Cross-country skiing is an ideal sport for those who love to travel. Nestled in the world’s most beautiful and rugged mountain ranges are some of the greatest trails to cruise, but few offer the diversity of North America’s Rocky Mountain Range.
In Europe, the best trails can be found in snowy areas like Norway and Sweden, as well as areas of Switzerland and Lichtenstein. Though it’s hard to get burnt out on trails in the Scandes (homeland of cross-country skiing) and the Alps, it’s not impossible.
Ready to pack your skis and take a trip across the pond? Visitors with a love of snowy trails won’t be disappointed by the wildlife (including moose and bighorn sheep), the living culture of ancient traditions still practiced, and diverse environments (the Rockies are even home to sand dunes).
For those looking to add a little extra excitement to their cross-country skiing itinerary, the Rocky Mountains also provide a wide range of great sporting opportunities. Areas like Colorado host annual events, such as the Rocky Mountain State Games in Colorado Springs, while Montana hosts the Big Sky State Games in the capital city of Billing.
Spectators can even join in on the action by taking advantage of free bets from top US sportsbooks on larger sporting events, as well as nearby NCAA competitions from major universities like the University of Montana, located in Missoula. Games can attract up to 25,000 spectators, and, though not related directly to winter sports, provide a unique look into American culture for overseas skiers in the region.
Starting in Colorado, let’s take a look at an example of a well-rounded cross-country skiing itinerary that hits the best of the USA’s Rocky Mountain trails. Don’t forget—the Rockies see all four seasons, which means travelers will need to complete their trips between November and March.
Start Off in Colorado
Aspen, Tabernash, and Granby
Colorado is the easiest place to start a journey into the Rockies. The city of Denver sits alongside the mountains and provides a great metropolitan location to gather supplies, rent a car, and hit the open road.
From there, travelers can head west to Aspen, Colorado. As a world-renowned location, you’ve probably heard of Aspen Snowmass and its infamous alpine adventures. With well-groomed trails open to levels from beginner to advanced, free entry and snowy scenery make it clear why Aspen is the USA’s gold standard for all things winter sports-related.
The only setback? Prices match the stunning views. To save the bank, travelers can head northeast to areas like Tabernash (home to the Devil’s Thumb Ranch and Resort), and Granby. Both locations deliver on the awe-inspiring winter trails… without the price tag.
Granby in particular is a family-friendly adventure that, with 5,100 acres of available ranch space, literally never has to end. Unlike Aspen, Granby is more remote, which means visitors are more likely to see wildlife like moose and elk—though guests will need to fork out for a day pass.
Optional Detour to Utah
Sundance and Midway
Those with the wherewithal to continue heading west through the Rockies (which requires four-wheel drive and a reliable weather forecast), can head to some of the US’s most highly sought-after cross-country skiing opportunities.
Sundance, which includes a Mountain Resort, provides trails that are groomed daily for cross-country and skate skiers—as well as snowshoers. Sundance also includes a bevy of cultural activities, which includes culinary and archeological adventures that feature ancient local tradition.
Travelers can then head north to Midway. The Soldier Hollow Resort is specifically designed to welcome cross-country skiers, and even includes Olympic-level training tracks for the USA’s top athletes. Want to see how Olympiads train for cross-country skiing? Look no further than Midway.
Best of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana
Sun Valley (ID), Jackson Hole (WY), and West Yellowstone and Big Sky (MT)
From Midway, you can pack up your skis and prepare for the long drive north to Sun Valley, Idaho. Though not as frequently visited as famous areas like Aspen, Sun Valley is home to some of the most extravagant cross-country skiing experiences available.
Trail passes are required to access 25 miles of trails, though the price tag is worth it to stay in the cozy town nestled between the mountains. Even better, the weather in Sun Valley rotates between snowfall, blue skies, and light wind.
From Idaho, travelers can head back east to Wyoming to hit one of the USA’s most prestigious winter vacationing and adventuring locales: Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The (seasonal) home to celebrities and athletes alike, Jackson Hole’s appeal is based on the stunning and unspoiled views of the Rockies.
Though the cross-country skiing trails aren’t quite as extensive as other locations like Aspen and Sundance, Jackson Hole delivers on variations in terrain and wildlife (which includes moose, coyotes, eagle, and elk), as well as other winter activities, such as tours of the Grand Teton National Park or even winter horseback riding.
Heading northwest, cross-country skiers can finish off their tour of the Rockies by stopping over in West Yellowstone (just over the Wyoming border) and then farther north to Big Sky, Montana.
West Yellowstone is home to the Yellowstone Ski Festival, which takes place during Thanksgiving week. Visitors can enjoy a massive meal, then hit the Rendezvous Ski Trails to work off their turkey haze (commonly eaten during the holiday). Located alongside North America’s most stunning protected region (Yellowstone National Park), be sure to keep your eyes up.
Lastly, travelers can head to Big Sky, voted the No. 1 Nordic Ski Resort in North America by Cross Country Magazine for its natural splendor and some 53 miles of trail for cross-country skiers. Even better, the trails feature difficult terrain, which is perfect for athletes looking to challenge themselves on trails, such as the Siberia Trail.
Still haven’t had enough? The Rockies extend northward into Canada. With its long and storied history with winter sports, there’s no shortage of opportunities to keep the cross-country skiing road trip going. From Big Sky, Montana, the drive to Canada takes around eight hours.