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Skiing Cross-Country Across Summit County

Skiing above Montezuma by the ghost town of Sts. John

Away from the madden crowds at lift-serviced ski resorts, skiers can find stride and glide on many of Summit County's hiking trails and can find groomed for classical and skate-style Nordic skiing at at least five designated Nordic Centers.

Free-healing, taking out the skinny skis are ways to describe skiing cross-county where we ski up and downhill. Nordic skiing it's called rather than Alpine Skiing, as downhill skiing is called at the Olympics. Nordic styles of skiing include Telemarking, which is a downhill technique that you can see on the ski mountains - and is what really is nicknamed free-healing because that is what differentiate it's 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 a no-wax version and waxable. 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. And 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.

At the County's Nordic Centers, they rent equipment, offer lessons and groom the trails for classic - two groove and for a flat wide area for skating.

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.  But 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 Cross-country skking

Breckenridge Nordic Center : take Ski Hill Road west of downtown Breckenridge. The center is opposite Gold Camp Condos on Ski Hill before you reach the Breck Ski Resort.  Trails circle around the plateau that is the top of Shock Hill, and also head up to steeper trails north of the ski resort.

Gold Run Nordic Center : north of Breckenridge, 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 southeast of Frisco - directly across the highway from the County Commons. 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 extent to Lake Dillon and for several miles north and south of the center on public lands.

Keystone Nordic Center : on the east side of Keystone resort

Copper Mountain Nordic Center: on the far east side of Copper, close to the entrance take a turn south.  Lots of public land around Copper is great for cross country skiing, too.



News on Cross-Country Skiing

Posted on Summit County's blog: February 5, 2018

Winter Grooming Opens Recpath to New Recreation Uses

A woman skiing along the Recpath.

Summit County, U.S. Forest Service and towns of Frisco and Breckenridge partner to provide 8-mile groomed surface between Frisco and Breckenridge

Michael Wurzel, Summit County Open Space & Trails: 970-668-4065

SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit County, the U.S. Forest Service and the towns of Breckenridge and Frisco have partnered to groom the Summit County Recreational Pathway System between Frisco and Breckenridge, a new service that will enhance opportunities for winter recreation. Allowed winter uses on the Recpath include cross-country skiing, bicycling, walking, snowshoeing and other non-motorized recreation.

The towns of Frisco and Breckenridge will each groom about half of the 8-mile stretch of pathway between them; grooming is scheduled to take place twice per week, unless otherwise dictated by the weather. Grooming operations will remain within the 16-foot-wide Recpath footprint, and the pathway is free for the public to use.

“I’ve been hearing about the possibility of grooming the Recpath between Breckenridge and Frisco for 10+ years, so it is exciting to be part of the team finally making it happen,” said Diane McBride, Frisco Director of Recreation and Assistant Town Manager. “Frisco and Breckenridge partner on a joint pass at our Nordic centers, so this seems like a logical next step.”

The groomed section of the Recpath now extends from the new Dickey Day Use parking area at the top of the Frisco Adventure Park to Valley Brook Road in Breckenridge. The Town of Breckenridge was already grooming from Tiger Road to Valley Brook, and the additional grooming now effectively connects the Gold Run Nordic Center and Frisco Nordic Center, as well as both towns. The grooming services also increase winter trail access to and from Summit High School and several residential neighborhoods along the route.

“In essence, people should be able to ski between our great communities, as well as walk, fat bike and skijor free of charge,” said Scott Reid, Breckenridge Director of Recreation. “It is an effort to continue to provide world-class recreational amenities for our citizens and visitors.”

Grooming operations will include track-setting for classic Nordic skiers, as well as laying corduroy for skate skiers, cyclists and other non-motorized users. The project partners ask that cyclists and walkers avoid the classic ski tracks so they remain usable for skiers. Grooming will continue through April 30, as long as there is sufficient snow to prevent impacts to the pathway and surrounding natural areas.

“Winter recreation is a huge part of the soul of Summit County,” County Commissioner Dan Gibbs said. “Between Nordic skiers, fat bikers, runners and walkers, the public is really going to enjoy having this section of the Recpath groomed all winter, and we could not have done it without this partnership.”

CDOT’s Highway 9 Iron Springs project, completed in fall 2017, accelerated discussions about winter use on this section of the Recpath, which had been envisioned many years prior in the Upper Blue Nordic Plan. The project design included oversized highway underpasses to accommodate grooming equipment on the pathway below. And gentler grades on the new Iron Springs Recpath alignment made the path friendlier to Nordic skiing. In January, the U.S. Forest Service approved a grooming plan submitted by Summit County Open Space and Trails for enhanced winter recreation opportunities. The path is now groomed and ready for use.

Skiing December Breckenridge

“The White River National Forest is glad to provide this public access opportunity, which will enhance winter recreation and connect our communities,” said Bill Jackson, Dillon District Ranger.

Users are encouraged to be respectful and courteous to one another on the multiuse pathway and to use proper trail etiquette, including packing out all trash. Just as in the summer, dogs are required to be leashed when on the pathway, and motorized uses are not allowed. Pet owners are required by law to pick up pet waste and dispose of it properly in a trash receptacle.

The groomed portion of the Recpath is free to use, but trail passes are still required at the Frisco Nordic Center and Gold Run Nordic Center. Both of these Nordic centers, along with Breckenridge Nordic Center, offer joint passes, which may be used at all three locations.

To commemorate the new winter trail connection, the four partner organizations will hold a celebration on Thursday, Feb. 8, starting at 4 p.m. Everyone is invited to join in as local elected officials, staff and path users journey from Breckenridge or Frisco on the newly groomed recreation path, meeting at approximately the halfway point at the new section of trail closest to Dillon Reservoir. Here, at about 4:30 p.m., there will be brief remarks and a symbolic exchange of iconic items from each community.

A diversity of users, including skiers, bikers, walkers and snowshoers, are encouraged to be a part of this celebratory journey. The Town of Frisco and Summit County will start their trek at the new Dickey Day Use parking area at the Frisco Adventure Park, and the Town of Breckenridge will start its half of the expedition at the Gold Hill trailhead parking lot.

At present, there are no other proposals to expand winter grooming operations onto other sections of the Recpath, because of avalanche safety and wildlife concerns. For more information on the Summit County Recreational Pathway System, visit the Summit County Open Space and Trails Department at, or call Michael Wurzel at 970-668-4065.