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Explore Colorado’s Nordic Centers

Try skinny skis this winter for a low-impact, high-cardio mountain adventure.

Even if downhill or backcountry skiing and snowboarding is your thing, it’s nice to give your muscles something new to think about. Cross-country skiing is low impact, low cost and big cardio and Colorado Nordic centers typically see far fewer crowds than its sister ski resorts. Here are four Nordic areas to try:

In the shadows of Breckenridge Ski Resort, traversing the pristine Cucumber Gulch Wildlife Preserve, the Breckenridge Nordic Center features well-marked trails and excellent beginner terrain. The groomed paths travel through 1,400 acres of quiet forests and protected wetlands home to abundant Colorado wildlife. (Occasional moose sightings are not uncommon here.) Breck’s gold mining history is experienced through signage and scattered huts and the newly remodeled Nordic center day lodge is the ideal place to kick back by the moss rock fireplace with a hot drink. Snowshoers and skate skiers are also welcome to the Nordic center’s terrain and professional instructors and equipment rentals are available.

Crosscountry Skiing

Rambling across private land near Winter Park, Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort and Spa is a Colorado Nordic ski destination with all the bells and whistles. Schedule a special weekend away and book a private cabin or cozy Western-inspired lodge room at the award-winning, environmentally friendly resort. Spend your days exploring more than 6,000 acres of Ranch Creek Valley wilderness and see why Devil’s Thumb was named among the top three cross-country ski resorts in the U.S. by USA Today. Book a private or group lesson or improve your technique with an advanced clinic.

Dubbed the “Nordic Ski Capital of Colorado,” Crested Butte Nordic draws diehard cross-country fans all winter with its meticulously groomed 50 kilometers of trails and its festive Alley Loop race in February. Visitors access trails right from town and cross-country or skate ski into secluded Aspen groves and pine forests in a matter of minutes. Bonus perk: Kids 17 and under and seniors over 70 ski free. Put a fresh spin on date night at Crested Butte Nordic’s Magic Meadows Yurt. The backcountry dining experience begins with a one-mile ski or snowshoe trek followed by a gourmet five-course meal, live music and libations.

The Aspen Snowmass Nordic Trail System is an impressive 90-kilometer public network of free cross-country ski and snowshoe trails linking Aspen, Snowmass and Basalt. It’s one of the largest free trail systems in the country and is the pride of the Roaring Fork Valley. The system includes skate and classic skiing trails for all abilities and numerous paths for winter walking. There are even dedicated dog routes. Two fully outfitted centers offer everything from lessons and rentals to tuning and waxing. Call on the Aspen Cross Country Center for ski tours and treat your group to an outing of rolling hills, the Elk Mountains and lunch at the Pine Creek Cookhouse.