Best Beginner Cross-Country Skiing Spots in the West

Head out to these Nordic skiing hot spots, ideal for first-timers and beginner skiers.

Three cross-country skiers on a trail at Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky Montana.
Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana.
Courtesy Lone Mountain Ranch

Want to explore uncrowded, quiet trails while sunlight sparkles through the pine trees without ever waiting in a lift line? Cross-country skiing might be your wintertime jam. Beginner cross-country trails abound, whether they’re found at Nordic centers or national parks, and all you need is access to the right gear and a patient instructor or guide. This season, consider these nine destinations in the West for cross-country lessons and beginner trails where you can build your skinny-ski skills at your own pace.

Royal Gorge, Northern California

For those who are first-timers or who have limited experience, you can’t go wrong at the country’s largest cross-country ski and snowshoeing area, with its six trail systems spread across 6,000 acres. At Royal Gorge, there are 27 beginner trails that wind through the epic northern Sierra wilderness and offer a little challenge without making you veer far outside your comfort zone. Equipment rentals allow you to try different types of packages (skate or classic) in the same day, and daily group or private lessons help skiers who are looking to head out for the first time or refine their skills. 

Nevada Nordic at Mt. Rose, Nevada

Off the Mt. Rose Highway, tucked between Mt. Rose Ski Resort and Incline Village on the northeastern edge of Lake Tahoe, the Nevada Nordic ski trails are an ideal place for cross-country skiers who have advanced past their first lessons and want to hit some beginner trails on their own. The nonprofit Nevada Nordic manages the community ski trails, three of which stretch for 3.4 combined miles and are rated for beginners. If you haven’t invested in your own cross-country equipment yet, nearby Tahoe Multisport in Incline Village is a good spot to get rentals.

Cross-country skiers on a trail at Soldier Hollow Nordic Center in Utah.
Soldier Hollow Nordic Center in Utah.
Courtesy Go Heber Valley, Utah Tourism

Soldier Hollow Nordic Center, Utah

Ski among Olympians at Soldier Hollow Nordic Center (known locally as SoHo), where many of the cross-country trails were created for the 2002 Winter Games hosted by nearby Salt Lake City. Newbies to the sport need not worry: After the Olympics, several flatter, gentler trails were added. Set in the Heber Valley within Wasatch Mountain State Park, the immaculately groomed trails here host excellent lessons for cross-country skiers just starting out. 

Arizona Nordic Village, Arizona

Set among the Coconino National Forest, the Arizona Nordic Village is about 15 miles from downtown Flagstaff. The facility reduces its impact by producing its own power using solar panels and backup generators, employing water-saving techniques, and utilizing a grooming fleet of efficient 4-stroke snowmobiles. Ski trails are groomed for both skate and classic cross-country skiing, and there are ample easy trails—some reserved for skiing alone and some multi-use that are shared with people snowshoeing and dog walking. The rental shop, where you can get classic and skate packages as well as individual items, is open on weekends.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park’s main road is closed to cars from November through April, but it is nicely groomed and maintained for skiing, snowshoeing, and walking. With the flattest skiing in the area, it’s an easy cross-country adventure for groups of all ages and skill levels. Starting at the Granite Trailhead, ski on Moose-Wilson Road for 2.9 miles to the next parking area, then turn around for a 5.8-mile excursion with 500 feet of elevation gain. Insider’s Tip: Get info on trail conditions across the region from Jackson Hole Nordic.

Two people cross-country ski at Big Sky Resort in Montana.
Big Sky Resort, Montana.
Tom Cohen / Big Sky Resort

Big Sky, Montana

Montana’s Big Sky Resort operates a Nordic Center on the Big Sky Resort Golf Course that provides access to the groomed golf course trails. It also connects to Lone Mountain Ranch, which has even more miles of impeccably groomed skate and classic ski trails in the Greater Yellowstone area. Ski in the beautiful winter wonderland by day, and stay for a sleigh or snowcat ride under the starlit sky to an incredible dinner experience. Just like with downhill skiing here, both the Big Sky Resort Nordic Center and Lone Mountain Ranch offer rentals and cross-country ski lessons.

Kincaid Park, Alaska

One of the most popular parks in Anchorage, Kincaid Park was developed as a prime cross-country ski area in winter and a bike and hiking haven in summer. Nordic trails are mostly wide and flat-surfaced, with miles of easy trails consisting of flat sections with small up-and-down slopes across the northwestern area of the park. Kincaid hosts national cross-country events and community races, as well as a biathlon range for skiers looking to add more Olympic sport skills. Bring your own gear, or snag your rentals at Alaska Outdoor Gear Rental or other Anchorage rental shops.