Trying something new is often a top goal for a new year. Considering the ever growing crowds, incredible traffic and skyrocketing costs at Colorado downhill resorts, this may be the year you want to give Nordic a go. 

Colorado is home to one of the best dedicated Nordic skiing centers in the state. Eldora offers the same amenities to cross country enthusiasts as downhill skiers. (Andrew Bydlon/Eldora Nordic Center)

Nordic skiing, also known as cross-country or backcountry skiing, is a popular winter sport involving long, narrow skis to travel over snow-covered terrain. Nordic skiing is typically done on groomed trails or in backcountry areas and can make for an excellent alternative to Alpine downhill skiing. 

Invigorating Outdoor Exercise For All

Nordic skiing can be a great way to appreciate nature’s beauty and view the surrounding mountains. Many Nordic ski trails are found in serene, beautiful settings, allowing skiers to escape the crowds and take in the serenity of the wilderness. In addition, Nordic skiing’s slower tempo allows people more time to take in the scenery and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.

Nordic skiing provides a full-body cardio workout, making it perfect for those looking to combine effective exercise with being outdoors—even in the winter. Skiing’s fluid, gliding motion works the muscles in the legs, arms, and core, and its moderate to high intensity can help burn calories and increase cardiovascular fitness. Compared to downhill skiing, Nordic skiing is also a low-impact activity that puts less stress on the joints. This makes it a viable option for folks who want intense outdoor exercise without aggravating pre-existing injuries.

Getting Started With Nordic Skiing

Depending on the terrain and your preference, Nordic skiing can be done on classic or skate skis. Skate skiing involves using a wider ski and pushing off with the inside edge of the ski to propel oneself forward. Your other option is classic skiing which requires making a diagonal stride and using a wax or grip wax to provide traction on the snow. 

“No-wax skis” are frequently the best choice for those just starting out. These skis have a base specially made to prevent skiers from sliding backward while they work their way up hills. New cross-country skiers will find them a quick and simple option because they may be worn with or without wax. 

Equally important are the pole and boot selections. Skate skiing requires poles that extend all the way up to the skier’s chin, while the classic style calls for poles that reach up to the center of the chest. Boots should extend past the ankle to provide both warmth and security. 

As with many sports that rely on having the right accessories, it’s recommended that beginners rent their equipment first to make sure Nordic skiing is the right sport for them. That said, Nordic skiing is not an overly expensive sport. The starting equipment is often less costly than what would be required for downhill skiing.

Eldora has an extensive system of maintained trails. (Andrew Bydlon/Eldora Nordic Center)

Nordic Skiing In NoCo

In northern Colorado, many Nordic ski areas have groomed trails. These trails feature packed snow perfect for cross-country travel, which means beginners have an easier time picking up the sport. Packed trails are often simple to navigate and maintain control on while following. 

But where to go? 

Fortunately, Northern Colorado also has a wealth of parks and trails suitable for Nordic skiers of all levels. Some places to check out include:

  • Blue Lake Trail 
  • Collindale Golf Course
  • Fort Collins City Park Nine Golf Course
  • Horsetooth Mountain Open Space
  • Lory State Park
  • Meadows Trail through the Neota Wilderness Area
  • Michigan Ditch
  • Ron Stewart Preserve at Rabbit Mountain
  • Heil Valley Ranch
  • Spring Canyon Park
  • Southridge Golf Course
  • Zimmerman Lake Loop Trail

You’ll want to look up these locations and others online to see if there are any fees or restrictions you need to be aware of in advance. Also, remember that Colorado is a state where outdoor sports are hugely popular. If you want to avoid crowds, arriving early is often best.

If you’re looking for an all-encompassing Nordic skiing experience, you could also check out the Eldora Nordic Center ( in Nederland. In addition to a fantastic trail system, the Eldora Nordic Center offers rentals and season passes so all you have to do is show up. Group lessons for kids and adults, are available for those who would prefer not to “self-teach.” Private classes can be scheduled in advance for those who want a little more personal attention. Their fully-stocked retail store is set up to fulfill all your cross-country skiing needs. 

Cross country skiing can be done basically anywhere that has enough snow. (Andrew Bydlon/Eldora Nordic Center)

If you’re looking to hit other trails and parks for your cross-country experiences, Angles Ski, Board, & Fly Shop ( in Longmont offers cross country equipment rentals locally, so you don’t have to make a huge investment in equipment to try it out. 

They also sell all-terrain (AT) equipment for downhill skiers who want to adapt the skis they already own for use in the backcountry. 

You can also learn more about Nordic skiing and recommendations for lessons and local trails via the Colorado Cross Country Skiing Association ( 

As much fun as downhill skiing can be, Nordic skiing has much to offer as a fun and enjoyable winter activity that provides a variety of benefits, including a full-body workout while enjoying some of Colorado’s best scenery. 

If you’re frustrated by the cost and crowds at the downhill slopes, it may be time to give cross country a go. 

Happy skiing!

— By John Teehan for LONGMONT MAGAZINE