night-skiing, and canine companions are permitted on some trails, too. Go for a day of skiing, or get away for a few nights in affordable lodge, cabin and even heated yurt accommodations, plus abundant recreation options.