Try Cross Country Skiing With the Family This Winter

November 5, 2016

cross country skiing

With more snow moving into the Sierras, it's time to start thinking about winter sports family fun in the mountains. While downhill skiing and snowboarding are synonymous with snow sports to many people, cross country skiing is a fun and low-key alternative to the lift lines. Cross country skiing is fun, easy to learn, and requires a minimum of equipment. Dress in warm active clothing, put on your boots and skis, grab your poles, and you're good to go!

We tried out cross country last winter, and had a great time. My kids picked it up right away—after 20 minutes on the practice loop they were off and hitting the trails. The whole family can join in, too—you can even get a jogging stroller on skis and pull your little one along, and many cross country trails allow dogs, too. An added bonus: cross country skiing is one of the best aerobic exercise activities you can do. It's a great way to get active and enjoy the beauty of the mountains in winter.

The Sierras have plenty of places to try out cross country, from ski resorts offering rentals and lessons to side-of-the-road Sno Parks where you bring your own gear, park your car, and go hit the trails. If you're just starting out and want to give it a try with the kiddos, we highly recommend the wonderful Alder Creek Adventure Center at Tahoe Donner near Truckee. This fantastic snow sports center features gear rentals, lessons, miles and miles of groomed trails, a restaurant, lounge, locker rooms, and a shop selling outdoor apparel and gear. You can also try out other fun winter sports activities like snowshoeing and fat biking.

Here's our guide to cross country spots in Northern California, including ski resorts that offer dedicated cross country resources, California State Parks, and Sno Parks.

Ski Resorts

Tahoe Donner

Alder Creek Adventure Center, 11509 Northwoods Boulevard, Truckee 96161; www.tahoedonner.com or (530) 587-9400

Northstar

5100 Northstar Drive (off Highway 267), Truckee 96161; www.northstarcalifornia.com or 1-800-GO-NORTH

Squaw Valley

1980 Squaw Valley Road, Olympic Village 96146; www.squaw.com or 1-800-403-0206

Granlibakken

725 Granlibakken Road, Tahoe City 96145; www.granlibakken.com or 1-800-403-0206

Kirkwood

1501 Kirkwood Meadows Drive, Kirkwood 95646; winter.kirkwood.com or 1 (877) KIRKWOOD

Sierra at Tahoe

1111 Sierra at Tahoe Road, Twin Bridges 95735; www.sierraattahoe.com or (530) 659-7453

Tahoe XC

925 Country Club Drive, Tahoe City, 96145; tahoexc.org or (530) 583-5475

Bear Valley Cross Country

1 Bear Valley Road, off Highway 4, Bear Valley 95223; bearvalleyxc.com or (209) 753-2834

California State Parks

Many of our California State Parks in the Tahoe area that offer hiking trails during the summer also offer cross country skiing trails during the winter!

Donner Memorial State Park

12593 Donner Pass Road, Truckee 96161

Ed Z'Berg Sugar Pine Point State Park

Highway 89, south of Tahoe City

Lake Valley State Recreation Area

2500 Emerald Bay Road, South Lake Tahoe 96150

Sno Parks

Operated by the state's department of off-highway motor vehicle recreation, California Sno-Parks are no-frills places to park the car and get out for a day in the snow. Many of them offer access to cross-country skiing trails. Sno-Parks cost $5 for a day-use pass or $25 for a season-long permit. You can buy a pass from a vendor at locations throughout California (get the list as a PDF here) or buy one online. Parking is on a first-come, first-served basis. Conditions can change and parks can close, so check the Sno-Parks website before you head up to the mountains for directions and more information.

Northern California Sno-Parks that offer access to cross-country ski trails include: