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US/Canada: Cross-Country Skiing - The Ultimate Field Trip for Healthy Family Fun. Who doesn't want to do something that's easy, fun and affordable? Cross-country skiing vacations are becoming more popular because they are easy, fun, affordable, and dare I say healthy for everyone.  The adrenaline rush from a morning on the trails with your kids will yield more than a calorie burn burn. Winter feels good!

According to information released by the Cross Country Ski Areas Association (CCSAA) North American travel patterns are changing. Vacations are closer to home and emphasize family time. In fact many cross-country ski centers have reported up to a 23% increase in visitors. The findings make sense to me. The sport is high-energy way to have fun and it is cheap and easy. It is also an easy way to meet friendly people who are also having fun. Because the best cross country skiing happens in beautiful surroundings where cell phones usually do not work there is more smiling being done and ultimately less stress. Plus after a morning of cross-country skiing everyone can enjoy pasta with extra cheese and dessert. Really!

Family Input: Devon McCarney and her mom cross-country skiing has always been part of their winter vacation fun. Now almost eight winters old she is seasoned and gives beginners three times her age advice.

“You don’t need to worry about getting lost once you are on the trail. There are lots of signs,” she explained as she sipped hot chocolate. “I like to race my brother and sometimes we even get to bring Listi our dog, but only when dad is with us. We don’t just ski we also use the tubes when mom is tired…and we make snow angels when grandma comes along.” According to the McCarney family their favorite place is Keystone Nordic Center because it provides an ideal place to have good old-fashioned fun.

According to Chris Frado, Executive Director for the Cross Country Ski Areas Association (CCSAA) there are six reasons that more people are choosing a cross country ski getaway.

Ease: Cross country skiing uses natural movements. It does not require special skills to get started. It has a short learning curve. Vacation time is spent on the trails rather than in lessons.

Accessibility: There are over 350 cross-country ski areas in the US and Canada. Many are less than two hours from urban centers and many within an hour’s drive.

Affordability: Compared with other winter vacations, a cross country ski escape costs much less. A weekend vacation for a family of four including lodge accommodations, breakfast and dinner, trail fees, rental equipment and a lesson is available in New England under $500. A week’s getaway for a couple at a lodge or ranch in the US or Canadian Rockies including 7 night’s lodging, all meals and skiing is priced from $2000. A simple day trip costs an average of $12 for a trail pass and $35 for trail pass, rental equipment and a lesson.

Variety: Cross-country ski areas offer a variety of lodging and skiing choices from log cabins with wood fired saunas surrounded by backcountry ski terrain to romantic country inns with miles of groomed trails just outside the door. Cross country skiing can be combined with an alpine resort vacation, or with a village B&B getaway weekend of shopping, dining and cultural pursuits.

Family friendly: Cross-country skiing is a multi-generational activity. Infants and toddlers can go along for the ride in a backpack or sled. Cross-country skiing is a kinder, gentler sport for grandparents and great grandparents. Teenagers who want to go fast can skate-ski, a technique that combines the leg motion of ice-skating and the arm push of cross-country skiing. Parents may try snowshoeing at centers that offer trails and rentals. If Fido is considered a member of the family, some centers welcome canines on designated dog trails.

Healthy: Cross-country skiing is one of the healthiest recreational activities for the body and soul. Absorbing the beauty of nature with its towering trees, mountain vistas, or endless snow covered meadows while experiencing a total body workout, all at an individual pace, is hard to duplicate on any other vacation.

For information on cross-country ski destinations call the Cross Country Ski Areas Association at 1-877-77-XCSKI or www.xcski.org

Editor’s note: There are oodles of great places to go cross-country. I have listed a few of our favorites below. For a master list use the cross-country website. As always if you find an exceptional place for families please let us know.
 
Vermont: Stowe, Topnotch Resort & Spa. The resort is near the historic village of Stowe, the Green Mountain National Forest, and the award-winning Stowe Recreational Path - a 7-mile bike path created for walking, biking, jogging, and rollerblading and cross country skiing. The resort's many natural hiking and jogging trails wind through the countryside to the center of Stowe Village. From the resort guests may hike with an experienced guide amidst the beautiful Green Mountains of Vermont. Nordic Barn Recreational Center provides rental equipment for any resort activity including.  (Topnotch Resort and Spa, 400 Mountain Road, Stowe, VT 05672. Toll-free 1-800-451-8686 or   www.topnotchresort.com)
 
Vermont: Stowe, Trapp Family Resort. Trapp Family Resort is the home to the first cross-country ski center in the country the vast 100 kilometers of trails have terrain suitable for every level of skier or snowshoer. The resort changes pace once the snow falls, Activities include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, horse-drawn sleigh rides, ski lessons, snowman contests, and bonfires. Today the Trapp Family Lodge, managed by the family that inspired The Sound of Music, welcomes families to vacation in the mountains and experience European elegance and hospitality surrounded by 2,400 acres of Mother Nature’s greenery. It is a spot for relaxation and rejuvenation – a place for togethering. (Trapp Family Lodge 700 Trapp Hill Road P.O. Box 1428 Stowe, Vermont 05672. Toll-free 1-800-826-7000 (Nationwide & Canada), (802) 253-8511 (In Vermont) or www.trappfamily.com)

Utah: Park City, Norwegian Outdoor Center. According to Bruce Black, Mountain Man and guide at this center cross country and snowshoeing are growing in popularity with families. During the winter months he leads visitors on winter trails through the forested areas of the Uinta Mountains. Dressed as a Mountain Man he provides an added dimension to the snow experience. Not all tours are led by a Mountain Man but for those who are lucky to have one as a guide, they are in for a treat. ( Toll-free 1-800-649-5322 or www.outdoorcenter.org)

Montana: Big Sky, Lone Mountain Ranch. This historic ranch specializes in world class cross country experiences for all ages. They have a nationally acclaimed cross country ski center with 75 km of groomed trails. The Ranch is also a great place for family reunions because they have activities for all ages. (Lone Mountain Ranch, 750 Lone Mountain Ranch Rd., Big Sky, MT. 59716. 1 (406) 995-4644, 1-800- 514-4644 or www.lmranch.com)

Montana: Yellowstone Safari Company. This company has created family friendly, earth friendly programs for all ages. Just imagine a snowshoe safari with abundant wildlife viewing or a fast paced cross-country ski. At their impressive Website try the audio for wildlife viewing with children. (Bozeman. (406) 586-1155 or 1-800- 858-3502 or www.yellowstonesafari.com)

Colorado: Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. This is a non-profit environmental education center located within the Hallam Lake Nature Preserve. During the winter, daily programs include naturalist-guided ski tours on Snowmass and snowshoe tours on top of Aspen Mountain, Snowmass and Ashcroft. Located 12 miles above Aspen in the spectacular Castle Creek Valley, Ashcroft offers excellent terrain for all levels of Nordic skiers within 35 kilometers of groomed Nordic trails.  (Aspen (970) 925-5756, 925-1971, www.avlt.org or www.aspennature.org)

Colorado: Keystone's Nordic Center. Located at the River Course golf clubhouse, this facility has 16 kilometers of groomed trails and 57 kilometers of "packed trails" that run through the White River National Forest. Moon Tours are held during the full moon cycle. This location also provides tubing but it is the old-fashioned way with leg power essential. Kids of all ages just walk up and slide down. (Keystone (970) 496-4275 or www.keystoneresort.com)

Colorado: The Breckenridge Nordic Center. For almost 30 years this center has been supporting the needs of cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Rent skis from them for a cross country run and exchange the skis for snowshoes at anytime during the day. They have flat tracks and trails for new skiers and double black diamond trails for experts. (Breckenridge. (970) 453-6855 or www.breckenridgenordic.com)
 
Idaho: Sun Valley, Galena Lodge. On selected nights Galena Lodge, in the heart of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, serves four course family style dinners. On full moon evenings guests can take a ski before or after dinner and on starry nights astronomer Dr. Steven Pauly will let you look through his telescope at the sky’s treasures. There is a small corner of Galena Lodge set aside for smaller children where they will find toys, crafts, games, and more. “If they can stand, we’ll teach.” Lessons are available for children as young as 2 years old, and rentals just their size as well. FYI: The newest addition to cross-country ski trails, the old rail bed now makes up part of the Wood River Trails bike & cross-country ski trail system from which runs from Bellevue to north of Ketchum. (Sun Valley. (208) 726-4010 or www.galenalodge.com)

Oregon: Sun River and Mt. Bachelor. Exploring Mt. Bachelor via cross country trails is easy to do with a Mountain Pass. Trails are groomed and marked and lead through the beautiful Deschutes National Forest. The Mt. Bachelor Website explains the choices for a pass that includes the use of the marked groomed trails. Snowshoe rentals are available on site. (Mt. Bachelor. 13000 SW Century Drive, Bend, OR 97702. Toll-free 1-800 - 829-2442 or www.mtbachelor.com)

British Columbia: Whistler, Cross Country Connection. Located near Lost Lake this company is the launch location for on the Nordic skiing. The route follows much of the same cross country ski areas around the lake. Whistler's has an extensive cross country ski trails map that includes more than 30 km of trail routes with access points, distances and a difficulty rating level. This is also the place to try skate-skiing - a fusion of skating, skiing, Nordic skiing, and roller blading. But it's fun to do. It's similar to speed skating and has five different techniques. (10-4122 Village Green, Whistler, BC, V0N 1B0. (604) 905-0071 or www.whistlerski-hike.com)
 
Content provided by Chris Frado, Executive Director Cross Country Ski Areas Association (CCSAA); comments by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for FamilyTravelFiles.com. Images courtesy of Topnotch & Trapp Family Lodge. Copyright 2013.
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