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Cross-Country Skiing

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A trail, a resort, a getaway for every whim

Cross-country skiing is one of Minnesota’s most beloved winter sports. Because it’s a cardiovascular workout—one of the best types of this exercise—it’s also a fantastic way to explore the outdoors while staying toasty warm. “I love to ski because when you’re out skiing, you’re out in the woods,” says 84-year-old St. Paulite Roy Carlsted. “ You don’t have to worry, because you stay nice and warm.”

Minnesota has a bounty of cross-country ski trails, including just over 100 networks of groomed, track-set trails that are at least 10 km long. (See the descriptive listing of these trails on the following pages.) “If we have good snow, it’s probably the best (skiing) in the country,” says lifelong skier Greg Mack, the director of Ramsey County Parks and Recreation. The Land of 10,000 Lakes has benefits in the wintertime, too: Frozen lakes mean great skiing. “You can skate on them forever,” Mack says. “It’s just a smooth glide.”

There are trails for all types of skiers, from first-timers to weekend warriors. Lodges and resorts around the state cater to every whim, from the quiet romantic getaway to the all-inclusive experience.

Escape to the wilderness

If it’s solitude you seek, head north. Ski lodges in northern Minnesota, particularly along the Gunflint Trail and around Ely, offer dozens of kilometers of groomed trails where you will rarely see anyone. Some of these resorts focus almost exclusively on cross-country skiing during the winter months. A few outfitters even host lodge-to-lodge ski programs, such as along the Banadad Trail, where you’ll spend your day on the trail and your evenings at a lodge or in a snug yurt deep in the forest.

All-inclusive, all winter

Think of the North Shore, the Brainerd area, or northwestern Minnesota’s lakes region when a healthy mix of winter sports—and maybe a leisurely swim—is more your style. The skiing is great here, too, with vast trail networks to explore. Skiing need only be part of your stay, however—try your hand at ice fishing, hop on a snowmobile, or go snowshoeing. Relax at the end of the day with a soak in a hot tub or a leisurely swim in an indoor pool.

If your family or friends are a mix of cross-country and alpine skiers—or if you simply love both sports—make your destination a ski area that offers slopes and trails. Lutsen Mountains, Giants Ridge, Spirit Mountain, Buena Vista Ski Area, Andes Tower Hills, and Welch Village all offer both types of skiing. Afton State Park, adjacent to Afton Alps, has trails for a variety of skill levels along the St. Croix River.

 

The swirl of the city

Some prefer the swirl of the city—and there’s top-notch skiing here, too. Try Duluth, where you can stay in the heart of downtown just minutes from some of the state’s best cross-country skiing. Hit the trails during the day, then enjoy Duluth’s restaurants, art galleries, and entertainment after sunset. If you live outside the Twin Cities, consider a ski trip to the vibrant metropolitan area, which has a plethora of parks with ski trails.

Skiing & romance at a B&B

When a getaway with your sweetie is in order, make southern Minnesota your destination. Trails that are popular for three seasons of biking offer great skiing after the snow falls. Among these are the Root River and Harmony-Preston Valley trails in southeast Bluff Country and the Cannon Valley Trail that runs between Cannon Falls and Red Wing. These trails are fairly level or follow gentle grades, for skiing that is as easy or as strenuous as you wish to make it. Give your trip a truly romantic setting by staying at a bed and breakfast. The picturesque river valley towns along these trails have a variety of lodging options, including many cozy B&B inns, some in beautiful, historic homes.

A perfect destination

The ideal ski trip is waiting for you. Our chart will help you find the perfect destination. Choose a trail based on length, terrain, track-set, difficulty, and region.
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