XC ski group

Let’s say you’ve decided to take a cross country ski vacation. That’s a great idea because it’s a wonderful way to escape city stress.
But there are a lot of other good reasons. You can ski your brains out or veg out, get a tan, see new country, ski but avoid midwinter cold, eat incredible meals, enjoy a romantic interlude, or savor a family vacation.

If you’re looking to combine sport with comfort, there are hundreds of places to choose from in North America: inns, lodges, guest ranches, wonderful old hotels, B&Bs, downhill ski resorts, National Parks, and more. The variety is almost a little intimidating. So here’s how to get a handle on choosing your vacation destination.

The most sweeping source on XC areas in the U.S. and Canada is https://xcski.org/. Another option is https://www.xcskiresorts.com/. You can also consult books to find out about trails and tours in several states and provinces; order winter guides from tourism agencies; and read https://thenordicapproach.com/ as well as Cross Country Skier magazine.

Any way you go about it, there’s the problem of selecting from this excess of riches. So here’s a method that helps establish priorities; then you can comb through those resources to choose when and where to go.

The three primary categories are budget; amount of time available; and ambiance. Should you plan on spending $100 a day, or $250? Is a January week (can be cold, perhaps more times indoors) less desirable than a long weekend in February (may be crowded)? Are you looking for a family atmosphere, a second-honeymoon spot, or a place where you’re comfortable as a single person?

Other considerations may include the practical (altitude) and aesthetics (mountain or forest setting, Spartan or luxurious accommodations, fine or simple dining, an intimate experience or one shared with several dozen people…).

Range of activities is another factor. A lot of vacationers are cross country devotees; others enjoy the sport but want some daily relief. You might be intrigued by downhill skiing conveniently nearby; guided snowshoe tours; dog sledding, sleigh rides, riding horseback through the snow, overnighting in a yurt, ballooning, ice climbing, even fly fishing and snowmobiling! Then there are the on-site amenities like hot tubs, saunas, entertainment, and massage.

To provide an example of the screening process, let’s assume you’re an adventurous type who wants to stay for five days at a classy establishment with outstanding food and excellent skiing, all for a reasonable price – so look to lodges in the upper Midwest, or inns in northern New England. If you’re a downhill skier, think about winter ranches in the Rockies, where you have tracks outside your cabin door, then can hit the slopes at world-famous resorts like Steamboat Springs and Big Sky.


  • If you want to hone technique, consider places where instruction is part of a lodging/meal package.
  • If you’re staying at one location, you may want to try a couple of new routes every day. As a rule of thumb, multiply 5 kilometers per day (double that if you’re an experienced, vigorous skier) by the number of days you have free to figure how large the trail system should be. You may also want to check by phone to see how much of a trail network is suited to your ability and ambition.
  • In general, the further north you head or the higher the elevation, the longer the season and the more powdery the snow. Less predictably, I believe that the Midwest has the finest terrain for any level of skier; the Northeast has the most skiing history; and the Sierras’ and Rockies’s altitude may give you a headache. (I’ve lived in Montana, Colorado, and Wyoming, so clearly the skiing is worth the pain!)


  1. 5 K / day—— yep ! gonna go on a ski vacation and plan on 5k/day
    a typical MYSL (Minnesota Youth Ski League)session probably does more than that with grade schoolers

    • Good point, but it’s worth remembering that a high percentage of XC skiers now are total beginners (thanks, COVID!), and often of an age (ahem!) where we’re pretty conservative physically.

  2. Dave: The author never said that 5k/day was the what you might ski, he was using that as a rule of thumb for helping to decide how large a trail system might keep a person entertained for an extended stay. Also, 5k of golf course skiing may not be entertaining for multiple loops, while 5k of nice rolling wooded trails may be a more fun/challenging repeat. And I have yet to see a trail that doesn’t ski different in a reverse direction.
    Jonathan: Good intro article for folks new to nordic.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comments. Interestingly, there’s been considerable disagreement between trail designers about whether (terrain allowing) most trails should be one way or two way. I’ve opted for the latter, since the different directions ski differently, views will vary, and it’s often pleasant to see people’s faces rather than posteriors.

  3. That’s a terrific article!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *