Cross-Country Skiing: The 16 Top Resorts in the U.S.2020-12-21
With scenic landscapes and a variety of trails, these spots offer the best Nordic skiing in America.
FOR SNOW LOVERS WHO enjoy traversing longer trails outdoors rather than flying down steep mountains or trying to navigate glades, cross-country skiing is a favorite pastime. While alpine or downhill skiing may be a more popular sport among the masses, cross-country skiing is a great way to get out and exercise in fresh air come wintertime. In this sport, skiers shuffle and glide (classic cross-country skiing) or shift their weight from side to side diagonally (skate skiing) to move forward along groomed trails. These trails are often wide and flat but can include some hills. You can use your poles to engage your core and help propel you faster on the terrain as well. Not only is it excellent exercise, but cross-country skiing also allows you to take in your surroundings and admire nature’s beautiful forests, mountains and valleys.
Cross-country ski seasons across America typically begin in November or December and last through March or April, with select resorts able to stay open later when there are favorable snow and weather conditions. Keep in mind, trail availability and access greatly depend on snow accumulation and temperatures, so you’ll want to check each ski area’s website or call ahead before traveling. At many resorts, you can book private or group lessons and rent gear like boots, bindings, poles, skis and more. (Prices for lessons and rentals vary greatly by resort, but expect to pay around $50 to $150 for a private lesson, and about $15 to $50 to rent all the equipment you’ll need to ski for a day.) Some trails are free for skiers to access, while others generally charge between $20 and $50 for a day pass, with discounts often available for kids, students and seniors. To help you determine the best option for a winter getaway, U.S. News researched and found the top cross-country skiing spots across America. (Note: Some of the amenities may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. New policies may be in place, including capacity restrictions and mask requirements. Check with the official resort website, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of State and local tourism boards before traveling.)
Best Cross-Country Skiing in the U.S.:
- Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa
- Methow Trails
- Trapp Family Lodge
- Bretton Woods Nordic Center
- Aspen Snowmass Nordic Trail System
- Maplelag Resort
- White Grass Ski Touring Center
- Carter’s XC Ski Center
- Mount Bachelor
- Sun Valley Nordic & Snowshoe Center
- Bear Valley Adventure Company
- Snow Mountain Ranch
- Jackson Ski Touring Foundation
- Cascade Cross Country Ski Center
- Lone Mountain Ranch
- Kincaid Park
Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa: Tabernash, Colorado
Spread across more than 6,500 acres of mountain wilderness and offering about 75 miles (120 kilometers) of cross-country skiing trails, Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort is one of the most popular options in the West. The resort is located about 75 miles northwest of Denver, and skiers can expect a variety of scenic trails that snake through forests and by creeks. Cross-country skiing trails are classified as easy, moderate and expert, plus there’s a kids loop for young skiers to practice and get their bearings. Lessons are available for beginners and skiers who may just want to refine the basics. Keep in mind, reservations are required for all outdoor activities and any equipment rentals (boots, skis and poles).
Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort visitors can purchase day passes or season passes to access the trails. In addition to cross-country skiing, travelers can stay at the resort to take advantage of everything it has to offer. Other activity options include snowshoeing, horseback riding, fat biking and snow tubing. There are also several on-site eateries and accommodations, such as cabins, cottages and lodge rooms. Recent visitors raved about the cross-country skiing trails here and appreciated the variety of additional fun things to do.
Methow Trails: Winthrop, Washington
Methow Trails touts itself as the largest cross-country ski system in North America. This cross-country skier’s paradise features more than 120 miles (190-plus kilometers) of trails across Washington. The numerous trails (marked easier, more difficult and most difficult) are spread across four main ski areas: Upper Methow Valley; Winthrop and Big Valley; Rendezvous; and Sun Mountain. All of the ski areas are connected by the Methow Community Trail. What’s more, people with limited mobility can access these trails for adaptive Nordic skiing. The resort has two adult sit skis that visitors can use. With notice, a volunteer can assist and guide skiers along the terrain.
Cross-country skiers can expect picturesque landscapes, a peaceful atmosphere and well-groomed terrain at Methow Trails. In fact, previous travelers have gone so far as to describe this as “cross-country heaven,” citing the extensive trail system and incredible views as highlights. Day passes and annual passes are available online, on-site at the ticket office and from a few local vendors. Local outfitters offer ski lessons and rentals as well. In addition to cross-country skiing, visitors can try fat biking and snowshoeing, among other activities. When it comes to dining and lodging, the Methow Valley towns of Winthrop, Twisp and Mazama are home to several restaurants, inns, bed-and-breakfast accommodations and motels. You’ll find Methow Trails about 240 miles northeast of Seattle.
