Credit: Jim Paussa Photography

Are you looking for something different to do this winter — something besides alpine skiing or snowboarding? How about some cross-country skiing in Aspen and Snowmass?

Maybe you’re a little bored with the slopes. Or you’re not sure you want to deal with crowded lift lines and on-mountain restaurants. Maybe you’re still a little nervous about getting exposed to Covid-19 on the chair lift or gondola.

But you still want to get out onto the snow for some recreation and fun in the sun. Don’t you?

An Aspen cross-country skiing adventure might be just what you need. It’s healthy, refreshing, and naturally socially distanced.

If you’ve done it before, you know it’s a blast. It gets you outside, connected with nature, and it gets your blood pumping, your muscles cranking, and your lungs working. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should check it out because it’s really catching on.

Here’s what you need to know about cross-country skiing in Aspen and Snowmass:

Cross-Country Skiing’s Popularity Exploded in 2021: So What Happened?


In a word – Covid-19.

A survey conducted by the Cross-Country Ski Areas Association (CCSAA) in December 2020, revealed that in 2021, winter sports enthusiasts were most interested in  “… local activities that allow them to control their risks but continue to get on snow.” Along with snowshoeing, cross-country skiing topped the list.

And it looks like that trend is continuing. According to the  CCSAA’s 2021 Impact Report:

“…The last 18 months have been unprecedented for cross country skiing and all outdoor activities. Many Nordic Centers, retailers and suppliers have had record setting seasons for sales and participation…

…We are anticipating a very busy 2021/22 season with continued record growth in the industry. All indications are that participation and sales in cross country skiing, back country touring, snowshoeing and snow biking will continue to increase at record rates…”

The popularity of cross-country skiing in Aspen and Snowmass skyrocketed in 2020-2021 and continues to surge in 2022 as well. It’s easy to see why.

Here are…

The Benefits of Cross-Country Skiing: Why You Should Be Doing It Too


Credit: Jim Paussa Photography

One of the most obvious benefits of cross-country skiing in 2021, is that it is a Covid-19 friendly activity. But there are also a lot of other reasons to hit the trails this season:

  • It’s fun! It gets you outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air, and away from the raucous crowds
  • It’s scenic and allows you to connect with the beauty of nature
  • It’s healthy and a great form of exercise. Among other things, it is:
  • great for cardio and endurance
  • low impact and weight-bearing
  • a full-body workout
  • a burner of a lot of calories
  • a great way to get in shape for other sports (like hiking, cycling, running, and anything that uses your core)
  • It’s easy to learn. It uses natural movements and doesn’t require special skills to get started
  • Cross-country is more accessible than other winter outdoor sports. You usually don’t have to travel far to get to a skiable location as you would with alpine skiing      
  • It is relatively inexpensive compared to other winter outdoor sports. You’ll find lots of free trails and passes to paid areas are generally quite reasonable
  • It’s available and enjoyable for virtually any age. Make it a family affair – bring the kids AND the grandparents along.
  • Designated trails are pet friendly. Your dogs will love it too
  • You can be more casual. You can go at your own pace and at times that are convenient for you

Have we convinced you yet?

If that’s the case, click through to the section below titled “Where to Cross-Country Ski in Aspen and Snowmass: So Many Trails to Choose From.” Here you will get the juicy details on where to go cross-country skiing in Aspen and Snowmass.

But if you’re unfamiliar with the sport or you’re not sure if it’s for you, read on, and we’ll tell you what you need to know to get started.

What is Cross-Country Skiing Anyway?


Cross-country skiing is a type of Nordic skiing that relies on self-propulsion (rather than gravity, alone) to glide across snowy terrain. Skiers move using a combination of striding with the legs and pulling with the arms and shoulders. It is done on designated courses and trails groomed specifically for the activity as well as on ungroomed, often mountainous terrain.

There are several distinct styles of cross-country skiing, and they all use a basic setup of poles and relatively narrow (“skinny”) skis with boots attached at the toes. The heels remain free to raise when striding. The two most common styles are classic and skating.

