Trying to get in a good cardiovascular workout can be its own workout come wintertime in Colorado. Between lower temperatures, snow and (worse) ice, outdoor activities such as running and cycling aren’t always options to boost the heart rate.
Sure, there’s lap swim at the aquatic center or the treadmill at the fitness center. However, if you’re craving some fresh mountain air with your cardio, Nordic skiing (a.k.a. cross-country skiing, a.k.a. XC skiing) offers an exhilarating full-body workout with scenery as a bonus.
New to Nordic skiing? Getting started is easier than you might think.
Of course, you need a pair of Nordic skis (much skinnier than downhill skis), boots and poles. Rent a set of gear to get acquainted. Or look into used set-ups that can go for less than $100, for instance, at a local gear swap or consignment sports store.
You need clothes that suit the weather: a base layer to protect against sweat, an insulating layer as well as a hat and gloves to protect from the cold and–depending on the weather–a waterproof jacket and pants to protect from wind and snowfall.
Most of all, you need trails. And here within the Gunnison Valley tucked in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, there are 30-plus miles of Nordic trails in Crested Butte alone. Whether you ski classic (straight ahead within tracks for each ski) or skate ski (side-to-side on groomed trails), the Gunnison Valley offers plenty of beginner-friendly Nordic trails.
Crested Butte Nordic
A great place to get off to a good start is headquarters to Nordic skiing: Crested Butte Nordic. Located in town, CB Nordic is surrounded by a 50-kilometer network of expertly groomed trails, many of which are flat and, therefore, manageable for beginners.
Need the green light?
Consider a CB Nordic season pass, which provides unlimited skiing on trails that are open 24 hours a day. An adult pass costs $250. Passes for ages 16 and under as well as 70-plus are free! Day passes are also available.
CB Nordic offers free ski rentals with its season passes. Or select from the adult, senior and child rental ski packages, which include either classic or skate skis, boots and poles from $10-$20 per day.
Pick up a print map at CB Nordic. Consult the digital version of the map. Or download the Crested Butte-Gunnison trails map app (CBGTrails, for short).
Lessons are free every Wednesday from noon to 1 pm. (register in advance). CB Nordic also offers private lessons and weekend clinics.
There are nearly 10 kilometers of trails groomed by CB Nordic that are free and open to the public at the Town Ranch and on the Rec Path. These trails do not require a trail pass. Skiing, snowshoeing, walking and fat biking can be enjoyed there, with or without a dog. These trails are accessible from the trailhead behind the Crested Butte Community Schools.
Need a second opinion?
A colorful recap of the Nordic scene in Crested Butte from 5280 magazine published just this week. It includes suggestions for best beginner trail and après.
Beyond Crested Butte
The Gunnison Valley is chock-full of options for beginning Nordic skiers. For a breakdown of trails for Nordic skiing throughout the Gunnison Valley–complete with difficulties, descriptions and directions–visit our Nordic Skiing page.
From north of Crested Butte to Gothic to as south as Hartman Rocks Recreation Area (beginners should choose the McCabe’s entrance), Gunnison County in Colorado is a great place to learn Nordic skiing–a breathtaking winter sport appropriate for all ages.