Cross-Country Skiing in Summit County
Away from the crowds at lift-serviced ski resorts, skiers can find stride and glide on many of Summit County's hiking trails and can also find trails groomed for classical and skate-style Nordic skiing at at least five designated Nordic Centers: two in Breckenridge (Breckenridge Nordic and Gold Run), one in Frisco, one in Copper, and one in Keystone.
Nordic styles of skiing include Telemarking which is a downhill technique you see on the ski mountains, sometimes nicknamed free-healing because that is what differentiates its look from the Alpine style where both toe and heel are clamped into bindings.
Classic is the most classically recognizable style of Nordic skiing and requires no special grooming. You can kick and glide if you know how to walk, says Gene Dayton, who founded the Breckenridge Nordic Center. Skis for this style are usually the cheapest to buy and come in waxable and no-wax versions. They have a camber opposite of how an Alpine ski curves and can get even better as they get used. Buying used Nordic equipment is just fine, especially waxable skis. The no-wax style have fish-scale patterned bottoms that can diminish in efficacy with use. In Summit County, waxing is as easy as the sky, almost every day is Blue. Boots should feel like slippers and be comfortable. Each boot maker designs for a certain style of binding so it's necessary to match boot and binding. Lightness is what makes for easier climbing, but a heavier, wider ski can add stability on the downhills.
The local Nordic centers rent equipment, offer lessons and groom the trails for both classic and skate styles.
Skating is a technique developed by Bill Koch, the only American man to win a medal in Nordic Skiing at the Olympics. He developed this technique to go faster and was so fast the sport had to reconsider its rules. They call the event where most skiers skate - freestyle - and set up another class of races that are just classical, and skating or any other new technique is not allowed. Skating is highly aerobic and requires a different type of ski, a longer pole and ideally a stiffer boot. Learning to skate is like learning kick boxing - you feel beat. However, once you learn the technique you feel a lot more efficient skiing in these V-shapes moves. An incredible full-body workout, it is also low impact compared to running because the surface is forgiving.
Summit County Nordic Centers
Breckenridge Nordic Center: On Ski Hill Road west of downtown Breckenridge before you reach the Breck Ski Resort. Trails circle around the plateau Shock Hill, Cucumber Gulch and also head up to steeper trails north of the ski resort.
Gold Run Nordic Center: North of Breckenridge near Highway 9 off Tiger Road at the Breckenridge Golf Course. Trails meander over the golf course and have a steeper, longer set of trails that head up into the Summit County open space called Gold Run Gulch.
Frisco Nordic Center: Off Highway 9 on the south end of Frisco. This is a very large Nordic center with a great, flat teaching area and lots of beginner and easy trails, as well as lots of up and down that extend to Lake Dillon and beyond.
Keystone Nordic Center: Nine miles of groomed trails and access to 35 more ungroomed miles in the surrounding national forest.
Copper Mountain Nordic Center: Free trails along the golf course and West Village. Lots of public land around Copper great for cross country skiing too.