Hurtling down an icy mountain on two pieces of wood? No, thank you. I was not the kind of kid who had the impulse to throw myself down an icy slope. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I even heard of Nordic skiing, which is downhill skiing’s endurance-sport sibling. As a washed-up collegiate runner, I figured I needed to do something during the winter to keep the blues at bay. So, I strapped on rented skis and took off with an instructor, the quiet swish the only noise deep in the snowy pines.
Now I’m lucky enough to bring my toddler along with me when I ski, though the soundtrack is a little more wheels on the bus and a little less quiet contemplation these days. Both with and without my kid in tow, I’ve made it a point to try many of the best cross-country ski resorts in the U.S. These are my picks for the Nordic ski resorts that offer the best family-friendly amenities, groomed trails, and opportunities for your kids to learn the ropes.
How we chose these cross-country ski resorts: Read our methodology for selecting hotels and all-inclusive resorts.
1. Craftsbury Outdoor Center
Craftsbury Common, Vermont
I learned to cross-country ski at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, 25 miles south of the Canadian border. New England’s unpredictable weather can be legendary, with some winters full of perfect powder and others slick with ice… or nothing at all. Craftsbury’s snowmaking solves that problem, giving skiers like me 105 kilometers of trails to enjoy in picturesque settings.
What I love most about Craftsbury is the camaraderie. While they have a few private cabins and cottages, most folks bunk at dorm-style Cedar Lodge and eat together in the dining hall. This isn’t your college-style accommodations and dining, though. Farm-to-table buffet dining after a long day of skiing hits just right.
2. Trapp Family Lodge
The hills are alive at Trapp Family Lodge (as in, the Von Trapps from the Sound of Music.) Trapp offers 40 miles of trails along with quick and easy ski or snowshoe rentals, making it a great spot for beginners. You’ll get phenomenal views of the surrounding snowy mountains, and if your little ones don’t take to skiing there’s still plenty to do, with a great indoor pool, climbing wall, and charming common rooms with plenty of board games to wait out the chill by the fire.
My favorite trail here is a loop that starts at the main lodge and finishes at the Brewing Bierhall, which offers Trapp’s own award-winning craft beers and Austrian-inspired fare like sausage, pretzels, and spaetzle (like mac and cheese but better). You can also ski to a rustic hut at the heart of the trail network where hot soup and warm bread is served up fresh, tasting all the better because you had to work hard to get there.
3. Jackson XC
Jackson, New Hampshire
New Hampshire’s Jackson XC isn’t technically a resort, but it’s one of the best places to cross-country ski in the northeast. Nestled in the White Mountains, the outdoor cross-country ski center maintains 150 kilometers of trails that crisscross under covered bridges and connect to broader backcountry networks in Pinkham Notch and White Mountain National Forest.
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Jackson XC also has one of the best ski schools in the country and the ski lessons are perfect if your kids are still getting the hang of it. The center offers multi-day clinics for skiers of all ages and abilities. There are even pulks and tot skis for rent so you can bring your little ones along for the ride. Jackson XC doesn’t have on-site lodging, but it’s a stone’s throw from the newly renovated The Wentworth, which has charming rooms and cottages and plenty of room for cozy family gatherings and apres-ski drinks.
4. The Woodstock Inn
In the heart of downtown Woodstock, Vermont, The Woodstock Inn and Resort makes a charming home base for skiing at the nearby Woodstock Nordic Center, which offers 45 kilometers of cross-country skiing trails. You can also access great downhill skiing at Saksedena Six or Killington Mountain, both under 30 minutes away, if you want to do a little of both on your winter getaway.
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I love the Woodstock Inn because it’s a great spot whether you plan to ski or not. There’s so much to do in the area and at the resort that even the coldest days never stop us from exploring. My toddler is in a big farm animal phase at the moment and we love saying hi to every cow, horse, and pig at nearby Billings Farm before grabbing sandwiches at Mon Vert Cafe in town.
5. Giants Ridge Ski Resort
One of the snowiest states in the Lower 48, Minnesota sees anywhere from 36-70 inches every year, depending on the region. That makes for a Nordic skier’s paradise, and there’s no better place to stay and enjoy all that snowfall than Giants Ridge Resort. While I’m partial to cross-country, this is a place where you can enjoy every kind of winter sport, with downhill skiing and snowboarding, snowshoeing, fatbikes, tubing, and terrain park areas.
6. Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort and Spa
Colorado is well known as a great ski destination for powder, but you’ll also find 120 kilometers of the best Nordic trails anywhere at Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort and Spa. This award-winning luxury resort spans 6,500 acres, and there’s lots of things to do beyond cross-country skiing too. Downhill skiing, horse-drawn sleigh rides, winter horseback riding, and for kids like my truck-obsessed son, snowcat tours, are all offered.
7. Beaver Creek Resort
Beaver Creek, Colorado
Most Nordic trails stick to forested terrain, but not so at Colorado’s Beaver Creek Resort. If you want to feel on top of the world, take a lift up to McCoy Park for incredible views and 19 kilometers of both groomed and backcountry options for cross-country skiing. This resort is known for its phenomenal ski school so the kiddos (and you) can brush up on basics for classic or skate skiing or try something new, with options for downhill and telemark instruction. In addition to great Nordic skiing, there are special kids activity zones throughout the downhill mountain designed to give kids a mini-adrenaline rush.
8. Soldier Hollow Nordic Center
Like Jackson XC, Soldier Hollow isn’t a resort. But this state-of-the-art Nordic center in Midway, Utah, is part of Salt Lake’s Olympic Park and regularly hosts the best skiers in the world for ski and biathlon competitions. This is a great place to take kids already passionate about Nordic skiing and looking to hone their skills. Stay at the nearby Zermatt Resort for a taste of the alps while you’re dreaming of taking home the gold.
9. Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort
Every year, Mt. Bachelor in hosts the U.S. Nordic Ski Team’s training camp. And with 56 kilometers of gorgeous groomed trails, it’s easy to see why it’s one of the country’s top cross-country ski areas. Located in Bend, Oregon, the resort sees an average of 462 inches of snow per year, making for good, reliable snow for both classic and skate skiers. This isn’t a spot for beginners, with 69 percent of the cross-country trails marked “more difficult” and 26 percent marked “most difficult.” But if you’ve got young skiers up for a challenge, this is the place to go.
10. Sun Mountain Lodge
That calm, quiet swish of skis under your feet? You’ll find it at Sun Mountain Lodge. Access to more than 200 kilometers of Nordic trails in Washington’s Methow Valley and National Forest means you’ll never hear, “I’m bored!” With plenty of different terrain types to explore, this is a great spot for families with various ski abilities, from the kids blowing by you double-polling (where do they get the energy?) to little ones trying out Nordic skiing for the first time.
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