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Cross-country skiing is gaining popularity with each passing season. In the following article, we’ll focus on all the best places to cross-country ski in the world, from the Americas and Europe to Australia.
Where is Cross-Country Skiing the Most Popular?
Cross-country skiing is extremely popular in Norway, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Russia, and the USA. While you may be tempted to go nordic skiing in Norway which is considered to be the birthplace of the sport, it is also highly popular in Canada, and a favorite winter pastime in Vermont, USA.
Now, let’s take a closer look at each of these popular cross-country ski destinations across the globe.
The XC skiing culture is deeply rooted in the Norwegian spirit, as much so as it is popularly believed that every Norwegian is born with skis on his/ her feet.
Norway is not the most popular destination for expert cross-country skiers but is a great learning ground (or should we say slope) for beginner Nordic skiers. More importantly, cross-country skiing is a favorite pastime activity for Norwegians, thus the country offers an abundance of trails.
Ski destinations like Holmenkollen (in Oslo), Sjisjoen (in Hedmark), Gala, Oppdal (in Trondelag), Geilo (in Hallingdal valley), and Hovden in Setesdal are examples of how ideal this country is for skinny skis.
Raudalen Alpinsenteret is located in Valdres close to Lillehammer, and while this resort may not be ideal for all kinds of skiing activities, what it is best in is cross country skiing. You can find a total length of 320 km of XC trails that are offered by the Raudalen and Beitostolen resorts. And if you are into breathtaking views (who isn’t?), you can take a trail that leads to the Jotunheimen National Park.
The Gaustablikk Resort in Rjukan is pretty gorgeous if you are into cross country skiing. While the total trail length does not go beyond 120 km, it is a great place for XC ski lovers. You can find beautiful trails across the high plateau. One of the best trails here is perfectly groomed making it a go-to Norway destination for cross country skiing. The snow is quite reliable and safe making this resort an ideal place for XC skiers.
Hovden is also a famous village for XC skiers. It is in the Setesdal valley which boasts some of the top trails for XC skiing in Norway. Not only that, but the skiers can also go to the top of the peak using a chairlift. The total length of the trail is 170 km.
Beitostolen Skisenter and Raudalen are some of the best XC resorts in the country, with their trails adding up to more than 320 km. The World Cup Arena for XC skiing is considered the best in Europe. If there are no official sports events taking place, skiing is open to the public to enjoy.
Kvitfjell resort might be great for all kinds of skiing events, it holds a special place (or should we say terrain) for XC skiing as the total trail length reaches the sky touching figure of 600 km. The 500 km long Oslo Vinterpark, 300 km of Hafjell, and 170 km of Geilo are any cross country skier’s paradise, to say the least.
First and foremost, when it comes to cross-country skiing in Austria, the primary destination is the Carinthia region. There are over 730 km (453 miles) of cross-country ski trails available across various terrains from valleys to challenging mountainous paths. Austria is a great starting point even if you don’t know the region or don’t have a map: the trails – many of them double tracked – are excellently marked!
Beginners could start out at the training runs along Lake Weissensee, where there are plenty of ski schools, group and private lessons available. For breathtaking panoramic views, you should head to the Villach region (Mt Dobratsch).
The Seefeld area in Tyrol is home to more than 300 km of cross-country ski trails and is well known to have hosted two Winter Olympics already. I have to say, it’s no coincidence, as the Austrian Alps provide not only a picturesque backdrop, but also the perfect conditions for skinny skiing.
Estonia is still one of the few hidden gems for cross-country skiers. There are hundreds of kilometers of trails, many of them running through the snow-covered forests and rolling hills of the Estonian countryside. Many of the towns and villages along these trails provide cross-country ski services, like lessons, rentals, ski maintenance and waxing. As night falls early in the winter, popular trails like the Pühajärve-Kääriku Ski Track are lit until 9PM.
Another great place to ski and relax at the same time is the Sportland Kõrvemaa Hike and Ski Resort neighbouring the pristine 12,691 hectares of North-Kõrvemaa nature reserve. They offer about 50 km of well-groomed tracks for both classic and skate skiers and even night skiing. After which you could stay in one of their log houses and relax your muscles in the saunahouse.
If you want to really challenge yourself, you could try the 63 km long Tartu Marathon Ski Track running between the towns of Otepää and Elva.
In Finland, cross-country skiing is not only a national sport and favorite pastime activity, but it is still a valid means of travel. Throughout the country, there are groomed cross-country ski trails available, many of them lit during the night. This wide network of ski tracks covers all municipalities and even major cities who are responsible for operating and maintaining their share of the trail network. Most trails are accessible via public transport or start out right from one of the major hubs of the country.
As winter lasts up to five months starting from November, Fins make the most out of the skiing season. Their largest trail network offers 330 km of groomed tracks at Ylläs Resort. They offer not only superb accommodation, but countless services you’ll surely miss when you get back home. My favorite one is the several wilderness cafés scattered across the trail system and offering hot beverages, lunch and a cozy place to warm up.
Although the French Alps are more known as a downhill skiing destination, the region also provides perfect conditions for cross-country skiers, and they have hundreds of kilometers of groomed trails with stunning views.
The region being a major location for skiers from all over the world, it has all the amenities, infrastructure and services one could wish for. We must mention Savoie Grand Revard as the largest cross-country skiing area in France with 150 km of groomed trails. The resort is scattered in three villages lying on a high plateau, which are all interconnected through the web of nordic ski trails.
True devotees of cross-country skiing cannot miss visiting Les Saisies, which hosted all the Nordic events of the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympic Games, thus have an immense network of trails of the highest quality.
With over 5,500 kilometers of cross-country ski trails throughout the country, Switzerland offers an unbelievable variety of routes with the Alps for a dramatic backdrop.
Switzerland also has plenty of traditional hotels and chalets particularly for cross-country skiers. These offer all the comfort and scenery one has to experience in the country, but more importantly, they lie next to major cross-country ski routes, and thus work as ski-in/ski-out hotels.
If you want to see the most of Switzerland, and you have the time and stamina, you definitely should purchase the all-encompassing Swiss cross-country ski trail pass which gives access to all 5,500 km of trails across the country.
Italy boasts with the largest cross-country ski area in Europe, the Dolomiti NordicSki has 1000 km of trails (621 miles) lying across the breathtakingly beautiful Italian Alps. As we know very well, Italy has produced some astonishing cross-country skier athletes, and their achievements very well reflect the thoughtful design and quality of their XC ski trails.
The Alta Pusteria region is just stunning with perfect panoramic views of the Dolomites. There are 200 km of groomed trails of all levels, and even more, you can even cross to the Austrian region of East Tyrol. For a very special experience, don’t forget to visit Dobbiaco where you will find FIS-homologised tracks, lit tracks, and you can even ski across the Nordic Arena where world-famous cross-country skiers competed before.
In Livigno, South Tyrol you will find 40 km of meticulously groomed trails of the highest quality. This charming traditional ski town particularly focuses on Nordic skiing. Every December they organize the international Sgambeda XC marathon, but cross-country skiers have perfect conditions during the entire season thanks to the snow machines covering their race tracks. You should also check out the local XCS center, the Centro Ski Fondo.
8. East Coast, USA
In the United States, New England is one of the best places to go for cross-country skiing on the East Coast. It has been a favorite spot for winter sports for many decades due to the abundance of Nordic ski areas, and the countless backcountry routes available.
Whether you are into the classic style of XC skiing or ski skating, Vermont is the place to be. With plenty of services ready to guide you, it is a perfect place to learn cross-country skiing as a beginner.
Maine is especially loved by backcountry skiers as some of its untamed territories provide the best places to roam in the wild, while its colder climate also allows for plenty of natural snow each season.
In between New England and Lake Ontario and Erie, New York State also has enormous potential for cross-country skiers. New York receives some of the Lake Effect from the west, while the high elevation of its mountainous terrain makes Upstate New York an optimal place to cross-country ski. A couple of notable places: Lake Placid, Catskill Mountains and the Pineridge XCS Center.
9. Midwest, USA
Michigan is one of the most popular regions when it comes to cross-country skiing. Its varied terrain makes it an authority in XC skiing, more and more skiers from around the country and even tourists come to perfect their skill sets. Choose either the Upper Peninsula or North Michigan, you will find one-of-a-kind landscape that is exceptional to this region.
On the opposite side of Lake Michigan, Wisconsin offers an abundance of cross-country skiing fun with thousands of glacial lakes to ski around, thousands of miles of groomed cross-country ski trails, nordic centers with plenty of services, and another kind of beautiful scenery.
