Nobody disputes the allure of alpine ski resorts, with their high-powered lifts, steep trails and superior curly fries. But not everyone likes fast speeds, big crowds and high-dollar entry fees. For the more exercise-oriented, or athletes who simply want to try something new, cross-country skiing might be the best way to experience a quieter and more enchanting side of winter. The following Nordic ski areas are the best the States have to offer. If you’d rather count calories burned than trails racked up, escape to these by yourself, with your friends or with the whole family.

MORE WINTER DESTINATIONS: 10 Best Winter Adventure Destinations in America | America’s Best Alpine Ski Getaways | Best Cross Country Ski Gear of 2015


Right Near Sugarloaf

Maine Huts & Trails

Miles of Trails: 45 miles
Location: Kingfield, ME
Season: Late November through March, or as long as there’s snow.
The Draw: A series of huts provides a completely unique skiing experience. Visitors ski new trails each day and finish at a different hut. And the word “hut” is a bit misleading: they’re small, staffed, off-the-grid semi-luxury accommodations.


A Trailhead for Competitive XC Skiers

American Birkebeiner Trail

Miles of Trails: 66 miles
Location: Hayward, WI
Season: Late November into March, or as long as there’s snow.
The Draw: The entire trail system was built and maintained by the nonprofit American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation. It’s also home to numerous intermediate and expert races, including the largest cross-country ski race in North American: the 55K Birkie Classic and 50K Birkie Skate race.


2,500 Acres in the Home of American Cross-Country Skiing

Trapp Family Lodge

Miles of Trails: 62 miles
Location: Stowe, VT
Season: Late November into March, or as long as there’s snow.
The Draw: A beautiful European-inspired mountain resort named after the von Trapp family that inspired The Sound of Music. It’s also home to the first cross-country ski center in America.

New Hampshire

On the Grounds of the Historic Mount Washington Hotel

Bretton Woods Nordic

Miles of Trails: 62 miles
Location: Mount Washington Valley, NH
Season: Late November through February.
The Draw: Weaving through the White Mountain National Forest, Bretton Woods has an immense system of Nordic trails. A great all-around family-friendly destination, their alpine ski mountain is also the largest in New Hampshire.

New York

Home of the 1980 Winter Olympics

Lake Placid

Miles of Trails: Over 100 miles
Location: Lake Placid, NY
Season: Late November through March.
The Draw: This winter sports mecca is, to nobody’s surprise, a wonderful cross-country skiing destination. With four cross-country ski centers and over 100 miles of trails weaving through the Adirondacks, the area will satisfy anybody from marathon skiers to guys who just want to try something new.


Night Skiing in the North

Giant’s Ridge

Miles of Trails: 38 miles
Location: Biwabik, MN
Season: November into early April.
The Draw: Giant’s Ridge is the location of the largest high school race in the country, with competitors from 62 different schools. The trail system cuts through Superior National Forest and was initially used by the US Ski Team to train. Also, nearly 2 miles of trails are lit for night skiing.


At the Foot of the Continental Divide

Devil’s Thumb Ranch

Miles of Trails: 68 miles
Location: Tabernash, CO
Season: Late November through March.
The Draw: Quickly becoming one of America’s most sought-after XC ski resorts, the area boasts a rustically romantic lodge overlooking Colorado‘s immense landscape.


A Stone’s Throw from Yellowstone National Park

Lone Mountain Ranch

Miles of Trails: 53 miles
Location: Big Sky, MT
Season: November through early April.
The Draw: The Lone Mountain Lodge is renowned by many cross-country addicts as being one of the best areas to go in all of North America. Within striking distance of the Big Sky and Moonlight Basin alpine ski areas, there are numerous trails for cross-country skiers of all ranges. If you’re looking for a challenge, the 10-mile Siberia Trail has it all: great views, tough climbs, rolling hills and numerous on-trail spots to stop and eat your packed lunch.

West Virginia

For Mid-Atlantic XC skiers

White Grass

Miles of Trails: 31 miles
Location: Davis, WV
Season: November through March.
The Draw: Less than a 4-hour drive directly west of Baltimore, this area of West Virginia gets nearly an impressive 13 feet of snow every year.


Within Shouting Distance of Canada

Methow Trails

Miles of Trails: 120 miles
Location: Winthrop, WA
Season: November to early April.
The Draw: One of America’s largest Nordic ski areas, this trail system features four connected areas that cover every kind of terrain, from groomed flat lands to glacial valleys and summits.


In the Valley of Untouched Snow

Jackson Fork Ranch

Miles of Trails: 47 miles
Location: Bondurant, WY
Season: Mid-November through March.
The Draw: From bald eagles to moose and coyotes, an incredible array of wildlife can be seen on the Ranch’s 1,300 acres. And because only 10 of its 47 miles of trails are groomed, it’s ideal for advanced XC skiers.


Skiing 6,000 Feet above Sea Level

Sun Valley

Miles of Trails: 25 miles
Location: Sun Valley, ID
Season: November through late May or early April.
The Draw: For those privileged enough to make it to Sun Valley, you’ll know it’s a premier, luxurious and remote winter getaway. The area is in central Idaho, a 3-hour drive east of Boise (the airport you’d most likely fly into), and — as the name suggests — it’s known for being sunny most of the year. There are cross-country trails for all levels right near the Sun Valley Lodge. We recommend the Trail Creek Loop (blue square) for a perfect confluence of challenging-yet-enjoyable terrain.


In the Spirit of the Sundance Kid

Sundance Mountain Resort

Miles of Trails: 16 miles
Location: Sundance, Utah
Season: Late November through March.
The Draw: Located just an hour south of Salt Lake City, the area has a rich history of art, film, and world-class skiing. In addition to being owned by Robert Redford, it’s also a beautiful nature and wildlife preserve.


A Midwestern XC Skiing Watershed

Cross Country Ski Headquarters

Miles of Trails: 12 miles
Location: Higgins Lake, MI
Season: Starts in November and usually runs through March.
The Draw: Located in the center of Michigan, Cross Country Ski Headquarters is not only one of the best Nordic ski locations in the state (if not the best), but one of the best in the Midwest. The 12-mile trail network is entirely groomed and a daily trail pass costs just $8.


The Golden State’s Premier Nordic Escape

Royal Gorge

Miles of Trails: 124 miles
Location: Soda Springs, CA
Season: Late November to the end of March.
The Draw: The expansive system of groomed trails weaves seamlessly through the town and ski resort of Sugar Bowl. Visitors can buy a pass that covers both alpine and Nordic ski areas.

Tucker Bowe

Tucker Bowe has been on Gear Patrol's editorial team since 2014. As a Tech Staff Writer, he tracks everything in the consumer tech space, from headphones to smartphones, wearables to home theater systems. If it lights up or makes noise, he probably covers it.

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