While many cross-country (XC) ski aficionados wait for snow in their backyard before they don their skinny skis, there are XC skiers that prefer to travel to beautiful places for their skiing adventures. They search for destinations with extensive trail networks and a choice of several XC ski systems. According to the editors of www.XCSkiResorts.com, these eight leading destination regions top any XC skier’s “must visit” list.
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Reno/Lake Tahoe Region, California
In the west, Lake Tahoe, Calif., boasts the most extensive trail systems when it comes to XC ski resorts with many different choices surrounding the lake. With 800 km. of groomed trails, the region has the greatest concentration of large XC ski areas in the U.S. The XC ski areas in the Tahoe area include Royal Gorge, Spooner Lake, Tahoe Donner, Hope Valley and Tahoe Cross-Country. Others include Squaw Creek, Kirkwood, Northstar-at-Tahoe and Camp Richardson. The jagged, snow-covered peaks of the Sierra Nevadas dropping into the pale blue waters of the lake are as dramatic as any in the world.
Methow Valley, Washington
Methow Valley, tucked away in northwest Washington on the eastern slope of the North Cascade Mountains, has a network of 200 km. of groomed trails called the Methow Valley Sports Trails Association. This XC-ski Mecca for classic and skate cross-country skiing stretches 40 miles along the mountain range. Scores of lodges and warming huts amongst the national wilderness and forested lands provide warming libations and spirited conversations. This region's snow is plentiful and surprisingly dry as well — the moisture is wrung out of the clouds as they travel from the Pacific Ocean across a hundred miles of mountains to reach Methow. After the snowfall the skies turn a crystal blue and incredible scenic mountain panoramas open. For accommodations visit the Sun Mountain Lodge or the Chewuch Inn.
This Summit County town has stunning landscape, cultural heritage and Victorian mining village atmosphere. Three XC-ski centers spread out through surrounding Summit County. Breckenridge Nordic Center has trails that wind within view of the town, Gold Run Nordic Center trails trace their way across the local golf course and Frisco Nordic Center has a trail system along the shore of Lake Dillon. The discovery of rich silver and lead carbonates in the hillsides nearby put the Breckenridge mining district on the map in the mid 1800s. Breckenridge has preserved its unique history and character and now has hundreds of restaurants, shops and galleries.
The Gunflint Trail
This region is an XC-ski treasure in northeastern Minnesota near Grand Marais, Minn. that offers more than 200 km. of groomed trails. Resorts include the Golden Eagle Lodge, Bearskin Lodge, Gunflint Lodge, Windigo Lodge and Boundary Country Trekking. Besides XC skiing and snowshoeing, visitors enjoy ice fishing, sleigh rides and dog sledding. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the chance to gaze at the Northern Lights.
This flinty Green Mountain town is nestled beside Vermont's highest peak, Mt. Mansfield, and is interconnected with one of the largest and most diverse XC ski trail networks in the country. Three XC ski areas provide roughly 150 groomed km. of trails with an additional 100 km. in the backcountry. Plus there are a slew of trails for snowshoeing. Stowe's historic village provides an extensive choice of shopping and restaurants. Back in the hills, kick and glide along the famous Trapp Family Lodge trails or head to Smugglers Notch known for its superb family programs and rustic Bolton Valley with its snowy trails.
Mount Washington Valley, New Hampshire
This region with its landscape, grand hotels and authentic New England inns, covered bridges, high mountains, rolling farmland and white steeple churches, is the most Scandinavian-esque part of New England,” says Thom Perkins, Director of the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation. Add to that the fact that the Mt. Washington Valley area offers some of the finest and diverse cross-country ski trails and panoramas in the U.S. The 6,288 foot Mt. Washington reigns supreme in the White Mountains and towers over the rest of eastern United States, too. And while the majestic mountain’s headwall known as Tuckerman Ravine is the place of skiers’ defiant triumphs and sometimes death, the surrounding area’s XC ski centers offer recreational skinny skiers a abundance of opportunities that are safe, have memorable qualities and exude heart throbbing romance.
Historic Bethel, Maine, offers 130 km. of groomed XC ski trails and is known as the Cross-Country Ski Capital of Maine. Bethel, settled in 1774, has retained its small town lifestyle — no fast food and no stoplights. In 1999, the town set the record with the Guinness Book for the World's Tallest Snowman, a towering 113 feet, 7 inches. Three XC centers, the Bethel Inn XC Ski and Snowshoe Center, Carter's XC Ski Center and Sunday River Inn XC Ski Center, provide groomed and tracked trails. The Bethel Inn trail network traverses the golf course offering vistas of the surrounding mountains. Carter's XC Ski Center trails duck through the forests along the Androscoggin River before curling to the top of Farwell Mountain with wonderful views of the Presidential Range. The Sunday River Inn Cross-Country Ski Center's trails meander through the woods to a picturesque covered bridge.
Quebec Region, Canada
The Quebec region’s cross-country skiing offerings are absolutely staggering. This region has 51 XC ski centers in their Cross-Country Quebec Area Ski Association in an area radiating out about 100 miles from the capital city. The magic of Quebec is that a visit to this city is almost like flying to France without the jet lag. The winding streets, wonderful cuisine and lilting French accents create the perfect venue for a total escape. This year, Quebec City is celebrating its 400th birthday party. Of America’s original cities founded 400 years ago by the French, British and Spanish settlers, Quebec, astride the St. Lawrence River, has grown to become the most important.
This year, don’t wait for the snow to fly in your back yard. Check out the xcskiresorts.com and seek out your XC ski vacation to one of these eight magical XC ski destinations.