Classic skiing uses forward and back, straight-line strides, and a technique called “kick and glide” to move along the snow. For beginners, the motion is very similar to walking or running. Skate skiing uses a side-to-side motion similar to that of an ice or speed skater. Skate skiers propel themselves forward by pushing off the edges of the skies while poling with the upper body.

In general, skating allows participants to move faster than those using classic skis. And while similar, the specific gear used for each style is designed with the difference in motion in mind.

Here’s a video from Salomon that demonstrates the difference between the two styles:

Cross-Country Skiing Equipment: Choose the Right Gear Before You Go


Having the proper equipment makes all the difference in how much you’ll enjoy your time out on the snow. So make sure you select the proper skis, poles, boots, and bindings when you head out on the trails.

Here’s a quick video from PSIA-AASI to give you the general idea:

Remember, the style of skiing you choose determines the basic type of equipment you need. But there are other considerations as well.  Classic skis can be waxable or waxless. And if you plan to ski off-track or in the backcountry, you might consider using alpine touring skis with metal edges to give you more control on steep descents. 
If you’re a complete newbie, we suggest you enlist the help of a local sporting goods store to get you on the right track. But in the meantime here’s a good general guide from REI for choosing the right gear: “How to Choose Cross-Country Ski Gear.”

Clothing for Cross-Country Skiing: It’s More About Comfort than Style


Credit: Jim Paussa Photography

Weather conditions and temperature on the trails can vary greatly, from location to location, day to day, and even hour to hour. So, what clothing should you wear when you hit the trails?

Unless you’re in a competition or are a model out for a photoshoot, it’s all about staying safe and comfortable. And when it comes to staying comfortable, there’s one system that works the best to keep you unencumbered, warm (but not overheated), and dry: dress in layers.

For Your Body

Here are some basic layering suggestions for your torso and legs, starting from the inside (next to the skin) out:

  • Underwear: Wet skin is not only uncomfortable, but it also makes you colder, even to the point of contributing to hypothermia. So, choose a moisture-wicking material like silk, polyester, or non-itchy and odor-fighting merino wool. 
  •  Base Layer: For this layer, choose a close-fitting (but flexible), silk, polyester, wool, or polyester-wool blend material. Base your choice of thickness on the anticipated temperature of where you will be skiing. Long underwear of an appropriate material works well for both your torso and your legs.
  • Middle Layer(s): Middle Layers, like sweaters, sweatshirts, vests, or light jackets, provide additional warmth between the base layer and outer layer. These should also be made from a moisture-wicking material. But they should be light enough and loose enough to allow for freedom of movement.

If it’s going to be really cold, consider adding additional middle layers, but on warmer days, you might want to skip them altogether. Most of the time you will not need a middle layer for your legs

  • Outer Layer: Ideally, your outer layer should be windproof in the front, water-resistant, breathable, and flexible. Light to mid-weight jackets work best for your torso. And water-resistant soft-shell Nordic ski pants, winter biking or running pants, or spandex tights (in warmer temperatures) work well for your legs.

One final note: avoid wearing cotton clothing (which won’t wick moisture well), non-breathable synthetics, and down (which does not maintain heat when wet).

For more tips on what clothing to wear, check out this guide from REI: “What to Wear Cross-Country Skiing.”

On Your Head

If your head’s cold, you will be too, but conversely, in warmer temperatures, a too-warm head will overheat you quickly.

In the cold, a light wool or fleece hat will usually suffice, but if it’s REALLY cold, consider a ski mask or balaclava.  Or if you just need extra warmth for your ears, wear a headband as well. In warmer weather, stick with just the headband or use a light cap with a visor.

On Your Hands

As with your head, what you wear for gloves depends on the temperatures you expect to find. Very cold days might call for mittens, while the warmest days may dictate very light, thin gloves.

Between these extremes, you should use a layering system consisting of glove liners and medium-weight windproof gloves. Bulky alpine ski gloves or mittens do not work well with conventional cross-country ski pole straps.

For Your Feet

If your feet are uncomfortable while you’re skiing, you will be miserable. You don’t want to restrict blood flow, nor do you want your feet sweating too much or swimming around creating blisters.

