The world’s best workout is also one of the most fun, relaxing ways for exploring the San Juan National Forest. Cross country skiing is easy to learn and offers a variety of opportunities for those visiting Durango.  

Not just for Olympic athletes and sports enthusiasts, these are our top ten reasons to give cross country skiing a try this Winter:

#10 An infinite number of trails to explore

You can spend an entire lifetime skiing the trails in Colorado and never see it all. But two of the best places to start include the Purgatory Nordic Center and the Vallecito Nordic Center. With a combined 35km of mountain and lake-lined trails, these two groomed destinations are a local favorite.

The most serious of adventurers who are professed in backcountry safety may be interested in exploring the infamous San Juan Hut System. With a stunning and remote map of more than 60 miles of backcountry trails, it’s the vacation of every athlete’s bucket list.

With thousands of miles of ungroomed trails beyond, some of the best destinations include the Cascade Creek Trail north of Purgatory, Haviland Lake Trail, and Vallecito trail. 

#9 Easy to learn and low impact

It may seem intimidating to launch into what has been called one of the most labor-intensive sports around, but cross country skiing is completely what you make of it. If you’re brand new to the activity and looking for advice, jump into a group lesson at the Purgatory Nordic Center, or schedule a private 90-minute session. Group lessons are held daily at 10:30 AM and 1:30 PM.

Whether you want to spend a full day climbing the uphills around Engineer Mountain or a short 30-minute jot across the neighborhood Falls Creek loop, you can rest assured that the low impact activity is completely good for you. Not only does it provide mental health reset to be out in the fresh mountain air, but cross country skiing also helps support balance, core muscles, your metabolism, and heart. Even if you don’t fall in love with the sport, it can make for a great rest day from downhill skiing!

#8 Finding gear is a cinch

Cross country skiing can be addictive, making you more inclined to purchase, rather than rent, your own set of gear. Thankfully, a nordic addiction can be a little cheaper than downhill.

Finding exactly what you want is easy, especially with the expert help of locals in town. Check out Backcountry Experience, Pine Needle Mountaineering, and 2nd Avenue Sports for a variety of options to both rent and purchase. You can also rent equipment right from the source at the Purgatory Nordic Center.

#7 Pet Friendly

Like most of Durango, cross country skiing can be completely dog-friendly. Unlike mountain resorts, spending your time on ungroomed trails means that Fido is more than welcome to share in the fun, as long as they’re kept under control. Both the Pet Haus and Gardenswarts Outdoors, two shops along Main Avenue, have a variety of pup gear to keep your furbabies warm - including boots, harnesses, vests, and even specialty sleeping bags.

Likewise, the Vallecito Nordic Center welcomes dogs but recommends a $5 per season contribution.

#6 You can enjoy cross country skiing any hour of the day

Any time, day or night, your cross country skis will be ready to go! Unlike mountain resorts, where the lift only runs from 9-4 PM, the snow and the mountains will always be there. That means less stress to wake up early and more opportunities to go with the flow.

#5 It’s right in your backyard

What could be better than no lift lines, no driving to the resort, and no crowds? As long as there is snow, you’ll have somewhere to cross-country ski. If you’re staying in a mountain cabin or up north of Durango, that may mean the adventure begins right at your doorstep.

#4 The sport is timeless and ageless

Because it’s low impact, safe, and relatively easy to learn, cross-country skiing is considered a timeless and ageless activity great for solo explorers, couples, or families. It can be cheaper than purchasing a whole line of downhill ski gear, and less chaotic to organize in big groups. Just keep everyone close and know the trail before you set out.

#3 A quiet way to explore off-trail

Take your mountain getaway to the next level as you ski away from the crowds, people, and even the trail if you’re prepared. Enjoy a full afternoon of hearing nothing but your own breath and the slide of your skis. Cross country skiing offers the opportunity to make your own adventure, at your own even pace.

#2 There are countless events to check out

Once you’ve unlocked the door to cross country skiing, you’ll find a whole world of activities and a community of life-loving locals to share it with. Join the annual New Year’s Eve Ski-a-thon, sign up for a race series like Twilight Nights, or learn what it means to celebrate a full moon and bonfire at a late-night Full Moon Howler. It doesn’t take a professional athlete to have a great time.

#1 Plenty of places in town to eat afterward.

Cross country skiing burns more calories per hour than any other athletic sport. Even at just a light pace, skiers burn more than 408 calories per hour of low effort. That’ll leave you hungry for more and hungry for a bite to eat in town! Check out the brand new Nugget Mountain Bar up by Purgatory for killer lunch deals or go for the really calorie-dense, soul-warming meals at the Himalayan Kitchen on Main Avenue.


Cross country skiing is something everyone should try when spending time this Winter in Durango. It's easy to learn and a great way to explore the numerous trails in and around Durango. When considering what to do this Winter during your visit, we suggest giving cross country skiing a try!

Who knows, you might pick up your new favorite hobby this Winter!