Minnesota offers the perfect conditions for cross-country skiing in every level. The weather and snow conditions couldn’t be better, while the vast wilderness and many in-town trails provide a variety in the scenery. One thing is for sure: Minnesota has the tranquil atmosphere many cross-country skiers seek.
10. Western United States
Colorado is well known for its ski resorts, but it has much more than that. Dozens of Nordic ski centers are available for cross-country skiers among the gorgeous mountains. While some of those operate within a larger ski resort, there are also specific cross-country ski areas and resorts to satisfy all your needs.
Charming villages provide a picturesque backdrop and a cozy, familiar atmosphere one shouldn’t miss. If you are looking for mainstream cross-country skiing in Colorado, go for Aspen, or if you are looking for a quieter place, go for Crested Butte or the Eldora Nordic Center.
Washington State has one of the longest ski seasons in the United States. The variety in terrain provides excellent opportunities for cross-country skiers of every level and ability. We must highlight the fantastic trail network of Methow Trails which is the largest cross-country ski trail network in Northern America with over 120 miles of interconnected trails.
Have you ever wanted to cross-country ski in Yellowstone? This is totally possible if you bring your xc skis over to Montana. A wide range of landscapes at your disposal, from gentle hills and picturesque meadows to dramatic mountains and canyons to explore. The number one place to visit here is the Silver Crest Cross-Country and Snowshoe Area.
Alaska seems like an ideal place for cross-country skiing, and it is. In Anchorage, Kincaid Park offers 60 km of trails, and a multitude of Nordic ski events throughout the season. To the south, the Tsalteshi Trails provides plenty of fun and a wide range of difficulty. Also, as the sun sets really early up north, there are plenty of lighted trails available. But Alaska is primarily about backcountry skiing, where you can break your own trail in the utter wilderness. Make sure to have a guide or a couple of experienced backcountry skier with you.
Canada has tons of cross-country ski trails and even more backcountry to explore on your own.
One of the best places to cross-country ski in Canada is Whistler, British Columbia, where the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics was also hosted. Whistler Olympic Park offers 90 km of trails from green to black difficulty. The landscape has immense variety from peaceful meadows and flat runs to breathtaking panoramic viewpoints.
If you are visiting Ontario, the number one cross-country ski destination is Thunder Bay and the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park where the Sleeping Giant Loppet is also hosted every year. Their trails offer gorgeous views of Thunder Bay and lots of perfectly groomed trails. We also recommend visiting Stokely Creek Lodge. They have 160 km of trails for every level, and you are also welcome to warm up in one of the several huts scat along the trail network.
Gatineau Park in Québec has 200 km of well-groomed cross-country ski trails for classic, skate and backcountry skiers too. This is one of the largest trail networks on the continent, and naturally, it provides plenty of opportunities to have fun or even to train for a race.
You wouldn’t naturally think of South America when it comes to skiing, but the mountainous Chile has perfect conditions for cross-country skiing. There are plenty of backcountry routes available in the winter which go along the mountain ridges of the Andes and atop actual volcanos.
Some ski resorts also offer groomed cross-country ski trails, like the Nevados de Chillán Ski Resort which has 14 km of classic trails available in Termas de Chillán. The 5,249ft (1600m) elevation offers exceptional views right beneath the volcano Chillán. These trails also hosted several FIS races since 2017, however we must note, that all of these tracks are rated easy.
Australia and New Zealand
13. Falls Creek, Victoria
If you are looking for a place to cross-country ski in Australia, Falls Creek is the place to go. Located in the Alpine National Park in Victoria, Australia, Falls Creek has trails for both classic and skate skiing, and also plenty of room to explore off-piste. Falls Creek trails also provide access to some of the unique places the Alpine National Park has to offer, like the Bogong High Plains. Trail difficulty varies from easy to advanced.
14. Perisher Valley, New South Wales
Perisher Valley offers no less than 100 km of marked cross-country ski trails for you to explore. These trails guide you through the beautiful rolling hills of Snowy Mountain well above 1700m elevation. All these trails are beginner to intermediate, and the plentitude of services and facilities make it an ideal place to start learning cross-country skiing. They have a special cross-country ski week each August, and also host two FIS-recognized races every year.
15. New Zealand
New Zealand has only one dedicated cross-country ski center, however the Snow Farm offers more than 50km of maintained cross-country ski trails with picturesque views of the Southern Alps. It also has fantastic backcountry huts you can reach via 4 to 6km of off-piste travel.