So, start with the right kind of socks. We recommend wearing a single a base layer of liner or medium-weight socks under insulating socks made of moisture-wicking thin synthetic or wool.

The entire setup should not be too tight in the boot nor too hot, and it should come up high enough to help keep snow out of the boot.

Extra Tips to Keep Your Hand and Feet Warm

If standard socks and gloves just aren’t enough to do the trick, you can get some extra help keeping your hands and feet warm. Here are some tips:

  • For your hands, consider a hand warmer layer or electric gloves.
  • For your feet, start with fresh, dry socks. If your feet are damp or sweaty to begin with, you’re already at a disadvantage. You can also try toe warmers and/or electric insoles if they are not too bulky. If you’re desperate, add a boot cover on top.

 Accessories for a More Enjoyable Experience

There are a few other items you’ll want to use, or at least consider, for your excursions on the trails or in the backcountry:

  • Sunglasses: Some sort of eye protection (from wind and sun) is a must. We suggest sunglasses instead of goggles because they do not fog up as easily. Optimally, have two pairs available: dark lenses for sunny days, and amber lenses for when the light is flat.
  • Sunscreen: Also a must, as even modest exposure to the sun (especially at higher elevations) can damage your skin and even cause cancer. We suggest using a product with an SPF of at least 30.
  • First aid kit: You should ensure that first aid is readily available regardless of where you will be skiing. If you will be at a designated ski area, they likely provide this service. If you are going off-trail or into the backcountry, bring your own. 
  • Water or other fluids for hydration: This is a physically demanding activity, so make sure you avoid getting dehydrated. Carry water or an alternative with you, or have it readily available in your vehicle. 
  • Backpack: Most casual Nordic skiing is best done without the burden of a backpack. But if you are going to be out for several hours, you might want to use one to carry water, sunglasses, and a first aid kit. They are also useful for carrying extra layers if you expect varying conditions.
  • Gaiters: We already discussed boot covers to help keep your feet warm and dry, but you might also want to consider using gaiters to keep snow out of your boots, especially if you will be in deeper snow.

Putting It All Together

Ultimately, knowing what to bring and wear on the trails takes a bit of “trial and discovery”. So, start with the basics as outlined above. Note what works and what doesn’t, and adjust as necessary.

Where to Cross-Country Ski in Aspen (Our Favorite Trails and Why We Love Them)


Credit: AspenNordic

People often ask where to cross-country ski in Aspen and Snowmass. Or they ask, “Where are the best places to go cross-country skiing in Aspen and Snowmass?”

The vast Aspen Snowmass Nordic System offers an unbelievable 90 km of FREE and accessible cross-country ski trails between Aspen and Basalt. Often called the area’s “Fifth Mountain,” It’s considered one of the best Nordic skiing venues in all of North America.

Most of the trails are easy to access and feature varied terrain. Whether you prefer skate skiing or classic skiing, you’ll find flat, fully groomed trails for beginners and challenging slopes for the more fit and adventurous. And everything in between.

But each one has its own flavor and character. . And while we like them all, here’s our selection of the best cross-country skiing trails in aspen.

Aspen Cross Country Center

Aspen Golf Course and Nordic Center - Aspen Cross Country Center

The Aspen Cross Country Nordic Center is located five minutes from town at the Aspen Municipal Golf Course. It provides ample parking and is the gateway to the Aspen Golf Course tracks and other nearby trails.

The center offers equipment sales and rentals, classic and skating lessons. It also has related gear and accessories (in case you forget your glide wax or any other necessities). And you can get the latest local skiing and trail information.

The trails are mostly low-pitched. But they do offer some variety for the more advanced cross-country skier. They provide plenty of exercise for skiers of all abilities and an effective way to get your ski legs under you if it’s been a while. This is an excellent location for a quick workout or just a breath of fresh air in the middle or end of the day.

The trails comfortably accommodate sizable groups and families with skiers of mixed abilities. And you can even bring your pooch to the Bernese Boulevard section (see below). And you can also connect to many other Aspen Snowmass Nordic System trails from here.

