By Cathryn McCann
Jun 19 2017
Cross-country skiing is a great New England winter activity.
Cross-country skiing has long been a go-to winter pastime for New Englanders. It’s the perfect way to get outdoors, into the wilderness, and explore trails covered with snow. It’s also great exercise, and can be easier than running on pavement or tackling rugged snowshoe trails. Most Nordic Centers offer cross country ski trails for all skill levels, from flat beginner’s loops to steep ascents and speedy downhills for the more advanced skier. They may be less celebrated than some of the big alpine resorts, but the multitude of cross-country skiing trails and centers scattered throughout New England is growing larger and more diverse with every passing year and each new technology advancement. Here are some of Yankee’s favorite places to cross country ski in New England.
Often, there’s just not enough time in a weekend to get away from the city and escape to the rural, snow-packed areas of New England. For those times, there’s Weston Ski Track, just a 15 minute drive from Boston. The track includes 15 kilometers of skate and classic skiing, 2.5 of which are in the snowmaking area, ensuring a portion almost always has snow, independent of Mother Nature. Those trails are also lit for night skiing, accommodating the busy city workers who enjoy getting outdoors and onto the snow after a day in the office.
More and more Nordic centers are allowing skiers to enjoy the trails with their furry friends, but Notchview Nordic Skiing Center in western Windsor, Massachusetts has an entirely separate trail system groomed purposefully for skiing with dogs — or “skijoring.” That’s in addition to the 17 kilometers of classical track-set cross country trails, and 8 kilometers of groomed skate-skiing trails. With 7 beginner trails, 11 intermediate trails, and 7 expert trails, there’s a good range of skiing for everybody. Most of the reservation is above 2,000-feet in elevation, where ideal, skiable snow can typically be found for more than 80 days out of the year.
Whether you stay at the guest lodge or just go for the day, Stump Sprouts Cross Country Ski Center offers 25 kilometers of trails, including backcountry routes and rolling loops with tracks. A large glacial boulder — and a spectacular view — awaits skiers who choose to summit Lone Boulder Hill. The rural northwest Massachusetts trail network is set atop a high-elevation meadow, ensuring some of the best natural snow conditions in the state. After 40 years, the family-owned and handmade trail network has been refined and groomed to provide some of the best cross-country skiing around.
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Located in the beautiful Monadnock region of southern New Hampshire, Windblown Cross Country Ski Area is set on elevated terrain with scenic trails and natural landscapes. The skiing area includes more than 40 kilometers of expertly groomed skate and classic track-set trails rolling through hills and valleys, serene ponds, and dense forests, as well as a teaching field for beginners and backcountry trails for experts. The “most difficult” trails on and around Barrett Mountain are some of the steepest groomed options available at a cross-country skiing area in New England.
Bear Notch Ski Touring Center in Bartlett, New Hampshire, is the cross-country skiing destination you might not know about, but should. The 65-plus kilometer trail network offers flat meadows, riverside views, rolling and advanced hills, and trips out to lovely, pristine waterfalls. The network winds around forests, Bartlett village, and down along the Saco River towards Attitash Mountain. Even when it seems impossible, the Touring Center is often open for business — a nod to northern New Hampshire snowfall and quality grooming.
You probably already know of Jackson, New Hampshire, as one of New England’s finest towns for all things winter recreation. That certainly includes cross-country skiing. The 150-kilometer network of trails maintained by the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation provides some of the best cross-country skiing in the East, thanks to state-of-the-art grooming and the ideal geographical location. All of the trails are within the charming village of Jackson, and lead to destinations such as the warming hut, Cocoa Cafe, and other pub, restaurant, and lodging options. Visitors can ski classically through the forest or kick it up a notch (or two) and skate ski the international race course.
Ever dreamed of gliding through over 70 kilometers of beautifully groomed trails traversing the White Mountain National Forest? How about with a 4-time Olympian? Waterville Valley Resort offers advanced clinics with Olympic Nordic skier Kris Freeman for those looking to learn advanced techniques and refine their skills. The large trail network is expertly groomed for skate and classic skiing, and the resort offers other options too — such as professionally guided skis, a youth program, a woman’s ski group, a Nordic race series, and full moon ski and snowshoeing excursions.
