Why We Love It: A day's pass is only $15. (Yes, downhillers, you read that correctly.)
When to Go: Around 10 a.m. to avoid the real pros who hit the trails early or the afternoon crowds.
Distance: More than 100 kilometers of trails
Favorite Trail: Pole Creek (It's fast and flat, making it ideal for perfecting your form.)
Winter sports and I have had a tumultuous relationship (read about it here), and Snow Mountain Ranch's Nordic Center has been the site of many ups and downs. It was here, on the Goldie trail (pictured, top) that I ran into a tree when I skidded off the trail on my first downhill ascent. I also had a perfect run on the CCO trail (pictured, right) over the Thanksgiving holiday.
This past weekend, parts of the course were closed for a race, meaning that I couldn't head down to the super-easy Pole Creek trail (my favorite). Instead, I warmed up on the gently sloping Ute Trail and headed back to Silvers (pictured, below) and Homestead (pictured, below). Winter Park, like much of the mountains, needs more snow, so the trails were cut up and in need of a good groom. But the sun was so beautiful, the trail conditions didn't matter; I could have skied in shorts.
Getting There: Take I-70 to Exit 232 (U.S. 40 East/Empire/Granby) and US-40 West. Travel through Winter Park and turn left at CO Road 53. Follow signs to the Nordic Center.