Length:  5 miles | 8 kilometers

Overall Trail Difficulty: Easy

It’s Perfect For: Beginners and Families with younger children

Access and Parking: 5 minute, 1.8-mile drive from the Aspen Core. Free city bus service available. On-site Parking available

Aspen High School Trails

Aspen High School Trail - Cross Country Skiing

These trails offer some of the finest intermediate and advanced terrain for cross-country skiing in Aspen. They feature a captivating combination of wide-open hilly meadows, steep climbs, and breathtaking descents. And they also include a couple of flat loops that are ideal for casual skiing, technique work, or just an exhilarating aerobic workout.

We love these trails because of the variety (it’s like interval training). And the long and sometimes steep descents offer an incredible reward for all that uphilling in between. It’s also close to town, has easy, ample parking, and connects to some of our other favorite trails, like the Moore trail and the Owl Creek Trails (see below).

Finally, it’s hard to beat the views of Rocky Mountain grandeur: Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Pyramid Peak, the Hunter Creek Valley, and Mount Sopris.

Length: 3.1 and 6.2mile loops | 5 and 10 kilometers

Overall Trail Difficulty: Intermediate/Advanced

Who it’s Perfect For: Thrill seekers, workout junkies, those working on their uphill skiing technique

Access and Parking: Public parking is available at the Aspen Recreation Center on weekdays or in the Middle School parking lot on weekends. Free city bus service available

Moore Trail

Moore Trail, Cross Country Skiing Aspen
Credit: AspenNordic

This popular loop winds through the rolling sage-covered hills between Highway 82 and the High School Trail. It is centrally located and connects to the Maroon Creek Club and Owl Creek trails.

The terrain is varied, but not too advanced, and is suitable for all but beginning skiers. And you might get to see some wildlife (foxes, deer, and rabbits) along the way.

As a bonus, the trail skirts the beloved Whoa Nelly sledding hill next to the Aspen Recreation Center. All that youthful exuberance is sure to pump you up as you slide by.

Length: 1.86 miles | 3 kilometers

Overall Trail Difficulty: Easy to Intermediate

Who it’s Perfect For: Variety seekers, workout enthusiasts, wildlife viewers, and those looking to connect to other nearby trails

Access and Parking:

Parking is available at the Golf Course, via a Highway 82 underpass, or the Aspen Recreation Center. You can also reach the trail from the High School, Maroon Creek Club, and Owl Creek trails.

Snowmass Cross-Country Nordic Ski Center

Snowmass Golf Course Nordic Skiing Trail

The Snowmass Cross Country Center is the hub of cross-country skiing in Snowmass. It is located on the Snowmass Golf Course and features a retail shop, restaurant, and snack bar. It also offers lessons, equipment rentals, and tours.

The main trail offers scenic, rolling terrain. It also connects to a network of minor trails that feature a wide variety of hilly or low-pitched loops.

This is one of our favorites due to its varied terrain and expansive views of the upper Roaring Fork Valley. And we’re thrilled you can bring your pooch along if you stay on the Labrador Lane section.

Length: Over 5 miles | 8 kilometers

Overall Trail Difficulty: Easy to advanced (but is mostly intermediate)

Who it’s Perfect For: Those seeking variety and an abundance of terrain.

Access and Parking: Access via Brush Creek Road. Parking is located at the Snowmass Cross-Country Center located off Brush Creek Road.

North Star Nature Preserve Loop

North Star Nature Preserve Loop Trail

This is one of the most scenic trails in the area. This relatively flat track loops around a meadowy section of the pristine 175-acre North Star Nature Preserve, just east of Aspen. It runs close to the Roaring Fork River and offers relaxing views of Independence Pass and the Elk Mountain Range.

The groomed trail is usually uncrowded and is great for small groups or families with skiers of mixed ability seeking some fresh air and fun in the sun. It’s also perfect for individuals looking for a bit of serenity close to town.

If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the ducks, geese, and blue herons that call this preserve home.

