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Downhill skiing and snowboarding may get the bulk of the attention when it comes to winter sports, but cross-country skiing is an awesome snow sport that’s accessible, affordable, lots of fun, and a great workout. What makes cross-country skiing so great is that you can find groomed trails in so many different snowy places around the world, at a fraction of the cost of a downhill resort with large crowds and long lines.
The sport is relatively easy to catch on to, and everyone from kids to seniors can do it. If your dog likes the snow, you may even be able to bring him along for a healthy cardio workout! These are some of the best places around the world to visit for cross-country skiing.
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One unexpected destination that’s excellent for cross-country skiing is Slovenia. You can access trails that stretch into Italy and Austria from the Kranjska Gora Resort, and the lakeside town of Bled is a popular place to stay while skiing in Slovenia. However, the most well-known trails are on Pokljuka, which is a world-famous biathlon center. Biathlon is an intriguing sport that combines skiing and shooting a rifle and is definitely worth a try when you visit Slovenia. The valley of Logarska Dolina in the Solčavsko area is also popular with skiers who want to explore the vast Slovenian terrain.
A popular saying in Norway is that “Norwegians are born with skis on their feet,” and that’s because skiing is such an important part of the culture here. Norway is known as the premier Aurora Borealis viewing area, but one of the most memorable ways to see the famous light phenomenon is on skis, peacefully gliding through the snow. Head to the mountain plateau of Finnmarksvidda to ski and see the Northern Lights in the fall and winter. Popular routes go from here to Alta, Karasjok, and Stabbursdalen National Park. You can find easy groomed slopes well-suited for beginners in many parts of the country; however, the largest ski centers are in the central and eastern parts of Norway near Oslo, Hedmark, and Hallingdal.
Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada
The Okanagan Valley is one of the best places to cross-country ski in British Columbia, with over 34 miles of trails at SilverStar Mountain Resort, and an additional 30 miles at nearby Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre. However, there are top-notch trails all over BC too. This top-rated Canadian destination gets lots of snow each year, so you don’t have to worry about reliable conditions as much as in other parts of North America. There are even some trails in this area that are lit at night so you can experience the peace and serenity of gliding through the snow after dark.
In the U.S., Vermont is an incredibly popular destination for cross-country skiing enthusiasts, and the Trapp Family Lodge is a huge mountain resort near Stowe that provides beautiful and comfortable accommodations. There are over 60 miles of trails here to explore on your skis, including about 25 miles of rugged backcountry trails. Of course, you can stick to more groomed trails as well if you want to find cabin stops with hot cocoa and soup to warm up in the middle of your journey.
Montana is known for its vast, wide-open spaces, and everything feels even grander after a Montana snowfall. Although Yellowstone is packed with crowds and traffic during the summer vacation season, it’s quiet, mysterious, and peaceful in the winter while Big Sky Resort is also a popular option. Check out the Lone Mountain Ranch for about 85 miles of groomed cross-country skiing trails that are often accessible on skis through early April. This resort has become famous for its 2,200-foot vertical drop, family-friendly activities, professionally guided lessons, and meal and lodging packages.
Ammassalik Island, East Greenland
Greenland is considered to be one of the wildest and remote places on Earth, making it an adventurous place to explore on cross-country skis. Some of the best backcountry adventures take place on Ammassalik Island in East Greenland, which has deep snows, tall peaks, accessible valleys, and the relatively large and inviting town of Tasiilaq. Many visitors choose to join guided tour groups to explore this area on multi-day expeditions with backup support from dogsleds and snowmobiles. There are warm and comfortable huts to stay at along the way with scenic views of the landscape and starry night skies. Highlights of a Greenland cross-country skiing adventure include the Ilulissat Ice Fjord, the icebergs in the Disko Bay, and tiny villages like Tiniteqilaaq where hearty residents survive on subsistence hunting.
West Coast skiers flock to Lake Tahoe around this time of year to take advantage of the gorgeous snowy trails that are best explored on skis. There are more than 40 miles of groomed trails that you can access with a Tahoe Cross Country Pass, which you can pick up at local ski centers. One of the big cross-country ski resorts in the area is the Royal Gorge Cross Country Resort in Soda Springs, California. The resort has more than 120 miles of trails that span over 6,000 acres, and some of these trails are suitable for snowshoers as well.
Finland is another very popular place to travel to for cross-country skiing, and most of the best areas for the sport are located in the northern part of the country. Skiing is a big part of Finnish culture and a wonderful way to see the landscape up-close and personal. The largest network of cross-country skiing tracks is around the Ylläs Ski Resort and spans about 330 kilometers. The capital city of Helsinki is also a popular cross-country skiing destination, as there are tracks all around the metropolitan area and accessible by local transportation. On many tracks, you can find open shelters called laavus and traditional Lapp huts called kotas to take a break, sip a hot beverage, and meet other skiers.
For Midwesterners blanketed in snow throughout the winter, a key strategy is to embrace snow sports instead of cursing the white stuff all season. Ironwood, Michigan is an ideal place to visit to experience the beauty of a Midwestern winter, and the Active Backwoods Retreat here has at least 25 miles of trails for all skill levels across about 1,100 acres of land. There are some trails here that are dog-friendly, and skijoring is a fun activity to try here too. It’s fairly easy to find accommodations in this area in cabins and other lodging options to make a weekend adventure out of it. You can check the ABR Trails website for up-to-date snow and weather conditions to plan your trip with confidence.