New to Cross Country Skiing? These 9 Wintry Wonderlands Are For You

Sun Valley may be renowned for its downhill ski area, but excellent, and extensive, Nordic trail systems make this a first-class cross-country ski destination, too. Start at the ski area’s Nordic center, where a teaching area and a series of unintimidating practice loops adjoin the center’s lavish clubhouse. From there, 40 kilometers of trails meander through two golf courses and into the adjacent forest. Another 200 kilometers of groomed track scribble the Wood River Valley, which extends northwest and south from Ketchum. The Wood River Trail itself, a gentle former railroad grade, provides perfect novice terrain. Plan a day at the Galena Lodge, encircled by 50 kilometers of rolling trails within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, a region of craggy peaks and grand vistas. The rustic venue, 23 miles from Ketchum on the site of a former mining town, offers ski lessons and lunch, fueling skiers with soups and sandwiches on house-baked bread. Free shuttles run from Ketchum to the lodge on weekends through the end of February; the buses also stop at several points along the way that offer access to groomed loops within the North Valley Trails system.

Details: At Sun Valley Nordic, adult day pass, $32, private lessons from $135, daily rentals, $32­ to 38; adult day pass for North Valley Trails, $18; at Galena Lodge, private lessons from $70, beginner’s lesson with rental and ski pass, $85; daily rentals, $30 to $40.

Seattle skiers regularly drive four or five hours to this valley in the North Cascades for some of the best cross-country skiing anywhere, with reliable snow, high-mountain scenery — and sun. (Skiers from out of state could also fly into Spokane, a three and-a-half hour drive.) Two hundred kilometers of groomed track — North America’s largest continuous trail system — connect the five small towns strung along the valley, anchored by the 32-kilometer Community Trail. Get started with lessons at the Methow Valley Ski School in Mazama or at Sun Mountain Lodge outside Winthrop. Then explore gentler routes like the Big Valley Inner and Outer Loops or head out on the flatter parts of the Community Trail from Mazama or from Winthrop (the middle section is hillier). A highlight: skiing across the Methow River on a 280-foot-long suspension bridge. Sun Mountain Lodge, overlooking Patterson Lake, has trails out its door. A few of them remain closed this winter following last summer’s wildfires, but the lodge itself has been thoroughly restored from smoke damage.

Details: Adult day pass, $25; private lessons, from $65; daily rentals, $25.


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