Length:  A little over 2 miles | 3.2 Kilometers

Overall Trail Difficulty: Easy

It’s Perfect For: Beginners, casual skiers, and nature lovers

Access and Parking: The main trail parking area is about 2 miles east of Aspen on Highway 82. There is another small parking area about .5 miles further east.

Owl Creek Trail

This groomed 9-mile, point-to-point trail connects Aspen to Snowmass and is one of the gems of the Aspen Snowmass Nordic Trail System. It offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and nearby Aspen groves as it takes you through mountain meadows and rolling hills.

Some parts of the trail, particularly on the eastern end (from the Aspen Nordic Ski Center to West Buttermilk), have challenging climbs and steep descents. But skiers seeking a less difficult experience can access or leave the trail near a small parking area located on West Buttermilk Road. From Snowmass, the casual skier often begins at the Snowmass Golf Course trails.

We think this is one of the best cross-country skiing trails in Aspen because it is ideal for an all-day adventure. It features stunning views, gorgeous scenery, and plenty of fresh air. We also like the idea that it connects our two favorite towns. And there’s a good chance you’ll see some wildlife along many sections of the trail!

Length: 9 miles | 14.5 kilometers

Overall Trail Difficulty: Intermediate (but beginners and advanced skiers will love it too)

Who it’s Perfect For: Excursion seekers, wildlife viewers, nature lovers, exercise aficionados

Access and Parking

From Snowmass Village:

Take the Village Way Trail or begin at the Snowmass Cross-Country Nordic Center. There will be signs to guide you. Parking is available at either of these areas or you can take the RFTA bus.

From Aspen:
  • West Buttermilk Road: Turn off Highway 82 at the main Buttermilk parking lot. Continue through the lot and catch the West Buttermilk Road (at the far-right corner). About 1.4 miles up West Buttermilk Road there is a small parking area on the right where the Owl Creek Trail crosses the road.
  • Tiehack (for experienced or more advanced skiers): ski from the base of Tiehack towards main Buttermilk along the right side of the alpine trail to the Oregon Trail. Then continue towards and across Main Buttermilk to West Buttermilk. Follow the green disks. You should also be mindful of occasional temporary trail closure signs posted by the Aspen Skiing Company.
  • Aspen Golf Course: Take the underpass to the James E. Moore Trail and use the new Tiehack Nordic Bridge to get to the base of Tiehack

Parking is available at the endpoints of the trail (the Aspen Cross Country Center or the Snowmass Cross-Country Center). You may also park at the Aspen Recreation Center, the base of Tiehack, West Buttermilk Road, or at the Tom Blake Trailhead in Snowmass.

RFTA bus service is also available to the endpoints and the Aspen Recreation Center.

Independence Pass

The scenery on Independence Pass is as beautiful in the winter as it is in the summer. And the cross-country ski trail, which follows the road, lets you take it all in and get as much exercise as you’d like.

The path is not officially groomed, but foot traffic, fat-tire bikes, and snowmobiles typically flatten it down nicely.

The trail runs the full 40-mile length of the Pass, but most skiers do not venture beyond the Lincoln Creek Road turn-off (just past mile marker 51). This is due to increasingly rougher terrain and the potential for avalanches.

We love this trail because you can get a great workout while soaking up breathtaking scenery all around. And, after all that arduous work going up, the casual, long descent is an unbelievable reward.

Length: about 4 miles to Lincoln Creek Road | 6.4 kilometers

Overall Trail Difficulty: Easy to intermediate

Who it’s Perfect For: Nature lovers, casual skiers, view seekers

Access and Parking: Access via Highway 82, Independence Pass Road, approximately 5 miles from the Aspen city limits. Ample parking is available at the highway closure parking lot (on the left of Highway 82 as you approach from Aspen). However, this often fills up due to the popularity of the trail

Other Popular Trails Nearby

Ashcroft Cross-Country Skiing – Pine Creek Cookhouse

This privately-owned ski area is located in the White River National Forest just outside of Aspen, about 12 miles up the Castle Creek Valley. It offers more than 20 miles of exquisitely groomed trails amidst the beautiful rolling hills near the ghost town of Ashcroft. It is associated with the renowned Pine Creek Cookhouse restaurant and is the gateway to several winter touring huts.

