Cross-country skiing, like so many outdoor activities, saw a surge in interest last winter.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, it was another way to enjoy fresh air. Another way to exercise. Another way to get on skis without the costs and crowds of resorts.
Those are some benefits of cross-country skiing, or Nordic skiing, an age-old form of mobility that today is more of a blissful diversion in Colorado. It’s less about the adrenaline of downhill skiing and more about the serenity of cruising through gentle meadows and woods. Less about stoke, more about zen. And, yes, saving money.
If you’re looking to discover the simple joy, we offer some answers to questions you might be wondering:
What do I need?
In downhill skiing, the binding keeps your full boot locked to the ski. In Nordic skiing, only the toe is attached. That’s so you can nimbly move straight or up and down. You’ll also have poles to keep yourself moving and achieve that full-body synchrony.
Along with skis, boots and poles, you’ll want gaiters to keep the feet dry, wool socks, waterproof gloves, sunglasses or goggles, a hat, CamelBak or some water storage, and layers including long underwear, a long-sleeved shirt, a waterproof jacket and snow pants.
Where do I go?
If you’re just starting, Nordic centers are the best bet. These are outfits that groom and maintain scenic trail networks designed for all skill levels. You can ensure you’ve got the proper gear by renting. Plus, to put you more at ease, you can book a lesson.
Breckenridge, Keystone and Frisco Nordic centers are options in Summit County. Aspen, Vail and Crested Butte also have Nordic centers. Close to Boulder, Eldora hosts cross-country skiers on a 25-mile trail system.
State parks are other beginner-friendly venues. In northwest Colorado, State Forest State Park grooms trails and rents yurts. Yurt camping is also popular for cross-country skiers at Ridgway State Park in the southwest corner of the state. Close to Colorado Springs, Mueller State Park has fashioned its trails more for winter in recent years.
How much am I paying?
When you hear “Vail prices,” you think hundreds of dollars. Think $18 for Vail Nordic Center. That’s the latest price listed for an adult day pass.
Prices range between $20 and $30 for passes at other Nordic centers. It’s about that for rentals too.
Several centers offer bundles for passes, gear and lessons. Frisco Nordic Center, for example, offers lessons and passes starting at $65. Crested Butte Nordic Center lists a half-day backcountry tour with rentals included for $90 for the first person in a group, $60 for additional people.