Cross-country skiing gets you away from the crowds and into the heart of the outdoors in winter.
Snow filters through tree limbs, animal prints are visible just off the trail, and aside from the squeak of skis on snow, the only noises you hear are the sounds of nature at most cross-country—or Nordic—ski venues. Sure, alpine (downhill) ski resorts can be exhilarating, but their hubbub and a "hurry up and wait in line" mentality are not everyone's style. Nordic resorts across the West dish out relaxation by the plateful along with many other sumptuous meals and miles upon miles of perfectly groomed tracks. Here are some favorite picks out West:
Bear Valley Cross-Country Bear Valley, between Yosemite and Lake Tahoe on Highway 4, in the Sierra Nevada, 18 miles west of Ebbetts Pass.
Trails/terrain: 70 kilometers, groomed for all levels, including two tracks, Bear Trail and Pooh Bear Trail, that allow children to get comfortable on skis; trailside huts and café.
Amenities: Rentals, lessons, and the opportunity to test-drive skis on snow (for $10 per hour) before purchasing them. The rustic post-and-beam Bear Valley Lodge has 51 rooms and a five-story granite fireplace in its Cathedral Lounge. Creekside Dining Room, Grizzly Bar, arcade for kids, proximity to the village as well as ski area.
Information: (209) 753-2834; www.bearvalleyxc.com.
Montecito-Sequoia Nordic Resort 65 miles east of Fresno on Route 180, in Sequoia National Forest, adjacent to Sequoia National Park.
Trails/terrain: 22 miles of easy to intermediate trails, with access to challenging backcountry terrain in national park.
Amenities: Warming shelter, rentals, and lessons for all levels. Old family-style lodge with three home-cooked meals; detached cabins, accommodating two to eight persons; outdoor hot tub. Activities for kids and seniors.
Information: (800) 227-9900, reservations; (800) 843-8677, lodge; www.montecitosequoia.com.
Mount Shasta Ski Park
On Mount Shasta's eastern flank, one mile from Shasta's downhill ski area, which is 10 miles east of I-5 via Highway 89.
Trails/terrain: 30 kilometers, all levels. Advanced skiers seeking more challenge can cut trails on their own in the surrounding Shasta National Forest.
Amenities: Free shuttle service from downhill ski area; Nordic Lodge offers rentals, lessons, snacks, drinks; trailside picnic tables, warming hut. (Overnight lodging available in nearby Mount Shasta City, Dunsmuir, and McCloud.)
Information: (530) 926-8610; www.skipark.com.
Royal Gorge Cross-Country Center Off I-80 in Soda Springs (near Lake Tahoe).
Trails/terrain: More than 320 kilometers (90 trails on 9,000 acres), all levels. Four cafés and 10 warming huts along trail.
Amenities: Lessons, rentals; 15 kilometers groomed with man-made snow in case of low snowfall. Wilderness Lodge has 35 rooms—reached on skis or horse-drawn sleigh. Private cabins, some with hot tubs, and three meals.
Information: (530) 426-3871;www.royalgorge.com.
Tamarack Lodge Resort Off Highway 203, in Inyo National Forest on eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, about eight miles south of the Mammoth Ski Resort.
Trails/terrain: 45 kilometers of groomed track and skate lanes with breathtaking lake scenery.
Amenities: Rentals, lessons. The 1923 Tamarack Lodge, nestled in the Lakes Basin, offers rustic-elegant accommodations and exquisite dining at its Lakefront Restaurant; guests can also stay in one of 27 furnished cabins, some with full kitchens. Easy bus transportation to Mammoth Mountain. information: (760) 934.2442; www.tamaracklodge.com.
Tahoe Donner About five miles northwest of Truckee on Northwoods Boulevard.
Trails/terrain: 94 kilometers on 4,800 acres, groomed, wide range for all levels.
Amenities: Rentals, lessons; night skiing a few nights a week (varies). Lodging available in Truckee.
Information: (530) 587.9484; www.tahoedonner.com.
Tioga Pass Resort
Highway 120, 12 miles west of Lee Vining and two miles east of the Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite National Park.
Trails/terrain: No groomed trails, but spectacular, rugged backcountry—Yosemite (with an easy ski to Tuolumne Meadows) and the vast Inyo National Forest—attracts telemark, randonnée, and Nordic skiers.
Amenities: Charming, electrically heated log cabins scattered around a central lodge where home-style meals are served. A SnoCat hauls backpacks to the lodge while guests ski one to six miles, depending on snow line.
Information: (209) 372-4471; www.tiogapassresort.com.