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Want to ski at the very first cross-country ski center in the country? Look no further than Stowe, Vermont. With about 60 kilometers of groomed trails and 100 kilometers of backcountry trails, there’s plenty to explore and enjoy. The Von Trapp family has a storied history, largely in credit to the hit broadway show and movie, The Sound of Music. Now the Trapp Family Lodge is a European-style, 96-room lodge and resort overlooking the village of Stowe. Skiers can enjoy the network of cross-country trails by day and fantastic lodging, dining, and brews by night.
In the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, in the tiny town of Craftsbury, resides a true outdoor adventure Mecca. Although specializing in all things outdoor sports year-round, the Nordic Center offers some of the best cross-country skiing in New England. It’s northern locale, dedication to snowmaking, and consistent grooming keeps the 100 kilometers of skate and classic trails in optimum skiing condition. Skiers can also take part in other winter activities, such as snowshoeing, ice skating, races, yoga, and more.
Found in the heart of the Green Mountain National Forest, within the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area, Blueberry Hill Outdoor Center has over 50 kilometers of trails for skiers to enjoy. Be aware, however, that Blueberry Hill actively chooses to keep the trails quiet and ungroomed for a more authentic backcountry skiing experience. The Outdoor Center emphasizes experiences that focus on the unique surroundings and environment, so for those looking for a more natural, less manicured experience, Blueberry Hill is a great place to try.
Tubbs Snowshoes and Nordic Adventure Center is half a mile down the road from the beloved Woodstock Inn. An extensive network of cross country ski trails crawl up and around Mt. Peg and Mt. Tom, with a large variety of groomed trail options including some tough climbs and speedy descents. The Nordic Center opened its doors in the early 1970s, and has in the past several years begun working year-round to keep the trails in the best possible shape for winter. Skiers can go out exploring on their own, but the center also offers expert-led tours and lessons for those looking for more guidance, or the occasional guided full-moon trek to the resort’s cozy cabin in the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park.
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If you’re a skier who prefers natural snow, Rangeley Lakes Trails Center in Maine is a pretty safe option that doesn’t require driving too far into northern Maine. Rangeley is roughly aligned with the northernmost point of New Hampshire, and often tallies an annual snowfall of around 200 inches. At the Center, there are nearly 55 kilometers of Nordic trails nestled alongside Saddleback Mountain and winding through Maine’s western lake and mountain region. The trails are incredibly scenic, with plenty of opportunities for bird and wildlife sightings. The network has grown over the years, and offers something for everyone — from beginners to seasoned experts. For a fun adventure, bring the kids along and check out the hand-crafted “Gnome Homes” along some of the trails.
Five Fields Farm is a family-owned apple orchard that becomes a cross-country skiing destination each winter. The network includes 27 kilometers of trails winding around the orchard, on logging roads, and on terrain protected by the Loon Echo Land Trust on Bald Pate Mountain. The trail system is designed so that beginner skiers can access all portions of the network, making it a great option for the whole family. More advanced or adventurous skiers can trek to the summit of Bald Pate Mountain, past multiple ponds and lakes and up to a view of the horizon. It’s a small but beautiful and quintessentially New England cross-country skiing operation.
Looking for a quick trip out of the city for some fresh air and outdoor exercise? Smiling Hill Farm in Westbrook, Maine, is a short drive out of the city, and offers 25 kilometers of wide, groomed skate trails and tracks for classic cross country skiers. The trails follow former logging roads and livestock paths with varied terrain, including hills, speedy descents, open meadow skiing, and narrow paths through the trees. Smiling Hill Farm has made the most of their operation, and is a great option for those who would like to spend less time driving and more time skiing.
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Winding Trails Cross Country Ski Center in Farmington, Connecticut, is a worthy destination for cross country skiers that rivals some of the northern New England ski centers. Winding Trails is set among 350 acres of woodlands, lakes, ponds, nature, and wildlife — 20 kilometers of which is groomed trails great for exploring by ski. The trails are double-tracked and completely mapped out for easy navigating, and great for beginners and experts alike. The center uses grooming equipment to pack the snow on the trails and comb them out, providing optimal ski conditions with sometimes less-than-optimal snowfall.
Where is your favorite place to go cross-country skiing in New England?