Favorite Nordic Centers in the Pacific NW
The Pacific Northwest of the contiguous US is a wonderfully strange bit of geography. The Western edge is home to the fjord-filled Pacific Coast, where long beaches and towering seaside rock formations make for otherworldly getaways. Go the other direction, East and inland, and the mountains await. The Coast, Cascade, Olympic and Columbia mountain ranges boast massive snowcapped peaks and thick, lush temperate rainforests at the lower elevations. All this is to say that the landscapes of Oregon and Washington are utterly unique, with highland regions that turn quite alpine in the winter months. A smattering of excellent Cross Country ski venues dots this snowy swath of Cascadia, which all offer a Nordic experience unlike any others. At these awesome centers, you can cross glaciers, gaze upon craggy horns of ice, bob beneath the snow-laden branches of ancient redwoods—all within driving distance of the bustling metropolises of Portland and Seattle, and the thriving maritime world of the coastline.
With a staggering 200km of well-maintained terrain sprawled along the majestic Methow Valley, the Methow Nordic Ski Trail System is at the pinnacle of Pacific Northwest adventure. Not only do the near-endless trails (which are designed for fat biking and snowshoeing as well as skiing) wind their way to some breathtaking vistas and natural features, they incorporate plenty of climbs, drops and flats fit for skiers, bikers and -shoers of every stripe and skill level. Bookended by the twin towns of Winthrop and Twisp—and yes, the town of Twisp exists, and is an awesomely artsy destination in its own right—visitors to the Methow valley will find plenty in the way of libations, delicious meals, and warm hospitality.
Cradled in the heart of the Cascade mountains, this one-of-a-kind winter sports club offers everything from Nordic skiing, sledding and tubing to alpine skiing and fat biking. This wintery wonderland as all the infrastructure needed for such a slew of activities: two groomed ski hills serviced by rope tows, 26 kilometers of pristinely groomed Nordic terrain, dedicated Nordic trails, and even a 27-meter ski jump are all available to make lasting memories for Leavenworth visitors. With trail passes starting at $14, be sure to check out this Washington gem whenever you’re in the area.
Tucked away in the far Northeastern corner of Washington (as the name suggests), 49 Degrees’ gorgeous Nordic network expands out from the Cross Country Center, a large yurt with a spacious deck that overlooks the trails and ski school area. From there, 25km of wide, well-groomed trails roll along into hundred-year-old forests, crisscrossed by narrow snowshoe paths. A full rental lineup and certified ski instructors stand ready to make ski days special for skiers of every ability.
Considered one of the premier Nordic centers in Oregon, Mt. Bachelor is a fully decked out Cross Country Ski Shop, with the ski terrain to match. Almost 60 km of widely varied terrain wind around the base of the big peak, offering stunning views of the snowcapped, glacial peaks, leg-burning climbs and heart-pumping drops. For those looking to get some off-season training or free skiing in, it is worth noting that Mt. Bachelor has the longest groomed Nordic season in North America.
Perched at the base of Mt. Hood, the Meadows Nordic Center takes full advantage of the excellent snow conditions it inherits from the glacier looming above it. 15 km of groomed and set track wind through woods and across meadows with Hood poised as a picturesque backdrop behind it. For a perfect blend of big mountain views with small ski center accommodations and attention to detail, be sure to swing by Meadows if you are in the Bend, OR area.
Just west of Bend, in the heart of the Deschutes national forest, over 40 kilometers of carefully maintained Nordic trails lay hidden, winding their way through the pines and firs of the lofty mountain range. At over a mile above sea level, and deep into the big woods, the Meissner Nordic Community Ski Trails are an adventurous skier’s dream destination. The exceptional trail network centers on the Self-service Nordic Lodge, at the Virginia-Meissner Sno-Park. There you’ll find a cozy wood fire, ample seating, trail maps and info, and the donation box to show your appreciation.
Teacup Nordic is a family friendly Nordic destination nestled just down the valley from the imposing Mt. Hood. A non-profit organization run through a special-use agreement with the Mt. Hood National Forest, Teacup is as unpretentious and friendly a Nordic center as its name suggests. That being said, at 4,300 feet, its 20km of well-maintained trails, climbing and diving through the foothills of Hood are nothing to scoff at. Though Teacup doesn’t have a traditional Nordic center with rentals and lessons, a heated cabin, parking lot and plentiful trail information is sure to make every family’s adventure safe and invigorating.