Badger Pass Ski Area Yosemite National Park, reached from Highway 120 or 41.
Trails/terrain: 45 kilometers of groomed track and skate lanes; countless acres of backcountry. Some 90 miles of marked trails begin at Badger Pass. A 21-mile round-trip trail leads from Badger Pass to Glacier Point Winter Lodge (reservations required for overnights).
Amenities: Rentals, lessons. Shuttle to ski area from the valley. Guided overnight trips sponsored by the Yosemite Cross Country Ski School include supping and sleeping at Glacier Point Winter Lodge.
Information: (209) 372-8444; www.yosemiterentals.com/badger.htm.
Ruby's Inn Highway 12 adjacent to Bryce Canyon National Park, 77 miles east of Cedar City.
Trails/terrain: 30 kilometers of trails, mainly atop Paunsaugent Plateau. Old Bryce Town trail begins across street from the inn. Easy access to numerous skiing options inside the park.
Amenities: Original inn opened by Reuben Syrett in 1919; now a Best Western with ski-in/ski-out ease. RV park and campground; conference center. Ski lessons available upon request. Park open year-round. Bryce Canyon Winter Festival (Feb. 18-20) features cross-country and snowshoe races, archery competition.
Information: (800) 468-8660; www.rubysinn.com.
Sundance Nordic Center Highway 189 in Provo Canyon, 11/2 miles from Robert Redford's main Sundance Resort.
Trails/terrain: 40 kilometers of groomed trails on the resort's 6,000 acres at the base of Mount Timpanogos; 10 kilometers of snowshoe trails.
Amenities: Rentals, lessons at full-service Nordic center. Cottages available at base of main resort; free shuttle service, astronomy programs, dogsledding, naturalist hikes, ice skating at nearby Seven Peaks Ice Rink, site of Olympic women's hockey. Night skiing on Friday and Saturday.
Information: (801) 223-4170; www.sundanceresort.com.
Galena Lodge On North Valley Trails system along Highway 75, about 22 miles north of Ketchum.
Trails/terrain: More than 180 kilometers of trails stretching from Bellevue to Galena Pass; spans the Boulder Mountain range and is surrounded by Sawtooth National Recreation Area; all levels, with separate trails for snowshoeing. Local junior racers train at Lake Creek trails.
Amenities: A traditional Idaho ski lodge erected in 1920 using timber scavenged from the then-defunct town of Galena; hearty lunches and moonlight dinners. Rentals, lessons. Rugged overnight tours are available through Galena Lodge to backcountry yurts throughout the region.
Information: (208) 726-4010; www.galenalodge.com.
Sun Valley Nordic Center Highway 75 to Sun Valley Road, 13 miles north of Hailey.
Trails/terrain: 40 kilometers of trails within the Sun Valley-Sawtooth National Recreation Area.
Amenities: Rustic-elegant Sun Valley Lodge. Pool, sauna, masseuse; lessons, rentals; warming hut. Children's center with separate lessons and trails.
Information: (208) 622-2251; www.sunvalley.com.
Teton Ridge Ranch Tetonia, Highway 33, 41 miles northwest of Jackson, Wyo.
Trails/terrain: 25 kilometers of trails, all levels, dip into Wyoming on the 4,000-acre ranch. Overnight yurt trips available through Rendezvous Ski Tours, Driggs, Idaho.
Amenities: Large log lodge has a stunning view of the Grand Teton and guest capacity of 14. Each of five suites has whirlpool, woodstove, and steam shower. Meals, instruction, and guided tours with a skier or naturalist included. Sleigh rides. Dogsledding. Rentals available at Yostmark in Driggs.
Information: (208) 456-2650.
Mount Bachelor 20 miles west of Bend.
Trails/terrain: 56 kilometers of groomed trails and the Three Sisters National Recreation Area nearby. The abundant snowfall can extend a season up to nine months.
Amenities: Lessons and frequent clinics. Mount Bachelor lacks extensive facilities, but numerous dining and lodging options await in Bend.
Information: (541) 382-1709; (800) 829-2442; www.mtbachelor.com.
Sun Mountain Lodge off Highway 20, about 39 miles west of Winthrop.
Trails/terrain: 200 kilometers of groomed trails. Rated as one of the top Nordic destinations in North America.
Amenities: Luxurious resort with a ski shop, two hot tubs, and a spa, not to mention its AAA four-diamond cuisine. Rentals and lessons; ice-skating.
Information: (509) 996-2211; (800) 572-0493; www.sunmountainlodge.com.
Illustration by Michael Klein
This article was first published in November 2000. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.