New to cross-country skiing? These 9 winter wonderland are for you

Sun Valley may be renowned for its downhill skiing, but excellent and extensive Nordic trail networks make it a top-class cross-country ski destination as well. Start at the Nordic center of the ski area, where an instructional area and a series of non-intimidating training loops adjoin the centre’s lavish clubhouse. From there, 40 kilometers of trails wind through two golf courses and into the adjacent forest. Another 200 kilometers of groomed trail scribble the Wood River Valley, which stretches northwest and south of Ketchum. The Wood River Trail itself, a gentle old railroad track, provides perfect terrain for first-timers. Plan a day at Galena Lodge, surrounded by 50 miles of rolling trails in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, an area of ​​craggy peaks and awe-inspiring vistas. The rustic site, 23 miles from Ketchum on the site of a former mining town, offers ski lessons and lunch, supplying skiers with soups and sandwiches on homemade bread. Free shuttles connect Ketchum to the lodge on weekends until the end of February; buses also stop at several locations along the way that provide access to groomed loops in the North Valley Trails system.

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

Seattle skiers regularly drive four or five hours to this valley of the North Cascades for some of the best cross-country skis in the world, with reliable snow, high mountain scenery and sunshine. (Out-of-state skiers could also head to Spokane, a three-and-a-half-hour drive away.) Two hundred kilometers of groomed trails – the largest network of continuous trails in North America – connect the five small towns along the valley, anchored by the 32 kilometer Community Trail. Start with classes at Methow Valley Ski School in Mazama or in Sun Mountain Lodge outside of Winthrop. Then explore gentler routes like the Big Valley Inner and Outer Loops or set off on the flattest parts of the Mazama or Winthrop Community Trail (the middle section is more hilly). Highlight: Skiing the Methow River on a 280 foot long suspension bridge. The Sun Mountain Lodge, overlooking Lake Patterson, has trails on its doorstep. A few of them remain closed this winter following last summer’s forest fires, but the lodge itself has been fully restored following smoke damage.

Details: Adult day pass, $ 25; private lessons, starting at $ 65; daily rental, $ 25.


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