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Best Cross Country Ski Areas in Colorado

Best Cross Country Ski Areas in Colorado

In this state of mile-high life, opportunities to elevate your outdoor activities abound. Taking a page from the book of their Alpine resort neighbors, these cross-country ski areas center their offerings around the spectacular peaks of the southern Rockies—though in a slightly different way than downhill does it. Rolling and widely varied terrain lets Nordic skiers, fat-bikers and snowshoers work their way up and around some of the countries most magnificent slopes, giving them access to exclusive vistas, and breathtaking drops on the way back down. A combination of small ranch-resorts and larger scale Nordic Centers, the ski venues surveyed here span the breadth of Colorado’s natural bounty and the various adventures it has in store. For explorers of every age and inclination, if you’re Colo-ready, Colorado awaits!

Aspen Snowmass Nordic Center

Recognizing that Nordic skiing is something so incredible that everyone should have access to it, the volunteer board which oversees Aspen Snowmass works hard to maintain it as one of the largest free trail networks in the country. This awesome array of routes connects three towns—Aspen, Snowmass, and Basalt—and their respective trail networks into one massive adventure waiting to be had. Start from any of the towns, or from either of the two Nordic centers (yes, two!), and perhaps go check out the view from Buttermilk Ski Area, or continue on the trail for lunch in Aspen village, or simply cruise to your heart’s content. Plan your outing here!

Gold Run Nordic Center

As its name suggests, this Breckenridge destination really is a gold mine for fun-seeking families. The skiing is excellent—30 km of beautifully groomed trails for both skate and classic skiing. Beyond that though, this nugget of a Nordic center boasts 15 km of dedicated snowshoe trails, a full fleet of fat bikes for rental, sleigh rides and more! Learn more about all of Gold Run’s golden opportunities, along with its punch pass system and ticket deals here!

Keystone Nordic Center

Just outside of Frisco, this humble Nordic Center promises memorable experiences for the whole family. For the seasoned skier, Keystone’s nine miles of trails combined with the adjoining White River State Park’s 35 miles offer thrillingly hilly fun. For dedicated snowshoers, the Perimeter Snowshoe Trail gives a wholly different perspective of area, taking you deep into the Keystone backcountry. And for the littler ones, a safe-yet-stimulating tubing hill is just a short walk from the lodge, where kids can do loops sledding down and hiking up for days. For the grown-ups, be sure to wind up back at the Nordic Center bar for some après-ski sips after your outing. Read about all of Keystone’s excellent amenities here!

Vista Verde Guest Ranch

A smaller trail system of predominantly meadowy and gently hilly terrain, Vista Verde is geared towards getting their guests out on snow for their first times. And for this purpose, the place is perfect. A dedicated staff of Nordic pros will outfit Ranch guests with well-fitting, complementary equipment, and then give careful instruction, gentle advice or guided ski tours as you require. Trails loop across sprawling fields, over babbling brooks, through the aspen stands, and all the way back to the Ranch—where, it might go without saying, excellent lodging and fine-dining fare are to be readily found. Learn more, and book your trip, here!

Howelsen Hill

Owned and operated by the city of Steamboat Springs, Howelsen Hill is renowned as America’s oldest operating ski area—and though its most famous for its Alpine creds, this little mountain has some serious Nordic terrain. With 21 km of widely varying trails, ranging from flats to fairly intense climbs and drops, Howelsen’s adds a bevy of possible activities to your next Steamboat trip. Learn more here!

Breckenridge Nordic Center

Just a few minutes’ drive from downtown Breckenridge, this family-oriented Nordic center has been granting visitors access to thousands of acres of the area’s most picturesque terrain for almost half a century. Not only do 30 km of well-cared-for trails wind their way up to above 10,000 feet elevation, stopping at two hand-hewn “destination huts,” but the Center offers group tours of the same terrain from the warm comfort of glass-enclosed snowcats. After you’ve made it up to the continental divide and had a little break in one of the warming huts, be sure to circle back to the Lodge for happy hour and a hearty bowl of soup! Learn more about this unique Breckenridge destination here.

Frisco Nordic Center 

Conveniently located just outside downtown Frisco, this high-altitude Nordic Center has something for every skier. Work your way up to the summit’s panoramic views of the Breckenridge region, or tootle around with the kids on the flatter, but no less fun, beginner’s loop. Plus, for even more kid-friendly activities, just down the road is the Frisco tubing hill and beginner’s ski hill. With 27 km of crisply groomed trails though, there’s more than enough adventure on the Center’s spacious land. Learn more here!

Crested Butte Nordic Center

A gem of Colorado Nordic skiing, the Crested Butte Nordic Center’s super-convenient downtown location lets users hop on the trails without any driving—just walk from your home, hotel, or VRBO! In minutes you can be geared up and out on over 50 km of world class terrain. While skiing in Crested Butte, be sure to stop in at the trailside Magic Mountain Yurt for a chef-chosen dinner menu. The mile route to the yurt is lit by solar lights, so you can easily ski or snowshoe out for an exquisite and absolutely memorable meal. See why some call Crested Butte the Nordic Capital of Colorado here!

Devil’s Thumb Ranch

Ranked the #1 Cross-Country Ski Resort in the country for two years running by USA Today, this luxury Ranch’s Nordic terrain is a sight to behold. With 120 km of expertly maintained trails winding their way through the foothills of the continental divide, there is something to wow skiers of every skill level. The resort’s in-house outfitter, Zach’s Mercantile, offers a full range of skate and classic Nordic equipment for rental or purchase. Plus, a team of world-class Nordic instructors stand ready to give visitors and guests all the instruction you need to have the best possible ski experience. Check out this wondrous Colorado destination here!

Snow Mountain Ranch

Tucked well up in the Rockies, a ways West of Denver, Snow Mountain Ranch cares for over 5,000 acres of pristine Colorado ski terrain. At 9,000 feet in elevation, it’s not called Snow Mountain for nothing—averaging around 200 inches per winter, which bring dependably fantastic conditions to all of the Ranch’s 120 km of trails. If you’re not too busy exploring the endless ski adventures, be sure to check out the tubing hill and the ice rink—and to grab a yummy bite at the Skinny Ski Café! Whatever you decide to do, you can’t go wrong in this unique winter wonderland. Learn more here.

Latigo Ranch

Continuing the proud Colorado tradition of guest Ranches with excellent cross-country ski terrain, Latigo Ranch has centered their winter programming on their stellar backcountry and Nordic terrain. And with 50 km of beautiful trails, meticulously groomed for both skate and classic, plus another 200 square miles of deep powder perfectly suited for backcountry skiing, its easy to see why. Luckily for us, these wonderful trails are open to the public. If you do go for a day trip, consider booking a lunch or dinner reservation at Latigo’s elegant-Western restaurant. You can find more information about this secluded ski destination here!

Telluride Nordic Association

Bringing together the impeccable ski terrain of six different areas, the Telluride Nordic Association (TNA) maintains and gives users free (though donations are encouraged) access miles upon miles of gorgeous cross country trails. Ranging from the dog-friendly hills of Priest Lake to the classic-skiing-only River Trail, perfect for the Nordic tourer, TNA has something for everyone. Their Nordic Center in downtown Telluride also offers top of the line rental equipment, tuning services, and lessons. You can even ask about multiday rentals, to keep you going during your whole stay in Telluride! Learn more here.

Eldora Nordic Center

Branching off to the left of Eldora Mountain’s alpine trails, the Nordic Center’s 40 km of wide, well-groomed thoroughfares show off all that the mountain has to offer, albeit from a different perspective than the chairlift-accessed terrain. Winding through old-growth forests, alpine meadows and alongside big-mountain viewpoints, these trails are sure to get your blood pumping and your senses stimulated. With the added amenities of Eldora’s on-mountain restaurant, bar and smoke shack, you can easily make any outing on these excellent trails extra memorable. Plan your adventure here!

Tennessee Pass Nordic Center

A dedicated Nordic ski hub, Tennessee Pass takes a classic Alpine ski lodge approach to cross country. 30 km of trails extend out from a central building furnished with all the Nordic and Nordic-related equipment you could want available for rental and purchase, a bar and restaurant, and a spacious sunny deck on which to relax. The trails themselves are excellently maintained and vary in difficulty from beginner flats to expert climbs. Just to add to the magic of this place, Tennessee Pass has a collection of off-the-grid sleeping yurts available for group or individual rental. 

Looking for ski areas in other states?  Visit www.xcski.org and visit their online directory.

About The Author

Pete Wilson

Pete is a Vermont native with a lifelong love of being outside. Ever since he bushwhacked a ski trail through his parents’ property, he’s been hooked on getting into the woods--whether it’s on skis or snowshoes, or going out for a trail run or a long hike. He studied English at Carleton College, and now after four years in Minnesota is back in the Green Mountains exploring the endlessly beautiful and intriguing locales across the Northeast.

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