Maroon Bells Cross-Country Skiing – Maroon Creek Road (CR 13)

The Maroon Creek Road trail offers perhaps the most spectacular scenery of all the local and nearby trails. It takes you on a moderate uphill grade from T-Lazy-7 Ranch to Maroon Lake. Be aware, however, that the road is closed to vehicle traffic in the winter and the Nordic tracks are groomed daily by T-Lazy-7 Ranch.

This trail reveals breathtaking views of the Maroon Bells along the way. And it offers the chance to see a variety of wildlife, including deer, elk, and even moose.

It does, however, lie within several known avalanche paths that occasionally cross the road. It is also shared with snowmobile tours from T-Lazy-7 Ranch, so consult with them before you go (970- 925-4614).

Aspen Snowmass Cross Country Trail Grooming Status: The Nordic Hotline

For the latest trail grooming and ski conditions report, please visit You may also call their hotline at 970-429-2039, ext 4. This report is updated regularly.

Wrapping It All Up—Which Do You Think Are the Best Cross-Country Skiing Trails in Aspen?


So now the choice is yours. 

We’ve given you our opinion on where to cross-country ski in Aspen and Snowmass. It’s time for you to get out there and give some (or all of them) a try. Then you can decide for yourself where’s the best place to go cross country skiing in Aspen and Snowmass.

Aspen Cross-Country Ski Rental: Take the Hassle Out of Getting Geared Up


Having the right gear makes the experience easier, more enjoyable, and safer. 

If you don’t ski often, or if you’re new and not sure you will like it, it can be less expensive to rent the equipment. And you’ll get to use the latest and greatest gear. 

How to Choose the Right Rental Equipment

It’s best to rent your equipment from the pros to ensure you get the proper fit and performance. They’ll base their suggestions primarily on your weight, ability, and skiing style, but it also helps to answer the following questions:

Will you be skiing classic or skate skiing?

How hard do you plan to ski?

What locations will you be skiing?

Do you think you’re just trying it out for a day or are you planning to use it for several outings?

Are you going to purchase similar equipment if you enjoy your experience?

For a reminder of equipment basics, please read the “Cross-Country Skiing Equipment: Choose the Right Gear Before You Go section above.

Where to Rent Cross-Country Skiing Equipment in Aspen and Snowmass

You can rent equipment from several local sporting goods stores, but your best bet is to start with the Aspen and Snowmass Cross-Country Centers.

Other local equipment rental options are:

Cross-Country Ski Lessons in Aspen and Snowmass: Feel like a Pro Right from the Start


If you’re a beginner, taking a few lessons from the local pros before you set out on your own can make the difference between a miserable or epic experience.

This season, 45-minute group lessons cost $45 per adult and $20 per child and are limited to 4 people. Private Lessons start at $45 for ½ hour and are by appointment only. These prices do not include the cost of equipment rentals, which are available at a 20% discount if you are using them for lessons. Reservations are required and must be made 24 hours in advance. Contact the Snowmass or Aspen Cross-Country Centers or visit for more detailed information.

Guided Cross-Country Tours and Winter Hut Trips


If you’re feeling more adventurous, an off-trail outing or multi-day hut trip in the Aspen and Snowmass area might be just what you’re looking for. 

Guided Tours

If you are seeking a full-day or half-day excursion, the Aspen Nordic Center offers guided tours on the Owl Creek Trail, Ashcroft, North Star Nature Preserve, and the Moore trails. The Ashcroft Touring Center also offers tours.

In Snowmass, the Snowmass Cross-Country Nordic Center provides guided tours on their trails and into the backcountry nearby.

Hut Trips

The 10th Mountain Division Hut Association maintains a network of over 30 huts and more than 350 miles of connecting trails between Aspen, Leadville, and Vail. The trails run through the White River, Arapaho, and San Isabel National forests and range in elevation from 9,700 to 11,700 feet.

