Image: XC skiers
Paul M. Walsh  /  AP file
Hundreds of skiers leave the starting gate in Cable, Wis., for the 51-kilometer American Birkebeiner race in this file photo.
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updated 12/28/2006 11:06:47 AM ET 2006-12-28T16:06:47

Whether preparing for the “Super Bowl of xc skiing in the U.S.,” the American Birkebeiner held every February in northern Wisconsin or just thinking of taking up xc skiing (aka Nordic or cross-country skiing), an early-season xc ski camp and festival is the perfect option.

Every year, xc skiers flock to these late November and early December events to meet new ski friends, kick out the kinks, and start the ski season. They partake in ski clinics, equipment demos, and indoor ski shows. But mostly, these xc ski aficionados relish sliding on the snow again, after their long wait since last winter.

Yellowstone Ski Festival
West Yellowstone, Montana
November 21-25
The granddaddy of early season xc events, the Yellowstone Ski Festival attracts more than 2,500 participants who get to celebrate Thanksgiving AND the reliable snow cover. In addition to the beautifully groomed Rendezvous Ski Trails just outside the door, the festival features ski clinics for beginner, intermediate, and advanced skiers, and all levels get to watch world class competitors battle it out in a race for early season supremacy. The Yellowstone Festivalers also have an Indoor Ski Show to speak with product company representatives and an on-snow Try It and Buy It Equipment Demo.

The costs to participate in the Yellowstone Ski Festival include low-priced packaged trail fees and/or clinics (there’s no registration fee) making it an inexpensive affair. An added treat: West Yellowstone is an entrance to Yellowstone National Park, one of America’s favorite natural playgrounds, known for world-famous geysers, hot springs, colorful pools, and free roaming bison!

Click here for access to info about travel and lodging and more details about the Yellowstone Ski Festival click Rendezvous Ski Trails.

XC Ski Camp
Rangeley, Maine
December 7-10
While some may be wary of signing up for a xc camp in the East this early in the season, the members of the Rangeley XC Ski Club at Saddleback Mountain, who are holding this event at the Rangeley Lakes Trails Yurt Lodge, say not to worry. They have guaranteed snow — it will be machine-made if necessary.

Beginners and master skiers are the primary focus of the Rangeley XC Camp. Any skier aspiring to improve his or her ability who feels they could benefit from qualified coaching and precise individual attention designed to improve overall technique should attend.

Each skier will get six coached sessions of two to three hours on snow with time each day for a free ski. Beginners, in groups of six to seven skiers, will receive concentrated instruction and video tape sessions on the basics of ski technique. The goal is to improve skills so skiers can feel comfortable navigating easy and intermediate trails. The Master skiers get an even more advanced program with coaching and video analysis.

The all-inclusive price of the camp ($495 pp) includes lodging and meals at the Rangeley Manor, a cluster of private homes, and camps on 20 acres convenient to downtown Rangeley with beautiful views across Rangeley Lake (without lodging the price is $385 pp).

For more information, click Rangeley Lakes.

Steamboat Springs Nordic Camp & Festival
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
December 16-17
Jump start the season in the northern Colorado Rockies on Steamboat’s renowned powder snow at this camp and festival slated to be held at Lake Catamount Touring Center the first day and Steamboat Ski Touring Center on the second day. Focusing on fitness and performance, the camp provides on-snow professional coaching for all abilities from beginners to advanced xc skiers for $125 per two-day session.

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Participants will be learning in one of the top xc settings in the Rockies, while both meeting new ski friends and just plain having fun. Technical information about equipment, training, and waxing will be provided and free demo equipment will be available from all major xc ski companies. As this is offered to skiers to try new models, but it is not intended for all day use, rental equipment will also be available at discounted rates and skiers can always use their own gear.

The Steamboat Springs Camp clinics will be held at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. for skate or classic xc skiing, followed by video analysis at the Steamboat Ski Touring Center. Lunch is provided on both days, and there’s a happy hour, free prizes, and a camper goodie bag.

Click here for more information, click Steamboat Nordic Camp & Festival.

Thanksgiving Training Camp
Crested Butte, Colorado
November 24-26
The perfect way to work off that Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing, this southern Colorado festival features a variety of $35 technique clinics for beginner, intermediate, and advanced xc skiers in both classic and skate skiing. And, now don’t take offense, there is also a “Gray Hares” recreational group just for people aged 50 or older.

To guarantee snow in this area just requires a move to higher elevations. For a little extra, the camp provides lunches and a gourmet dinner. For more information click Colorado XC Ski Associationand look for the link to Crested Butte Nordic Center.

Don’t wait for the snow to fall in your backyard. Now is the time to start planning to get ready for the winter ski season. Other camps and festivals scheduled include: the Thanksgiving Ski Camp at Devil’s Thumb Ranch in Tabernash, Colorado, on November 24-26; the Instructor Rendezvous at Frisco Nordic Center in Frisco, Colorado, on November 28-29 for certified or aspiring xc ski instructors; and the Nordic Ski Camp at Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop, Washington, on December 14-17.

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