Trapp Family Lodge: Stowe, Vermont
An excellent family-friendly option with plenty of terrain for skiers of varying levels, the Trapp Family Lodge aims to bring “a little bit of Austria” to the United States. This spot in Stowe offers 37 miles (60 kilometers) of groomed trails, plus 62 miles (100 kilometers) of rugged backcountry trails – with 25 miles (40 kilometers) of particularly advanced backcountry terrain – across 2,500 acres of land for cross-country skiers to explore. Recent skiers said the trail network here is well maintained. Many highly recommend a stop at the quaint Slayton Pasture House – a 6-mile round-trip journey from the lodge – for lunch and to warm up by the fire. Visitors can purchase day passes or season passes, and lessons and ski rentals are available.
If you need a day of recovery after skiing, try one of the Trapp Family Lodge’s more relaxed on-site activities. Soak up the scenery on a winter sleigh ride, unwind with a massage, try some new brews at the Bierhall (a guest favorite) or visit the wine cellar to sample wines from around the world. There are a few restaurants on-site for when you get hungry, and the accommodation options range from hotel rooms and suites to house and cabin rentals.
Bretton Woods Nordic Center: Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
Bretton Woods Nordic Center boasts nearly 2,000 acres of cross-country skiing and 62 miles (100 kilometers) of trails set at the base of Mount Washington in northern New Hampshire. Most of the area’s Nordic trails weave through White Mountain National Forest, offering beautiful views of towering snow-covered trees and rolling mountains. Trails are marked by how challenging they are (easiest, more difficult and most difficult), and some of the terrain is even dog-friendly – a perk many recent skiers appreciated. For those wanting to learn how to cross-country ski, Bretton Woods Nordic Center offers private and small group lessons with no more than six participants. Equipment rentals are available on-site as well.
The cross-country skiing trails are typically open from mid-November to mid-March. Day passes and season passes are available; you must purchase your day passes online in advance. (Tickets are available up to 14 days in advance.) There are several nearby lodging options, including the Omni Mount Washington Resort and various vacation rentals. The resort also offers a spa and other winter activities, such as snowmobiling and snowshoeing.
Aspen Snowmass Nordic Trail System: Colorado
Considered one of the best ski resorts in the U.S. for alpine skiing, Aspen Snowmass is also an excellent option for winter sports enthusiasts who enjoy cross-country skiing. The resort provides 60-plus miles (more than 90 kilometers) of Nordic skiing. Travelers can glide across the groomed trails while admiring the mountain and forest scenery. Skiers can choose from a few different cross-country ski areas, including Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt, North Star Preserve and Rio Grande trails. There are beginner, intermediate and advanced trails available, and the Aspen Cross Country Center welcomes bookings for private lessons, group lessons and cross-country ski tours. Equipment rentals are available as well. Another bonus about this cross-country trail system? The terrain is free to access: If you have your own equipment, you can bring it and get to skiing. Skiers call the trails here fun and say the beauty of the snowy scenery is unmatched.
What’s more, Aspen Snowmass is the perfect spot for a ski vacation thanks to the abundance of top hotels and condo rentals, ample dining options and numerous activities nearby. Other popular activities you may want to try when you’re not skiing or enjoying Aspen’s après-ski scene include riding the alpine coaster, snow tubing and ice skating.
Maplelag Resort: Callaway, Minnesota
A hidden gem that exudes “Minnesota charm,” according to previous travelers, Maplelag Resort is a family-owned cross-country ski resort. The resort offers nearly 45 miles (70 kilometers) of cross-country skiing trails that wind through the wilderness and around several lakes in the region, including Little Sugar Bush Lake, Island Lake, Bullhead Lake and Twin Lakes. Ski rentals and ski lessons are available at this resort as well. What’s particularly appealing about Maplelag Resort is that it’s an all-inclusive getaway: Rates cover accommodations, three meals daily, snacks like cookies and fruit, and unlimited tea, coffee, hot chocolate and hot cider, plus access to all of the resort’s trails and amenities. Accommodations range from individual rooms to large cabins, but keep in mind that some of the more basic rooms do not include private bathrooms or showers.
In addition to skiing, visitors can take part in the weekly variety show, relax in the large hot tub or try other winter activities like snowshoeing, ice skating and ice fishing. You’ll find this resort in northwestern Minnesota, about 220 miles northwest of Minneapolis.
