Outdoors: Nordic Ski at Devil’s Thumb Ranch Nordic Center

February 2013

Why we love it: Perfectly groomed trails and a restaurant with beer to warm me up after a workout.

When to go: Now. There’s not a lot of snowpack, so the skiing is storm-to-storm.

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One of the things I appreciate about Nordic skiing is that it lacks the “fuss” of downhill skiing. Après ski parties aren't big. Owning the latest fashion isn’t really important. (Most Nordic skiers don the tightest tights they own and mismatching—but brightly colored—coats and hats.) And conversations revolve around what wax to use instead of what time to hit the hot tub.

Still, after a kick-my-butt workout on skate skis I crave a good beer, a protein-packed lunch (read: burger), and an only-in-Colorado view of the snow. That’s why I keep returning to Devil’s Thumb Ranch Nordic Center. The course offers terrain for real skiers (you know who you are—and you lapped me four times), weekend stumblers (that’s me), and beginners.

While my husband is apt to take off on the blues, you’ll find me cruising on Ranch Walk, Fullerton, and Meadow. All three are smooth, fast tracks that are ideal for improving form and picking up speed. But don’t limit yourself: There are more than 50 trails to explore (check out this page to see what has been recently groomed).

When your legs start to wobble and your abs are burning, take a seat at Heck’s at the Ranch, one of the resort’s dining options. Order a Colorado brew, a Wagyu burger, and ogle the snowy landscape outside. It’s a perfect ski experience—without lift lines and parking woes.

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Getting there: Take I-70 west to Exit 232 for Highway 40. Travel on Highway 40 over Berthoud Pass and through Winter Park. Continue past Fraser for two miles and turn right on County Road 83. Stay right at the fork and travel for three more miles. 

Follow senior editor Natasha Gardner on Twitter at @natashajgardner or on Pinterest.