When most people think of skiing, they think of downhill skiing and slalom. It may come as a surprise that downhill skiing has an equally popular cousin – cross country skiing. Cross country skiing has been a means of transportation in northern Europe and Asia for 5,000 years and has built an avid following as an exercise and sports activity.
In the United States there are several hundred cross country ski trails throughout the states, particularly in New England, the western states, and the northwestern Pacific coast. Cross country skiing venues can be divided into two camps, so to speak. Experts will be quick to note that many of the national parks and forests have systems of ski trails for experienced skiers. They point out that the trails are extensive and less expensive to use. Accommodations can usually found in nearby town at much less expensive rates, too.
For beginning cross country skiers, ski resorts are probably a safer place to start. Most downhill ski resorts also have cross country ski trails. While resorts tend to be more expensive, the trails are clearly marked and kept in good condition. There are also instructors available for the first time cross country skier. Many of the resorts have warming huts along the ski trails.
Some of the resorts are interesting and unique. Adirondacks, New York was the home to the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games at Lake Placid and boasts of six million acres of ski trails and an Olympic Sports Center. Further north in Stowe, Vermont, the famous Von Trapp family established the Von Trapp Family Lodge, a cross country ski center, after fleeing Austria during World War II.
At Mount Bachelor Ski Resort in Oregon, cross country skiers can ski in June – and get a tan. The resort is also the training center for the U.S. Cross-country Ski and Biathlon Teams in the spring.
Royal Gorge in Soda Springs, California sits in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and claims to have the largest cross country ski resort. Tenth Mountain Division in Colorado is names after the first Army unit in World War II to be trained to fight on skis. The facility has an impressive 270 miles of ski trail and 29 warming huts.