Get Outside: Ten Cross-Country Skiing Destinations Near Denver | Westword

Get Outside: Ten Cross-Country Skiing Destinations Near Denver

Remote trails and Nordic centers.
Scenic views from the Frisco Nordic Center.
Scenic views from the Frisco Nordic Center. Unsplash / Kenneth MacClune
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There are several ways to experience alpine skiing in Colorado, from luxurious resorts to backcountry trails. Cross-country skiing, too, can be undertaken with amenities nearby or in remote wilderness.

But while the two sports share this similarity, they are very different. Unlike the steep terrain of alpine/downhill skiing, cross-country/Nordic skiing involves gentle, rolling terrain. There are also two styles of cross-country skiing: classic, which is more beginner-friendly and similar to walking with skis; and skate, which involves gliding techniques to build greater speed.

This guide to cross-country skiing near Denver covers destinations for all preferences and experience levels, as well as nearby attractions, to create the perfect trip itinerary:

Bakerville to Loveland Trail
Silver Plume
If you’re up for a workout, head to this trail connecting Bakerville to Loveland Ski Resort. Starting from the eastern end, the 9.8-mile route gains a gradual 1,128-foot elevation gain. You’ll hear I-70 traffic at first, but this fades as you ascend into the snow-dusted evergreen forest. Enjoy scenic solitude followed by a quick descent back to the lot. This destination sees far less traffic compared to some on this list, but you may meet a few others snowshoeing and fat-tire biking.

Brainard Lake Recreation Area
The popular Brainard Lake Recreation Area receives far fewer visitors in the winter months. In part, this is because its seasonal roads are closed to vehicles through April 30. However, Nordic skiers can park at the free winter lot to access up to fifteen miles of trails. Most are multi-use trails, but two are solely dedicated to cross-country skiing: the 2.8-mile CMC Ski Trail and the 1.7-mile Little Raven Ski Trail. Via Lefthand Park Reservoir Road, you can connect these two trails into a scenic loop.

Breckenridge Nordic Center
The Breckenridge Nordic Center is great for a day trip from Denver. Visitors can explore more than 18.6 miles of groomed trails, the majority of which are intermediate routes. But beginners will enjoy this center, too, given its suitable terrain, convenient on-site rentals and available lessons. The lodge is another perk, providing stunning views and a full bar, which offers a daily happy hour. Complete your itinerary with a Golden Horseshoe Sleigh Rides dinner tour, one of the best winter sleigh rides in Colorado.

Eldora Mountain Nordic Center
Although the above destinations are closest to Denver, all the remaining sites on this list have modern amenities — which are ideal for first-time Nordic skiers. This includes Eldora Mountain Nordic Center, which offers on-site rentals and lessons for all skill levels. You’ll also find 24.9 miles of groomed trails that wind through picturesque valleys and forests. Day passes have not yet gone on sale.

Gold Run Nordic Center
Gold Run Nordic Center is located in Breckenridge and has 18.6 miles of trails. Half are easy, green trails, making this a solid pick for beginners. Intermediate and advanced cross-country skiers will also find options here, like the dog-friendly 2.4-mile Preston Loop and the expert 3.6-mile Hoodoo Voodoo route. The latter serves as the course for the Nordic center’s annual race.

Keystone Nordic Center
Just west of Keystone Resort lies the quieter, equally scenic Keystone Nordic Center. It has more than 10.6 miles of groomed trails, plus access to 24.9 miles of forty additional backcountry routes in the White River National Forest. Ninety-minute group lessons for beginners are held daily, which include rental equipment and a daily trail fee. After skiing, consider nearby attractions, as Keystone offers some of the best snow tubing and ice skating near Denver.

Roxborough State Park
When snow conditions allow, Roxborough State Park is a convenient place to Nordic ski near Denver. It's about a forty-minute drive from downtown, traffic depending, and is home to three ideal cross-country ski trails. These include Fountain Valley Loop (2.6 miles), Willow Creek Trail (1.4 miles), and the extended South Rim and Willow Creek Loop (2.8 miles). Scrub oak line these hilly paths, and views of red sandstone formations amaze. Per Colorado Parks and Wildlife, skiing off-trail is not permitted, and a $10 daily vehicle pass is required.

Silver Dale Trails
From Georgetown, drive two miles along Guanella Pass Road to reach the Silver Dale trails. Parking is available at the trailhead, which leads to multiple easy paths. For a great overview of this former mining area, take the Silver Dale Heritage Trail. The meandering 2.2-mile cross-country ski route passes two retired tunnels and includes a detour to the Georgetown Reservoir. You’ll be surrounded by impressive peaks though a relatively flat trail.

Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Center
YMCA of the Rockies - Snow Mountain Ranch is home to a variety of outdoor recreation. But in the winter, one of its greatest draws is the expansive Nordic center. It offers 74.6 miles of groomed trails for all abilities. Single-day passes are $29 per adult and $14 per child ages six to twelve; children five and younger are free. Cross-country skiing is also complimentary for overnight guests. Accommodation options include lodge rooms, private ranch-style cabins and cozy heated yurts.

Tennessee Pass Nordic Center
Take in breathtaking views of the Sawatch mountains at the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center. More than sixteen miles of groomed trails span the area, with the majority being green, beginner-friendly routes. All experience levels will love this center, though, especially given its unique amenities. Here, guests can ski 1.8 miles to the cookhouse, which serves lunch on weekends and delicious four-course dinners daily. A short distance southwest of this site lie several sleep yurts, the perfect place to stargaze and end a day outdoors.
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