Nordic skiing in Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

Nordic skiing in Steamboat

Brian Tate, left, leads a pack of skiers during the North Routt Coureur des Bois cross-country skiing ultramarathon at Steamboat Lake in 2007.

— If you'd rather have your legs and lungs carry you along Steamboat's trails, countless Nordic skiing options exist in the valley as well.

Nordic skiers with ties to Steamboat brought home seven Olympic medals from the last Winter Olympics, which should say something about the area's Nordic facilities.

The valley is home to four Nordic centers offering more than 120 kilometers of groomed trails, all within 30 minutes of downtown and offering plenty of solitude and serenity.

Add to these a set of free groomed trails in Steamboat II, trails at the Vista Verde Guest Ranch, and marked trails on both Rabbit Ears (nine trails ranging from 1.6 to 7 miles) and Buffalo Pass and the area's Nordic options are as plentiful as its snowfall. (Maps for Forest Service trails can be picked up at the U.S. Forest Service office, across the U.S. Highway 40 from the Holiday Inn.)

Just make sure that if you're heading out on a wilderness trail, carry a backpack with topographic maps, compass, emergency supplies, food, water and extra clothing, and let someone know where you're going.

Howelsen Hill

You'll likely share the trail with an Olympian at Howelsen Hill. Located in the heart of downtown, its 21 kilometers of trails are maintained by the city and Steamboat Springs Nordic Council, and are part of the Nordic Combined World Cup cross-country circuit (trail manager Jeff Nelsen was Chief of Course for the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics).

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From late December through March the trails (20 percent beginner, 20 percent expert, 60 percent intermediate) are groomed three times weekly. In general they're a bit steeper than other trails in the area. Note: The Howelsen complex is not a full service touring center; skiers must have their own equipment. Cost: $8/day. Info: http://www.steamboatsprings.net, 970-879-4300.

Lake Catamount

Part of a private development, the Catamount Nordic Center off Colo. Hwy. 131 offers 30 kilometers of groomed trails, characterized by flat, easy-rolling terrain and wide open views of Lake Catamount, Mt. Baldy and Pleasant Valley. The owners have extended a welcome to the community so respect private property. For dog lovers, the area also offers 10km of dog-friendly trails (cost: $2/dog, maximum two dogs/person). All dogs must be on a leash and no dogs are allowed Friday through Sunday.

The trails are open daily, with the Club House restaurant open Wednesday through Sunday. The center also offers lessons, including a new four-week clinic on Fridays. Rentals $17/day. Cost: $18/day. Info: http://www.catamountranchclub.com, 970-871-6667

Steamboat Ski Touring Center

At the Steamboat Ski Touring Center, nearly 14 kilometers of groomed Nordic trails wind through aspen groves along Fish Creek, offering some of the most scenic and accessible Nordic skiing in the valley. The trails are rated novice to advanced and are groomed for both classic and skate skiing. The center also offers 10 km of forested snowshoe trails, as well as a full-service rental and retail store carrying the latest in cross-country ski and snowshoe equipment. It also offers daily lessons taught by area experts. Refuel at the “Picnic Basket” with hearty homemade soups, breads, hot drinks and more. Cost: $18/day ($16 late arrival after 1 p.m.); rentals $13. Info: http://www.steamboatnordiccenter.com, 970-879-8180

Steamboat Lake

Open for the past eight years, the Steamboat Lake State Park Touring Center is just 25 miles north of Steamboat Springs on County Road 129. The area usually opens by Christmas, with trails groomed by the Steamboat Lake Snow Club. Dogs are allowed but must be on a six-foot leash. The center features 15 kilometers of groomed beginner and intermediate trails, with grooming twice per week. There are no services available, so bring your own gear; meals are available at the Clark Store Deli, Glen Eden, Hahn’s Peak Cafe and Hahn's Peak Roadhouse nearby. You can also rent trailside cabins from the marina (970-879-7019). Cost: $7 per vehicle (passes available at the park visitor center or self-service station). Info: 970-879-3922, http://parks.state.co.us/parks/steamboatlake