An insider’s guide to Summit County’s Nordic centers.
When people talk about Summit County’s world-class skiing, they’re usually talking about the downhill resorts. But the local Nordic offerings are just as outstanding in a state full of them. “When I used to coach the high school Nordic team, we traveled all over Colorado,” says Marty Gervais, who has been kicking and gliding in Summit for thirty-two years. “No matter where we went, I always felt our trail variety and quality of grooming stacked up with anyone’s.”
Just down Ski Hill Road from Breckenridge Ski Resort, the Breck Nordic Center packs a huge variety of terrain into thirty kilometers of groomed trails. Many of those trails travel through or around the Cucumber Gulch Preserve, a popular moose hangout that has long been the town’s environmental gem. Breck’s options range from a host of beginner loops to the delightfully peaceful New Nordic World, or Siberia Loop, which delivers the longest sustained groomer ascent in the county.
According to operations manager Matt Dayton, a 2002 Olympian whose family has been running Nordic centers in Summit County for more than forty years, the best way to spend two or three hours is as follows: Start with a quick loop around Troll Forest, then head to the Black Loop at Shock Hill, from which you’ll connect to the top of Beaver Meadows. Ascend the aptly named Gluteus Maximus up to New Nordic World (which, unlike many groomed trails, is dog-friendly), descend either Shortcut or Jeffrey’s Biff at the top of your climb, drop back down Hang Ten, and ski the last of the Meadows back to the lodge. (Tip: Check back next winter to tour the new 10,000-square-foot lodge, currently under construction.) 1200 Ski Hill Rd., Breckenridge; 970-453-6855; breckenridgenordic.com; adult day pass: $20; season pass: $235; open daily 9 a.m.–4 p.m.
Time was, skiing on the Frisco Peninsula meant schussing through thousands of dead pine trees, victims of the ravenous bark beetles that have decimated timberland throughout Colorado. But over the past few years, substantial clear-cutting on the peninsula has solved that problem, simultaneously opening up new view corridors along the trails.
With forty kilometers of groomed tracks—the most in the county—it’s no surprise that options abound in Frisco. For a circuit ranging from mellow flat stretches to punchy climbs that will leave you heaving, warm up on the Frisco Bay loop, then take Crown Point Road to Jody’s Nugget out to Riechl’s Retreat on the northern tip of the peninsula. Connect with the new Olympian’s Link and follow that back to the lodge, where a steaming bowl of soup awaits. Interested in improving your technique? Steph Race is a certified PSIA instructor and one of the most passionate Nordic teachers in Summit County. 616 Recreation Way, Frisco; 970-668-0866; frisconordic.com; adult day pass: $20; season pass: $235; open daily 9 a.m.–4 p.m.
If your idea of cross-country bliss involves lapping a vast, open space under a bluebird sky with a mountain range square in your face, then a perfect day awaits at Gold Run, halfway between Breck and Frisco. Twenty-seven kilometers of trails, maintained by the town of Breckenridge, run up and down the Jack Nicklaus–designed golf course. Hills are scarce. So are trees.
For a mellow loop of skate skiing, perhaps while towing your kids in a chariot, try Prize Box. If your companion happens to be a dog, follow Gold Run out to the Peabody Placer then the Preston Loop, a slightly hillier track that takes you through the 1800s settlement of Preston, where you can ski past the dilapidated old post office. If you’re just learning, sign up for the Newcomer Package, which gets you a trail pass, rental gear, and an hourlong lesson for $48. You can leave the kids at the free ice-skating pond in front of the lodge. 200 Clubhouse Dr., Breckenridge; 970-547-7889; townofbreckenridge.com; adult day pass: $20; season pass: $235; open daily 9 a.m.–4 p.m.