The huts were used originally for high-elevation training for soldiers during World War II and have been upgraded and modified for summer and winter trekking. They range from basic to somewhat elaborate and sleep anywhere from 3 to 20 people. They are typically accessible by skiing from November to May, and reservations are required for their use.

Plan Accordingly and Be Prepared

Hut trips are more strenuous than your typical Nordic skiing outing. So make sure you are in good enough physical shape to handle the rigors of the trip and that you have ALL the necessary gear for a successful adventure. This includes adequate clothing, food, water, and first-aid equipment.

Additionally, avalanche safety training, including the proper use of avalanche beacons is a must. And be sure to hone your map navigation skills as well. Finally, if you’ve traveled to Aspen Snowmass from a lower elevation, familiarize yourself with the signs of altitude sickness. And make sure you leave yourself enough time to get acclimated to higher elevations before you start your trip.

If you are experienced, you can plan and undertake these hut trips on your own, but usually the best and safest choice is to take advantage of guided tours and hut trips.

Once you’re comfortable and confident in running a trip yourself, the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association has a guide for choosing your huts and planning and preparing for your adventure, “How to Plan a Hut Trip.”If this is your first hut trip or you have never planned one yourself, we highly suggest hiring a guide. For information about local hut trip guide services, visit the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association’s “Guide Services for the Huts” page.

Aspen Cross-Country Skiing FAQ’s: What You Need to Know to Have a Blast on the Trails


Cross Country Skiing Aspen
Credit: Jim Paussa Photography

What are the benefits of cross-country skiing?

Cross-country skiing is an ideal activity for your body, mind, and spirit. Here are a few of its main benefits: 

  • It provides considerable cardiovascular exercise
  • You work out many major muscle groups
  • It burns lots of calories
  • It’s low impact
  • You can improve your ability to perceive your spatial location
  • It helps to build better balance
  • It Improves your visual acuity
  • It’s a great cross-training activity
  • It gets you outside in the sun and fresh air and lets you connect with nature
  • It helps clear your mind and relieves stress
  • It’s great for bonding with others
  • It’s relatively inexpensive compared to other (winter) sports and activities

Can you ski year-round in Aspen? – What months can you ski in Aspen?

The ski lifts in Aspen and Snowmass are typically open from late November to early April. And the groomed cross-country trails are available for roughly that time as well. 

If you’re a diehard, you can find some backcountry skiing well into the late spring and early summer. Check with the Ute Mountaineer or for current conditions during these times. 

Is cross-country skiing harder than snowshoeing?

They are both great ways to get exercise and enjoy the outdoors during the winter. But skiing usually takes longer to learn than snowshoeing. It also requires more upper-body exertion and takes more skill to negotiate downhills.

Is cross-country skiing difficult?

The activity, particularly the skating style, does have a learning curve. And your basic athletic ability and fitness level affect how steep and long this learning curve is. However, most people find it relatively easy to get started moving about a flat, groomed trail with a modified walking motion.

Can you cross-country ski with a baby?

You can ski with a baby, however, it requires a bit more equipment and planning to make it safe and enjoyable. You can use an on-the-chest carrier to hold your baby while skiing, but there are concerns if you fall. So, stick with a ski trailer, pulk, or sled.

Ski trailers elevate your child on poles attached to skis while pulks and sleds ride directly on the snow, supported by a ridged bottom. Pulks and sleds are easier to transport than trailers, but typically require more effort on your part to move along the snow while skiing.

Additional tips:

  • Practice beforehand with a loaded trailer or sled to get used to maneuvering and pulling the extra weight
  • Start on easy, low pitched trails 
  • Make sure you clothe your child appropriately and use blankets to bundle up your little ones even more.
  • Have patience, with yourself and your child, and allow for extra time – for everything
  • Know when enough is enough: Unless they’re asleep, babies and toddlers get restless easily, and you want the experience to be fun — for everybody.

How do beginners cross-country ski?

If you’ve never cross-country skied before, watch a few videos and read a few related articles to see it in action. Then, rent equipment and take a lesson from a reputable professional.

What are the two types of cross-country skiing?

