There are plenty of places to strap on skinny long boards and hit the trail for a few hours of fresh air and exercise, including nearby parks, preserves, golf courses, fields, and forests. But why not dial the fun up a notch this winter with a full weekend getaway to a destination that knows how to cater to Nordic skiers? We’re talking pristine landscapes, with miles of groomed and backcountry trails at your doorstep, and a comfy place to relax and re-fuel at the end of the day.
Here are five of our favorite must-ski cross-country resorts in New England.
The White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire and western Maine covers nearly 800,000 acres, a protected landscape of dense woods and mountain peaks, spider-webbed with ponds and streaked with rushing rivers and meandering creeks. It’s a beautiful place to skinny ski, and the Waterville Valley Resort in New Hampshire, has access to a lovely patch of it. You’ll find about 70 kilometers of Nordic trails, groomed for both skate and classic skiing, with woods and snow-capped mountain views. Rentals, lessons and free shuttles to trail access points are available at the resort’s Adventure Center.
At the end of the day, head back to the village Town Square, with a cluster of shops and restaurants. There’s also a variety of accommodations, all within walking distance to the village. Town Square Condominiums have three-bedrooms, two baths, full kitchens and separate dining and living areas, sleeping up to eight. There are also smaller, one-bedroom suites at the Black Bear Lodge. If skiing isn’t enough, there’s ice skating, indoor tennis, fat tire biking, swimming pools, bonfires and fireworks, set off in the Town Square on select nights throughout the winter season. 800-468-2553, www.waterville.com
Carter’s XC Ski Center
If you’re seeking quiet, scenic woods and all-to-yourself terrain, look no further than this family-owned, friendly Nordic ski center in Bethel, Maine. Don’t expect fancy or luxe but do expect a knowledgeable staff ready to help, and uncrowded backcountry trails with plenty of scenic beauty. There are about 55 kilometers of groomed trails, some leading through woods and fields and along the banks of the Androscoggin River. Other more challenging trails lead up and down hills to several outlooks, some with views of the nearby Sunday River Ski Resort. There’s a retail shop with several brands of skis to rent, from touring to racing to backcountry. There’s also a variety of group, semi-private and private lessons, along with guided tours.
A stay at one of the rustic cabins further immerses you in the quiet beauty of the backwoods. Cabins are basic, with outhouses and no running water (they provide potable water for cooking and drinking), but plenty of amenities to keep you comfy and cozy, including woodstoves and firewood, dining and sitting areas, pots, pans and dishes, and gas lights and cook stoves. The nighttime views of a black sky splashed with shining stars are amazing. 207-824-3880, www.cartersxcski.com
The Birches Resort
It’s a long haul to this northern Maine outpost, a five-hour-plus drive from Boston that dumps you on the western shores of Moosehead Lake, surrounded by deep, quiet woods. The family-owned resort sits on 11,000 pristine and protected acres, crisscrossed with some 40 miles of marked, groomed cross-country ski trails. There are a few hilly routes that will test your skill and stamina, but also many miles of flatter terrain through sun-slit forests and fields, designed for beginners and intermediate skiers. There’s also snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice fishing and scenic plane rides.
This back-to-nature escape doesn’t mean you’ll be roughing it. The resort offers a variety of accommodations, including wood-hewn, lakeside cabins with one to four bedrooms, roomy private homes and cottages, some with stone fireplaces, full kitchens, TVs, and outdoor hot tubs. There are also rooms and suites in the Main Lodge, and if you really want to get back to nature, consider a stay in one of the Mongolian-style yurts outfitted with cots and woodstoves. At the end of the day, have dinner in the classic, pine-paneled dining room, serving hearty comfort food, like pot roast, prime rib, and turkey dinners. 800-825-9453, www.birches.com
Omni Mount Washington Resort
There will be no roughing it at this plush resort, and no compromising on terrain or jaw-dropping views. Let’s talk skiing first. There are 100 kilometers — more than 62 miles — of cross-country ski trails; it’s one of the biggest Nordic trail systems in the East. Beginners can traverse the expansive grounds of the resort with in-your-face Presidential Mountain Range views. Other trails take you through fields and forests, around streams and ponds and to a warming cabin in the woods. Nordic skiers can also ride a T-bar to the Mount Stickney Cabin to ski high elevation, groomed trails. You could spend days on the trails here, but there’s also a slew of other things to do, like downhill skiing, fat tire biking, sleigh rides, tubing and gondola rides, and zipline canopy tours.
The magnificent 1902 grand hotel, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a splurge-worthy place to land after a day playing outside. There’s a variety of accommodations including traditional rooms in the main building and at the Omni Bretton Arms Inn, townhouses at Bretton Woods ski resort, and modern rooms and suites with private balconies or patios in the newly built Presidential Wing. Treat yourself to dinner in the recently renovated and elegant Main Dining Room and to a treatment or two at the 25,000-square-foot spa. (May we suggest the Sticks and Stones massage using hot stones and warm bamboo?) 603-278-1000, www.omnihotels.com/hotels/bretton-woods-mount-washington
Trapp Family Lodge
Any roundup of Nordic ski resorts in New England would have to include this renowned resort in Stowe, Vt., consistently ranked as one of top Nordic ski resorts in the country. Founded by the von Trapp family, of “Sound of Music” fame, the resort sits on 2,600 acres, surrounded by mountain peaks. There are 37 miles of groomed cross-country trails and another 62 miles of backcountry skiing. A fun outing is the three-mile trail out to Slayton Pasture Cabin, where you can enjoy homemade soups and sandwiches while you warm by the fire.
Book a room at the Austrian-inspired lodge or bring friends and family to stay at one of the villas or guesthouses. There are several dining options on-site, including a bakery and deli, a lounge with casual fare, the wood-paneled Main Dining Room, serving classic Euro-inspired dishes, and the von Trapp Brewing Bierhall restaurant, featuring fresh lager beers and small plates and sandwiches (try the grilled bratwurst with bacon apple sauerkraut or the chicken schnitzel). To round out your stay, there are sleigh and carriage rides, historical tours of the property, and a fitness center with an indoor pool, sauna, pickle ball, tennis, climbing wall, massage rooms, and yoga, and other classes. 802-253-5750, www.trappfamily.com
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at email@example.com