Photo: two people cross country skiing with dog
The Quebec countryside takes on a new perspective at sunset.

Photograph by Jonathan Clark

by Margaret Loftus

From the November-December 2010 issue of National Geographic Traveler

Gentler on your body and your wallet than downhill skiing, cross-country—a form of Nordic skiing—is quietly gaining ground in the U.S. While the sport is a cinch to learn—if you can walk, you can cross-country ski, goes the adage—beginners will find it easier to ski on groomed trails. Here are five places to get you started.

Anthony Lakes Nordic Center, Oregon 

With the highest base elevation in Oregon (over 7,000 feet) and winter temps that hover around 17˚F, northeastern Oregon’s Wallowa-Whitman National Forest is nirvana for powder enthusiasts. There are 16 miles of groomed track circling the alpine lakes. Fee: $13.

Aspen Snowmass Nordic Trail System, Colorado

Aspen conjures a glitzy downhill scene rife with Hollywood starlets swaddled in shearling, but less well known is the 56-mile cross-country trail that links Aspen to the communities of Snowmass and Basalt. The Owl Creek Trail meanders through meadows and valleys. Free.

Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Vermont

With a quintessential rural New England setting and 53 miles of wide trails that wend through field and forest, this nonprofit center has become a big draw for the Nordic skiing community. For beginning “Nordies,” there’s a fun run in March with “feed stops” for warm split pea soup and bread. Fee: $10.

Michigan Technological University Nordic Training Center

Thanks to the lake effect, the very tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula stays coated in packed powder from early December to April. Michigan Tech’s 21 miles of wooded trails range from rookie to elite with several miles of trails lit at night. Fee: $10.

Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, Canada

More than 130 miles of cross-country trails wind through the Laurentian forest and along the Jean-Larose River. Along the way are five heated shelters, three of which can host overnight guests, and a bed and breakfast. The area is only a half-hour drive from Quebec City. Fee: $23.

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