Colorado’s Best Nordic Skiing

Colorado is absolutely loaded when it comes to winter fun.

From downhill skiing at world-famous resorts like Aspen, Vail, & Breckenridge, to dog sledding, snowmobiling, and everything in between. It is a true winter wonderland! One of my favorite winter activities has always been nordic skiing. There is no shortage of places for nordic skiing in Colorado, just check out THIS WEBSITE for a comprehensive list.

Despite the 20+ inches of snow we just received over the past weekend, the winter is coming to an end (fingers crossed because I’m really itching to do some backpacking) and most places are closing up for the season. For me it really was a great season and I would love to share some of my favorite places for cross-country skiing.

1.) YMCA of the Rockies- Snow Mountain Ranch: Granby, CO

100+ km of trails, Classic & Skate

Rental Equipment: YES

Click HERE For a Trail Map

Favorite Trails: Blue Ridge Summit, Heckman, Gaskill, Wild Turkey, Old Lynch

Snow Mountain Ranch was the first Nordic Center I experienced in Colorado. One visit and I knew I had come to the right place. It had everything I could ever ask for; beautiful groomed tracks, ample signage for trail markers, gorgeous mountain views, and challenging terrain. Located just west of the Continental Divide, it’s just a short drive up Highway 40 from the downhill mecca that is Winter Park. Luckily, the only thing the two share is the scenery. Strap on the skis and you’ll leave the crowds behind at the Nordic Center Lodge. While you can’t really go wrong any trail you take, a couple of my favorites were South of the Nordic Center near the Biathlon Range, including Heckmen and Gaskill. If you want a real challenge, look no further than the trail up to Blue Ridge Summit. From the Nordic Center, it’s about a 10 mile roundtrip excursion. The going up is a real quad burner, but the ride down is well worth the strenuous effort. When you’re done skiing, choose any number of other winter activities including ice skating, dog sledding, and tubing. I personally loved the sleigh ride we took!

2.) Eldora Nordic Center: Nederland, CO

40 km of trails, Classic & Skate

Rental Equipment: YES

Click HERE For a Trail Map

Favorite Trails: Rising Sun Loop, Gandy Dancer, Saw Mill, Porcupine Park Loop

There are many reasons to love Eldora. One of the best is avoiding the horrendous I-70 ski traffic. Another is the scenery. The nordic area winds its way through a thick, pristine pine forest that gives the impression of being deep in the backcountry. Runs such as Beaver’s Revenge, Fatty Mills, and Ja Sure are as fun as they sound. Similar to Snow Mountain Ranch, there is an ungroomed route that leads you high up the mountainside. The endpoint is the Tennessee Mountain Cabin, located around 10,000 ft, which can be rented through Eldora for around $80/night. Even if you’re not planning on staying the night, the trek up is worth the effort as the descent is exhilarating. Barely over an hour from Denver, Eldora was my first choice for a quick ski outing.

3.) Devil’s Thumb Nordic Center: Tabernash, CO

100+ km of trails, Classic & Skate

Rental Equipment: YES

Click HERE For a Trail Map

Favorite Trails: Black 10 Loop & Monster Cookie Hill, Blue Extra

Located just down the road from Snow Mountain Ranch, Devil’s Thumb rivals my top choice in size and quality. It could easily also be the top nordic center in the state. Miles and miles of trails dot the landscape, ranging from easy skirts through the meadows, to steep runs with sharp twists and hairpin turns. The epitome of this was the Monster Cookie Hill on the Black 10 Loop. Nestled at the base of the Indian Peaks Mountain Range, Devil’s Thumb is one hell of a scenic place. It also has possibly the finest lodge I have ever been in, complete with a massive fireplace and outdoor patio. If you are in the Winter Park area for a while, I would recommend spending at least a day in each.

4.) Breckenridge Gold Run: Breckenridge, CO

30 km of trails, Classic & Skate

Rental Equipment: YES

Click HERE For a Trail Map

Favorite Trails: Hoodoo Voodoo, Peabody Placer, Smuggler

Unfortunately I was unable to visit the Breckenridge Nordic Center that winds its way through the downhill ski area, so this may not even be the best option in town, however; Breckenridge Gold Run is still a great option. Gold Run shares a lodge with the Breckenridge Golf Club and around half the trails are groomed on top of the course. These are fairly flat, open runs that are fun to cruise around and provide stunning views of the surrounding peaks. A long trail called Peabody Placer leads East, into the forest, where you pass remnants of old mills and shacks, traces of the area’s mining history, en route to a nice overlook. The Hoodoo Voodoo loop provides a wild and fun detour.

5.) Grand Lake Nordic Center: Grand Lake, CO

35 km of trails, Classic & Skate

Rental Equipment: YES

Click HERE For a Trail Map

Favorite Trails: River Run Loop, Randall’s Romp, Janice’s Jaunt

Grand Lake is the gateway to the western half of Rocky Mountain National Park. However, you wouldn’t be able to tell from it’s nordic center. There are no real big mountain views and most of the trails are rather tame. The River run is definitely the exception. Not only do you get to cross the tiny Colorado River, Grand Lake is very near its headwaters, there is also a fun downhill that is quite steep. I wouldn’t suggest going out of your way to visit Grand Lake, especially since there are better options in Snow Mountain Ranch and Devil’s Thumb just down the road. It is nonetheless a peaceful place to get a good workout in.

6.) Frisco Nordic Center: Frisco, CO

40 km of trails, Classic & Skate

Rental Equipment: YES

Click HERE For a Trail Map

Favorite Trails: Buzzsaw, Jody’s Nugget Loop, Crown Point Rd

Traffic was especially bad the day I visited, so I may be a bit biased, but I’m not a huge fan of the Frisco Nordic Center. Pinned between the highway and the Dillon Reservoir, there is limited space and you never get the sense of wilderness as in some of the other nordic areas. Many of the runs are straight, long, and almost boring. Buzzsaw was one of the notable exceptions. That run will keep you entertained the whole way through with constant ups and downs. While it didn’t make a huge impression, Frisco is still a great place to get out and ski. I honestly don’t think there’s a bad place to go in Colorado.

Honorable Mention:

Dedisse Park & Alderfer/Three Sisters Park: Evergreen, CO

No groomed trails. Stick to golf course or packed-down hiking trails. 

Rental Equipment: Available in Denver

While not a true nordic area, this is a great place to test the skis out. The only real trails are within the parks, though I honestly recommend just wandering and blazing your own. If you get lost, just retrace your tracks. The golf course also makes for a great, mostly flat area, to really practice your skills.

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Written by Jake G

I’m a 26 year old who loves to hike, bike, backpack, and explore the outdoors. I’m a Midwesterner who currently resides in sunny Arizona. I hope to inspire others with my adventures and maybe give some advice for your future vacations. Follow me as I travel around the country and...
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