When a gust in the parking lot sends your lightweight cross-country skis and poles skittering across the icy dirt, the question is always the same: “What the hell am I doing cross-country skiing at Eldora—about as close to the Continental Divide as a ski area can get—at 7 a.m., in a windstorm?” Then, having clipped in to your skis, the wind sends you into the forest, and your stiff body finds a rhythm.

And then it hits you—the answer, not more debris—because the maelstrom is now overhead, ripping through the canopy. On the forest floor, it feels 30 degrees warmer. The trail is a perfect ribbon of freshly groomed corduroy. At this early hour there might be another 10 people out on the entire 40-kilometer network. This is why you came. Instead of being stuck on I-70, you get in your workout before lunch.

Though you won’t get the meadow-vista skiing of Colorado’s destination-worthy Nordic lodges like Devil’s Thumb and Snow Mountain ranches, Eldora has something those resorts don’t. The terrain skis like a roller coaster, each steep and punchy climb followed by an equally punchy drop, with tight corners thrown in to ramp up the difficulty. When you’re on your game, you get the sensation of flying through the trees on a mountain bike or alpine skis. Which brings up another benefit of Nordic skiing at Eldora: After three hours at anaerobic threshold, you’ve earned the right to ride the lifts for a couple of hours of alpine skiing. And you’ll still make it home in time to watch football on the couch.

Expert Advice Nordic skiing is easiest with wax chosen for exact conditions, be they cold or warm. The shop techs at Boulder Nordic Sport have the best handle on what’s working at Eldora. Stop by for a wax. www.bouldernordicsport.com

Gear Eldora grooms for classic and skate skiing. If you have both setups, bring them; more than a couple of inches of new snow can make skating tough. Eldora also offers rental packages from $22. www.eldora.com/nordiccenter

Skills All the up and down is better suited to advanced skiers, but there are limited flat routes for beginners. Lessons start at $41 for a two-hour session.

Cost Adult trail passes run $18 for a day.

Don’t Miss The Nepalese noodles, naan, and saag at Nederland’s Kathmandu Restaurant. 303-258-1169