©istockphoto/vmWhile down­hill ski­ing might make the best Youtube videos, noth­ing can beat the aer­o­bic treat that is cross-coun­try ski­ing. Hop­ping on cross-coun­try skis for the first time might feel like a slip­pery les­son in physics, but once you get into your stride with cross-coun­try skis, trav­el­ing any oth­er way in the snow just feels slow. Through­out the coun­try and across the snowiest states, large cen­ters and trail sys­tems have been cre­at­ed for your cross-coun­try amuse­ment, and to get your skis point­ed in the right direc­tion, here are 12 of the best cross-coun­try ski trails sys­tems in the states (and BC):

The Birkie Trail – Hay­ward, Wisconsin
Com­ing in at 107 km long, stretch­ing from Hay­ward to Cable, Wis­con­sin, the Birkie Trail is one of the longer ski trails in North Amer­i­ca. Com­plete­ly main­tained by the non-prof­it 501 ©(3) Amer­i­can Birke­bein­er Ski Foun­da­tion, they also host the Amer­i­can Birke­bein­er Ski Marathon each year in Feb­ru­ary, which at 53 km. is the longest ski marathon in the coun­try. With so much groomed trail to ride, there is a lot to explore in the north woods of Wis­con­sin, and it could take you all win­ter to see every­thing that the Birkie Trail has to offer.

Trapp Fam­i­ly Lodge – Stowe, Vermont
Tout­ed as the first cross-coun­try ski cen­ter in the coun­try, the Trapp Fam­i­ly Lodge has got it fig­ured out when it comes to ski­ing in style. That’s because, on top of their 37 miles of groomed trails, and 62 miles of back­coun­try acces­si­bil­i­ty after you’ve had a suc­cess­ful day glid­ing in your ski boots, you can relax in the com­fort of the Aus­tri­an-inspired lodg­ing in the vil­las and suites of the Trapp Fam­i­ly Lodge.

Cas­cade Ski Cen­ter – Lake Placid, New York
Locat­ed square­ly in the cen­ter of Lake Placid, New York, high in the Adiron­dacks is a cross coun­try ski haven. While the Cas­cade Ski Cen­ter is a good exam­ple of this cross-coun­try ski­ing mec­ca, includ­ing with it a ski shop, ski rentals, ski lessons, and full-moon par­ties, it is only a part of the big­ger pic­ture. The 20 groomed miles of the Cas­cade Ski Cen­ter also con­nects to the trails of Mt. Van Hoeven­berg and Jack Rab­bit Trails, cre­at­ing a win­ter-length of fun to be had.

Giant’s Ridge – Biwabik, Minnesota
Giant’s Ridge might have 35 down­hill ski runs and 2 top-notch snow­board ter­rain parks, but with­in the cross-coun­try ski­ing com­mu­ni­ty, they are eas­i­ly best known for their 60 km of pure Min­nesotan groomed good­ness. Wind­ing through Supe­ri­or Nation­al For­est, these scenic roller coast­er trails were once used by the US Ski Team as train­ing grounds and now stand proud­ly as an icon­ic route depict­ing cross-coun­try ski­ing at its finest.

Methow Trails – Winthrop, Washington
Known in Wash­ing­ton and around the coun­try as North America’s largest cross-coun­try ski area, the Methow Trails in Winthrop deliv­er on every­thing and more you’d expect from the Cas­cade Moun­tains. With over five dis­tinct sec­tions of trails, and unique lodg­ing and moun­tain town envi­ron­ments sur­round­ing each one, Winthrop has long been a bea­con of light in the cross-coun­try ski com­mu­ni­ty, attract­ing skiers from across the globe to come to play in the Cas­cade snow.


Roy­al Gorge Cross Coun­try Ski Resort – Soda Springs, California
Lay­ing claim to North America’s largest ski resort, it shouldn’t be a sur­prise that Roy­al Gorge offers more than a cou­ple of options for win­ter fun. Six dis­tinct ski sec­tions com­prise Roy­al Gorge, pro­vid­ing over 200 km of trails, and while all that pris­tine cross-coun­try ski­ing might bring you to Roy­al Gorge in the first place, it’s the first-class accom­mo­da­tions that will make you nev­er want to leave.

Ren­dezvous Ski Trails – West Yel­low­stone, Montana
Home to per­haps one of the great­est cross-coun­try ski fes­ti­vals to cel­e­brate the start of a sea­son, the Yel­low­stone Ski Fes­ti­val, the Ren­dezvous Ski Trails locat­ed in West Yel­low­stone, Mon­tana con­sist of 35 km of fresh­ly groomed trails that zig and zag through Rocky Moun­tain scenery, allow­ing for to not only get your dai­ly dose of exer­cise, but also enjoy the sights along the way.

Cross Coun­try Ski Head­quar­ters – Hig­gins Lake, Michigan
Michi­gan might take the cake with per­fect cross-coun­try ski­ing, and they can attribute that to the flat and rolling ter­rain that gets blan­ket­ed by buck­ets of snow each win­ter sea­son. The Cross Coun­try Ski Head­quar­ters in Hig­gins Lake, Michi­gan is lit­er­al­ly just that, your cross-coun­try ski head­quar­ters, and that’s because, between their high-qual­i­ty ski rentals and for-pur­chase selec­tion, day lodge, pro­fes­sion­al guides, and 18 km of pris­tine trails, the Cross Coun­try Ski Head­quar­ters has every­thing you need to have some fun this winter.

Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort and Spa – Taber­nash, Colorado
There are a lot of qual­i­ty cross-coun­try ski trails to be found in Col­orado, and on top of that list should be Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort and Spa. After you’re done ski­ing the 40+ km of pris­tine Rocky Moun­tain trails, you can treat your­self to the entire resort and spa pack­age at Devil’s Thumb includ­ing hot tubs, great food, and per­haps a tod­dy or two as you rest by the fire.

Sun Val­ley Nordic Cen­ter – Sun Val­ley, Idaho
Offer­ing every­thing and more that you could be look­ing for in a cross-coun­try ski­ing adven­ture, the Sun Val­ley Nordic Cen­ter not only has 40 km of trails groomed dai­ly, but you can also expect to find top qual­i­ty rentals, pro­fes­sion­al guides, and instruc­tors, and best of all, the fresh air found in Ida­ho and through­out the moun­tain­ous ter­rain. A per­fect place for skiers of all lev­els, you can find some fun all win­ter long at Sun Val­ley Nordic Center.

Sol­dier Hol­low Cross-Coun­try Ski­ing Resort – Mid­way, Utah
Fea­tur­ing Olympic train­ing tracks, Sol­dier Hol­low can accom­mo­date even those skiers who have “seen it all” and pro­vide an adven­ture wor­thy of the most world­ly ath­letes. But just because the best of the best go here to train, don’t think that there aren’t any tracks out there for the begin­ner, and in fact, the design of the trail sys­tem was made to empha­size ski­ing for every­one. The result—everyone can enjoy ski­ing at Sol­dier Hollow.

Sil­ver Star Moun­tain Resort – British Colum­bia, Canada
Okay so this might not be in the US, but it cer­tain­ly is close, and it’s too good to miss. Not only are there 55 km of groomed cross coun­try trails with­in the Sil­ver Star Moun­tain Resort bound­aries, but with a Dual Moun­tain Cross-Coun­try Ski­ing Pass, you can also have access to an addi­tion­al 50 km of con­nect­ing trails at the Sov­er­eign Lake Nordic Cen­tre. That means you can use up the whole sea­son explor­ing the per­fect snow of BC and nev­er get tired of the same old scenery pass­ing you by.

Down­hill ski­ing or snow­board­ing is as pop­u­lar as it gets, as are most of the slopes dur­ing blue-bird days. If you’re inter­est­ed in a sport that’s a lit­tle less crowd­ed and a lot less expen­sive, con­sid­er cross-coun­try ski­ing. Here are five rea­sons you should give it a shot:

Cross-Country Skiing is the Most Accessible Winter Sport Ever

It’s near­ly free
If you own a pair of cross-coun­try skis, poles, and boots, this win­ter activ­i­ty actu­al­ly is free after the ini­tial gear expense. If you don’t, it’s about as close as it gets. Unlike down­hill ski­ing, it doesn’t require a lift tick­et, which can be a big expense for just a few hours of pow­der. Rent­ing the cross-coun­try set-up is usu­al­ly inex­pen­sive. The cost varies based on where you are and where you get the gear. At an inde­pen­dent retail store in down­town Hood Riv­er, Ore­gon, for exam­ple, a cross-coun­try ski/boot/pole rental will cost you only $20 for the entire day.

There’s a low risk of injury
Cross-coun­try ski­ing is low impact, low speed and, there­fore, low­er risk than many of its coun­ter­parts. Accord­ing to a web­site called ski-injury.com, “At the 2011 ISSS meet­ing, Dr Jan Roky­ta pre­sent­ed data on 2295 XC ski­ing injuries that occurred between 2003 and 2010. The over­all injury rate was 0.1/1000 XC ski­ing days com­pared to 1.0/1000 for alpine ski­ing. Males and females were injured in equal pro­por­tions although injured males tend­ed to be slight­ly old­er (aver­age age 42.5 yrs com­pared to 35.5yrs). The low­er extrem­i­ty was the com­mon­est area of injury and falls account­ed for about 85% of all injuries. About 8% of events were due to ski­er exhaus­tion and frac­tures made up about 25% of all injuries.”

Dogs (and kids) are welcome
Any sport that not only allows — but encour­ages — the com­pa­ny of the canine and young adult kind is imme­di­ate­ly more acces­si­ble to the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion. Cross-coun­try ski­ing can be done at any pace, so dogs and kids can eas­i­ly be a part of the fun. Many peo­ple allow their dogs to run with them while they cross-coun­try ski much like they would do on a hike in the sum­mer­time. And most kids will wel­come the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get out and glide through the snow any day of the week.

It’s a great work­out — or an easy adventure
One of the best aspects of cross-coun­try ski­ing is the choice you get when you head out for the day; you can make it a seri­ous work­out or a walk in the park. Accord­ing to the Mayo Clin­ic, a 160-pound per­son will burn 496 calo­ries in just one hour of cross-coun­try ski­ing, where­as the same per­son would burn just 314 calo­ries down­hill ski­ing for the same dura­tion of time. If you’re less inter­est­ed in aer­o­bic exer­cise, you’ll still be strength­en­ing many of the mus­cles in your body — includ­ing your glutes, core, back, chest shoul­ders arms and legs — while enjoy­ing the scenery at a slow­er pace.

It’s a great workout -- or an easy adventure

You don’t need fan­cy gear to do it
You will need to lay­er up mean­ing you’ll need a base­lay­er, a mid­lay­er (wool shirt, a sweater or fleece jack­et) and some kind of jack­et. Once you get going on your Nordic Skis, you’ll heat up fast. Add gloves, a hat and a bot­tom lay­er that’s breath­able, as well as thick socks and a pair of sun­glass­es — and you’re set.

While you can cer­tain­ly invest in some tech­ni­cal gear, this is a win­ter activ­i­ty where you can real­ly get away with being pret­ty minimalist.