It’s easier than ever to get outdoors and enjoy the winter even if you haven’t taken the time to learn any snow sports in the past. From the Great Glen Trails in Gorham, N.H., at the foot of Mount Washington to the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vt., there are a variety of cross-country skiing options in New England that fit budgets small and large. Now, many Nordic outdoor centers offer new easy-to-learn sports like fat bike riding and snowshoeing. Guided snowshoe tours and lessons are almost always available. Some Nordic areas are also embracing the lifestyle of cross-country skiing with on-site lodging, happy hours, great food, kids’ events, and outdoor fire pits.
Besides the benefits of sunshine and fresh air, these sports are also great workouts. The average person can burn more than 650 calories per hour by cross-country skiing at a moderate rate, and vigorous uphill snowshoeing can be even higher.
Nordic outdoor centers offer a good amount of flat terrain and have tracks set in the snow for classic skiing as well as untracked, smooth sections for skate skiing. Fat biking is also done on the smoother sections. The trails are groomed regularly to keep them in good shape all winter long. Compared with the cost of a downhill lift ticket, trail pass prices averaging $21 make Nordic sports a true bargain and an ideal way to experience winter. Here is a selection of spots that offer full days of fun.
Woodstock Nordic Center, Woodstock, Vt.
The Woodstock Inn & Resort Nordic Center has an extensive network of winter trails, with more than 40 kilometers of groomed trails and natural backcountry terrain throughout Mount Peg and Mount Tom.
“Even if you’ve never tried snow sports, it’s easy to get a winter experience on some of the easy terrain the golf course has to offer, with 6 miles of dead flat trails right out the door of the inn,” said Nick Mahood, Nordic director and former coach for the New England Junior National Team.
Every Saturday, there is a $50 guided tour to a cabin, which you can either ski or snowshoe to, and where you can enjoy a hearty lunch, which is included in the fee. New this winter, the Woodstock Nordic Ski Package includes lodging at the inn, breakfast for two, daily trail passes, and rental gear. Prices start at $417 for two. Lessons, rentals, winter gear, and snacks are available at Woodstock’s Nordic Center.
Jackson XC, Jackson, N.H.
The Jackson XC center offers 100 kilometers of groomed trails plus 15 more in the backcountry. There are various trail networks under 1,000 feet of elevation as well as some that reach over 2,000 feet for a real fitness challenge. Outings can range from a casual 10-kilometer Ellis River Trail loop to the Troll Trail, a fun 3-kilometer roundtrip trek that rolls through the hills leading to the Red Fox Bar and Grill. Throughout the trails are several food options, including the Cocoa Cabin warming hut on the Ellis River route.
Looking for an activity that’s really different? Jackson started ski joring (being pulled by your dog) last winter in the Prospect Farm area, where the terrain is flat and gentle. Feel like learning something? Guided snowshoe tours reveal how different elevations affect the forest and how glacial rock formations were formed. New this winter, a children’s terrain park will open boasting gentle jumps. Nearby, there is a large variety of lodging options ranging from cozy inns to motels to Jackson’s Wildcat Inn & Tavern with live music most nights.
Trapp Family Lodge Outdoor Center, Stowe, Vt.
As the country’s first cross-country ski center, the Trapp Family Outdoor Center offers more than just skiing on the skinny skis. Backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and riding in a horse-drawn sled are also popular activities. Celebrating 50 years of skiing at this Austrian-inspired resort, founded by the von Trapp family, the 100-kilometer trail network on 2,500 acres overlooks the charming village of Stowe. If skiing’s not your thing, explore the 20 miles of snowshoe-specific trails. “Snowshoeing is more popular every year and a nice alternative for people who prefer not to slide,” said president Sam von Trapp.
The 3-mile journey to Slayton Pasteur Cabin has homemade soups and sandwiches awaiting in front of a warm fire. Another fun excursion is skiing to the Bierhall Restaurant where you can enjoy sausages cooked on the wood-fired Parrilla grill and sip on some crisp von Trapp Austrian lagers. For evening suppers, the Trapp Family Lodge has a variety of dining options. The new Tyrolean Ski Package starts at $390 per night and includes breakfast, ski rentals, and a one-hour lesson.
Bretton Woods Nordic Center, Bretton Woods, N.H.
Offering 100 kilometers of trails on 2,000 acres, the Bretton Woods Nordic Center is one of New England’s largest with an extensive variety of trails, many wandering through the White Mountain National Forest with views of the Presidential Mountain Range. Now, there are separate trails for fat tire biking. And, almost 80 percent of the trails are geared for beginner to intermediate skiers, making it an ideal choice for newcomers.
New this winter, an eight-passenger gondola goes to the top of Bretton Woods’ Mount Rosebrook. Nearby, Mount Stickney has a high-country Nordic loop and warming cabin serving refreshments. Staying at the historic Omni Mount Washington Resort is the ultimate treat, but there are other less-expensive options on property including the Bretton Arms, where right out the door is a connecting trail to the Mount Pleasant Loop. On Super Bowl Sunday, the special Big Game deal costs $54 for a four-pack of Nordic passes.
Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center, Gorham, N.H.
Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center has 45 kilometers of trails open to skiers, fat bikers, and snowshoers. The $22 trail pass includes access to all activities, plus the tubing hill next to the trail system.
The “Ski With an Olympian” package offers lessons with Sue Wemyss, a former Olympic cross-country skier. On select Saturdays this winter, the area also has free guided snowshoe tours with Appalachian Mountain Club naturalists who will teach you about the area’s flora and fauna. Another fun winter activity is a Mount Washington Snowcoach ride to the treeline of the mighty mountain at 4,200 feet. Tours are 90 minutes long and can be combined with a Total Trails Ticket for $75 that includes an all-day trail pass and rentals. Snowshoe down from anywhere along the tour for an added thrill.
A stay at one of Great Glen’s 25 lodging partners in the area earns a free trail pass. Steps away from the outdoor center, The Glen House is a new eco-friendly hotel.
As you can see, there are many great destinations and different ways to get outside this winter and enjoy the snowflakes. For the best prices on lodging, go midweek and during less popular times, such as early or late January.