White Grass Ski Touring Center: Davis, West Virginia
This cross-country ski area in eastern West Virginia features 37 miles (60 kilometers) of regularly groomed trails ripe for exploration. The ski school offers instruction for novice skiers, while the guided tours provide opportunities for advanced skiers to explore the backcountry with knowledgeable instructors. Recent travelers said this is an excellent resort both for beginners to learn the basics and for experts to refine their skills, with plenty of incredible scenery to admire. Visitors can purchase a daily pass or season pass, depending on how frequently they’ll be skiing here, and equipment rentals are available. Snowshoeing opportunities across the land abound as well.
After working up an appetite during a packed day of cross-country skiing, head to the White Grass Café for healthy and hearty soups, sandwiches, fresh pastries and more. While there are no lodging options on-site, visitors to the White Grass Ski Touring Center can stay at a nearby vacation rental, lodge or resort.
Carter’s XC Ski Center: Bethel, Maine
Carter’s XC Ski Center is a family-run ski spot in western Maine, about 70 miles north of Portland. With 34 miles (55 kilometers) of trails that take cross-country skiers through wooded glens, along rivers and across mountains, this destination is an excellent pick for a New England ski retreat. Visitors can expect spectacular views of the Mahoosuc and Carter-Moriah mountain ranges, among other natural wonders.
Day passes and season passes are available, and the site offers lessons and ski and snowshoe rentals as well. Guided tours are also an option and include instruction on perfecting technique, as well as a tour of the most picturesque trails. Recent travelers praised the well-groomed trails and the affordable trail passes. Several skiers also commended the knowledgeable staff and instructors. To make the most of your ski trip, stay on-site at one of the cabins. (The cabin room rates include the cost of your trail passes.)
Mount Bachelor: Bend, Oregon
One of the perks of skiing at Mount Bachelor is that the area offers one of the longest Nordic seasons in North America. Trails are typically open from late November to April – and even extend into June when weather conditions are favorable. The cross-country terrain at Mount Bachelor (in central Oregon) stretches across nearly 35 miles (56 kilometers) of groomed trails. Backdrops include beautiful pine trees and snow-covered mountains. Plus, there’s a retail store on-site, and lessons and rentals make it convenient for beginners to borrow equipment and learn the sport.
As far as other things to do, snowshoeing, snow tubing and dog-sledding are all popular activities at this resort. And when it comes to accommodations, there are plenty of nearby swanky condos, cozy cabins and other types of vacation rentals for groups small and big. But note: You’ll need to drive or take a shuttle to get to the trails.
Sun Valley Nordic & Snowshoe Center: Sun Valley, Idaho
Sun Valley Resort is synonymous with epic winters, offering about 200 inches of annual snow on average and plenty of bluebird days (blue skies, great conditions and light wind). Those excellent conditions translate to packed snow across the Sun Valley Nordic & Snowshoe Center’s cross-country skiable terrain. The area features around 25 miles (40 kilometers) of trails that take cross-country skiers through valleys and provide panoramic mountain views. Trails are groomed daily to ensure an excellent experience for visitors. Recent cross-country skiers commended the well-maintained and well-marked trails, and the friendly staff members on-site. Skiers can choose to book a half-day, full-day, multiday or season pass. Rentals and lessons are available for a fee as well.
In case you want to try a few different activities on your vacation in Sun Valley, the resort area also offers downhill skiing opportunities, plus fat biking, ice skating, sleigh rides and snowshoeing. After a day of fun adventures, there are plenty of lodges and lounges to visit for a bite to eat and a drink. Sun Valley is also home to a variety of vacation rentals, a cozy inn and a lodge hotel, for those who plan to stay a few days. You’ll find the resort in central Idaho, about 155 miles east of Boise.
Bear Valley Adventure Company: Bear Valley, California
The cross-country skiing offerings at Bear Valley include more than 40 miles (70 kilometers) of trails across 3,000 acres of land. This ski area is located in eastern California, about 100 miles south of Lake Tahoe and 125 miles east of Sacramento. In addition to incredible mountain scenery and groomed trails, Bear Valley offers warming huts along the trail system so you can pop in if you get a bit chilly. Plus, there’s a trailside cafe, a groomed downhill practice area and two kids ski trails. Day passes and season passes are available to access the trails, and visitors can also book ski school, group and private lessons. You can rent equipment like skis, boots and poles here as well. Recent patrons said that the trail system is so extensive that you’ll rarely encounter crowds, adding that the property is a great spot for families to visit because of its beginner trails and other on-site amenities.
Sledding, snow tubing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling are a few other activities you can enjoy here. For easy access to the trails, stay at the Bear Valley Lodge or a nearby vacation home or condo rental.
Snow Mountain Ranch: Granby, Colorado
With nearly 75 miles (120 kilometers) of cross-country skiing trails on 5,100 acres, Snow Mountain Ranch is a perennial favorite for many. The trail network takes skiers around mountains, through wooded forests and along creeks, and there’s a chance you might see wildlife like elk and moose. (If you do, use caution and give the animals plenty of space.) Travelers appreciate the miles of scenic trails and say the rates are a bargain. Skiers can purchase full-day, multiday or season passes. You can also rent gear here if you need it.
Available accommodation options range from lodge rooms to cabins with cozy fireplaces. There are a few on-site dining options and eateries in nearby towns as well; you can also choose to stock up on groceries and use your kitchen to cook meals if you stay in a cabin. In addition to cross-country skiing, visitors can enjoy dog-sledding, ice skating and snow tubing. You’ll find this ski area about 85 miles west of Boulder.
Jackson Ski Touring Foundation: Jackson, New Hampshire
Jackson Ski Touring Foundation in northeastern New Hampshire aims to offer a variety of ski options, whether you favor relaxed gliding while admiring the winter landscape or more challenging skate skiing to get your heart pumping. Educational programs are available, which include guided cross-country skiing tours of the area, lessons to help you perfect your technique, waxing demonstrations, sit skis and instruction for disabled skiers, kids ski schools and more. The ski area is home to more than 50 trails across 90-plus miles (150 kilometers) of expertly groomed terrain. Visitors can enjoy a day of skiing through open fields, quiet woods with towering trees and mountain descents, all while taking in the snowy vistas. Many say the conditions and the guides here are top-notch.
Skiers can buy single-day, multiday and season passes here; equipment rentals are available on-site as well. As far as where to stay, there are several quaint inns, resorts and vacation rental options in and near the town of Jackson.
Cascade Cross Country Ski Center: Lake Placid, New York
With 12 miles (20 kilometers) of wide trails, Cascade Cross Country Ski Center in Lake Placid is not the largest on this list, but its beautiful vistas, consistent conditions and friendly staff members make it popular with East Coast skiers looking for a getaway. Trails at this Adirondacks destination are classified as easy and moderate, perfect for first-time and intermediate skiers. You can rent equipment here if you need to and can take a solo lesson or small group lesson to perfect your skills. Daily and season passes are available.
For lodging, you can stay at a vacation rental nearby or check in to one of Lake Placid’s hotels or resorts. The Cascade Cross Country Ski Center is also home to a ski shop and a restaurant and bar, though more dining and drinking options are located in central Lake Placid, which sits about 5 miles northwest.
Lone Mountain Ranch: Big Sky, Montana
Lone Mountain Ranch is home to 52-plus miles (85 kilometers) of cross-country skiing terrain and often lauded as one of North America’s top options for Nordic skiing. There are trails for skiers of all skill levels, from beginners to expert athletes, and travelers can expect scenery like Aspen and pine trees framed by craggy mountains. Recent visitors called the landscape idyllic and said the trails are expertly groomed. Day passes and season passes are available, and the property offers equipment rentals, too.
Other winter excursions you can take advantage of at Lone Mountain Ranch include snowshoeing, dog-sledding, winter fly-fishing and guided tours of Yellowstone National Park. The ranch also features a few on-site dining options. Complete your stay by booking one of the charming log cabins: All include impressive views of the surrounding wilderness.
Kincaid Park: Anchorage, Alaska:
This sprawling area encompasses nearly 1,500 acres of groomed terrain and 37 miles (60 kilometers) for skiers of all levels. Kincaid Park’s convenient location, about 10 miles southwest of central Anchorage, means it’s easy for visitors and locals alike to access. There are numerous entry points to the trails, and the park regularly hosts national cross-country skiing events and local races. When the sun goes down, several trails are equipped with lights for night skiing. Trails here are free to access, and complimentary parking is available on-site. There are no on-site rentals, but several downtown Anchorage outfitters offer rental options for cross-country skiing gear. Meanwhile, the Anchorage Parks Department and Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage both offer lessons.
Travelers appreciate the variety of trails at Kincaid Park and love the night skiing options. If you need a place to stay, there are ample Anchorage hotels and vacation rentals to book. Other things you may want to check out while visiting Anchorage include the city’s museums and dining scene.
Courtesy of USNews