Break out the skinny skis, snowshoes, and fat tires. The mercury may be dropping, but you can still get in your endurance fix in the frosty temps at these scenic out-of-the-way snow spots. Bonus: They’re all within a comfy drive from a major metro area, so you don’t have to venture too far to get out there this winter.
Home to the iconic Leadville Trail 100 ultra run and mountain bike races, this former mining town’s undulating landscape welcomes adventure seekers all year long. North America’s highest incorporated city, Leadville–a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Denver–is perched a breathtaking 10,152 feet above sea level.
Hit Timberline Trails at Colorado Mountain College (host of last year’s Snowshoe National Championship) for groomed, forested trails, and 10 miles of winter singletrack. If you’re seeking stunning scenery, head to Turquoise Lake, set against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains and encircled by a paved road ripe for fat biking. And on Mineral Trail, an 11.6-mile loop around Leadville, look out for interpretive signs detailing the town’s glory days during the Silver Rush.
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If downhill skiing or snowboarding are more your scene, the relatively low-key Ski Cooper is a quick 20-minute drive from Leadville and features a recently-expanded buffet of 60 trails—including 70 acres of double-black-diamond terrain.
Get fully immersed in Colorado’s wilderness by booking a backcountry cabin. Part of the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association system, the cabins were originally built to house soldiers who were training to navigate the snowy peaks of Europe during World War II. Despite their sparse set-up, the huts are extremely popular and are reservable through a lottery system (huts.org).
Local group Cloud City Wheelers puts on fat bike races from January through April, including the epic Tennessee Pass Night Jam, a 12-miler starting after sundown (cloudcitywheelers.com).
Twin Cities, Minnesota
A region that receives 100 days of snowfall annually, the Minneapolis and St. Paul area is known to produce hearty outdoor enthusiasts. As the local saying goes, “There’s no bad weather, only bad clothing.”
Cross-country skiers and snowshoers don’t have to stray beyond Minneapolis city limits to access 15 miles of groomed ski trails at Theodore Wirth Park.
Spanning 240 acres, the park is a popular place to explore. In St. Paul, Fort Snelling State Park has 18 miles of trails tracing riverbanks, forests, and lakefronts.
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Pack up your pup and try out skijoring, a hybrid of dog sledding and cross-country skiing. (The skier is pulled by dogs attached with a tow line and harness.) Skijoring is welcome in most local parks, including Wirth and Three Rivers Park in nearby Plymouth, where newbies can take lessons to learn the ropes from pros.
Housed in the former Minneapolis Athletic Club, the recently rebranded Hyatt Centric Downtown Minneapolis has a top-notch, two-story fitness center, with an indoor running track, multiple workout zones, and a Nordic ski station.
The Loppet Winter Triathlon, formerly known as the King Boreas Winter Triathlon (6K ski, 18K bike, 5K run), served as the USAT Winter Tri National Championships in 2020.The “tri” is often held as part of the city’s annual Winter Carnival, which includes a number of events (loppet.org).
Some three hours from Boston and two from Montreal, Stowe is ski-central for many East Coasters. While downhill skiers dominate the slopes of Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, there are plenty of other activities for more endurance-minded athletes.
The area has an impressive amount of easily-accessible cross-country ski trails, from the 5.3-mile-long Stowe Recreation Path to the more challenging Catamount Trail, which runs the entire length of Vermont. About 25 miles from Stowe, the Craftsbury Outdoor Center offers both lodging and $10 day passes for visitors, allowing access to their 65-mile Nordic trail system as well as their gym—though call first, as COVID-19 restrictions may still be in place (craftsbury.com).
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Test your mettle in the other type of multisport—biathlon (cross-country skiing plus rifle shooting). Craftsbury offers lessons for ages 10 and up; the one-hour sessions range from $50 to $80 and include an intro to the sport, rifle safety briefing, and live fire shooting.
The Trapp Family Lodge is all about cross-country skiing—and fitness. The stately, 96-room lodge—founded by the famed Sound of Music family—is nestled on a 2,500-acre parcel of pristine land. Guests can hop on 37 miles of groomed trails, plus another 62 miles of backcountry trails right from the resort. There’s also an indoor pool, a spa, a 35-foot climbing wall, and a restaurant on the grounds.
Craftsbury often holds a winter tri (4K snowshoe run, 8K fat bike, and 5K Nordic ski), along with snowshoe races, but 2021 dates haven’t yet been set. The outdoor center also traditionally offers a ski series throughout the winter (craftsbury.com).