Colorado's Finest Mountains for the Best Cross Country Experience
The amazing things about this truly special place known as Aspen seems at time almost never ending. In addition to the great downhill skiing Aspen is a mecca for cross country skiing with the largest free trail network in the country.
People new to the sport will want to head over to the Aspen Cross Country Center located on the Aspen Golf Course. Not only can you rent and buy all the gear you need here but you have the perfect near flat terrain to learn on. If you want you can hire an instructor to get your technique dialed in or just go for it on your own. Start by taking a few laps on the practice loop then head out for a few laps on gently rolling terrain with amazing views of the local ski areas and up Independence Pass.
Once you get your technique dialed in you can head over to the Moore and Marolt open spaces, but slightly more challenging than the terrain of the Aspen Golf Course. If you are ready for a real challenge the Aspen High School terrain offers an even more demanding challenge, this area is located near the base of Aspen Highlands but can be access via the golf course.
Snowmass also has a challenging course and a cross country ski center of its own. This course is also rather hilly and offers a great workout. For the true die hard cross country skier there is the Owl Creek trail that goes from Snowmass to Aspen. This offers an amazing experience at times completely in the woods with no signs of man in site. Some fitness nuts will even start in Aspen, ski to Snowmass, refuel at the Two Creeks base area and then do it all in again in reverse. This is a demanding workout, especially the climbs up Buttermilk and Owl Creek. Bonus points can be earned by adding on the appropriately named Terminator loop that takes you onto the Longshot run of Snowmass. This brutally steep climb will be sure to send you into an anaerobic nightmare.
In addition to these areas groomed and maintained by the City of Aspen, the Rio Grande trail is also maintained by the city all the way to Basalt when conditions allow. T Lazy 7 Ranch maintains the road to the Maroon Bells making for a challenging and beautiful ski to one of the most scenic places in the Rockies. This area can be closed during high avalanche danger as it crosses under avalanche terrain, so even thought the terrain you are on seems safe danger looms above, obey all signage.
Another special cross country experience can be had at the end of Castle Creek at an area maintained by the Pine Creek Cookhouse. This area does charge a fee but the setting in the Castle Creek Vally nestled beneath Pearl Pass is more than worth it.
For those not familiar with cross country skiing we have prepared a short primer of the two styled, classic and skate. Classic requires skis either with scales on the bottom that flow freely forward but gain traction to propel you when the scaled center portion of the ski is press into the snow. The arms also move in a linear motion the perfection of the kick and glide motion is essential for efficiency. On groomed terrain you will not need a metal edge on your skis and a "track" usually laid for classic skiers allowing them to focus purely on their form. Skate skiing requires groomed terrain and the forward motion is achieve through a skating style kick of the skis and a more butterfly motion from the arms. Both styles provide a great workout and can allow you to exercise outside all winter long.