The two main styles of cross-country skiing are “classic” and “skating”. Each style involves propelling yourself across the snow on skis using a combination of leg, arm, and shoulder movements. See our section above, What is Cross-Country Skiing Anyway? for a more detailed explanation.

At what age can you start cross-country skiing?

While there’s no specific age when a child can cross-country ski on their own skis. But you can introduce them to the sport when they are quite young by pulling them behind you on a trailer or sled. Typically, by the time they are about 5 years old, they should be mature enough physically to try it on their own with the proper guidance and patience. Remember, make it fun!

What size cross-country skis do I need?

In general, to get the proper combination of glide and grip, your weight and ability will determine the recommended ski length. Differences in stiffness (flex), materials, and design also influence the recommendations. 

The style of skiing you plan to do (classic, skating, backcountry) also affects proper sizing. Talk to the equipment manufacturers or your local pros before buying or renting your gear to get specific suggestions.

In the meantime, here is a guide for REI to get you started: “How to Choose Cross-Country Ski Gear.”

What are the best cross-country skis for beginners?

If you’re just beginning, focus on ease of use and stability. We suggest you start with classic or light touring skis.

Should I skate ski or classic?

If you’re a beginner, we suggest you begin with the classic style, which more closely mimics walking or jogging. Once you are comfortable maintaining your balance while gliding across the snow, you can give skating a try.

Please see the section above,What is Cross-Country Skiing Anyway? for more detailed information

Do you need a helmet for cross-country skiing?

Typically, cross-country skiers do not need to wear helmets. They are bulky and hot, and the likelihood of a serious head injury is much lower than with downhill skiing. However, if you have any pre-existing head injuries, or you are going to be skiing a lot of steep descents, you might consider it.

How Should You Dress for cross-country Skiing?

Clothing should be warm while allowing sufficient freedom of movement. And it should protect you from wind and moisture (from the outside in and the inside out). 

Please see the section above, “Clothing for Cross-Country Skiing: It’s More about Comfort than Style,” for the details.

What kind of pants do you wear for cross-country skiing?

You can purchase pants designed specifically for the activity.  But many skiers use winter biking pants, winter running pants, or winter leggings if they already have these on hand.

Regardless, it is best to use a layered approach (base, middle, and outer) that will be appropriate for your expected skiing conditions. Please see the section above, Clothing for Cross-Country Skiing: It’s More about Comfort than Style, for more detailed information

What muscles does cross-country skiing work?

Nordic skiing provides a full-body workout. It works your arms (biceps and triceps), shoulders, core, and legs.
Therefore, it is good to warm up and stretch before heading out on the trails. Here are some simple suggestions for stretching and warming up: Four Easy Stretches for Cross Country Skiers

Are You Excited to Do Some Cross-Country Skiing in Aspen and Snowmass in 2022/2023?


Credit: Jim Paussa Photography

So, how about it? Are you ready to get off the slopes and onto the trails this year? Want to ditch the crowds and reconnect with nature? Are you looking to get healthy and in shape?

Imagine no crowded lift lines… no getting stuck on a chair or gondola with people you don’t know, who’ve been exposed to who knows what. 

Envision freeing yourself from time frames and ticket purchases. 

Picture yourself cruising the trails with your friends and family, invigorating your mind, body, and soul.

You can have this!

If you’re a beginner, watch some videos to decide whether you want to try classic or skating. Talk to some local pros to buy or rent some gear, and take a lesson or two. Then re-read our “Where to Cross-Country Ski in Aspen (Our Favorite Trails and Why We Love Them)” section above or visit the website and pick your trails. 

If you’re experienced, find your favorite spots and go. If you’re looking for a bit more of an adventure, contact the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association to plan an exciting hut trip.

It’s time to get out there — by yourself or with family or friends — and have some refreshing, healthy fun on the trails!

So you’ve started to explore other ways to ski in Aspen and Snowmass. Another one of our favorite hobbies is uphill skiing, often called “skinning”. Check out our local guide to uphill skiing in Aspen and get to know the routes and policies for skinning in our mountain town!