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The Ultimate Late-Season Nordic Road Trip

Spring skiing is unbelievably sweet—here’s how to chase it with a perfect 3-day getaway.

Tips & Ideas, Travel Tips Monday, March 25, 2024

Just because spring temps are spiking all over Colorado doesn’t mean your season’s over—in fact, spring skiing conditions are often the best of the year.

Why? Late spring blizzards dump 12+ inches on trail systems just as they’re winding down for the season. Groomed trails have been compacted all year, and the base holds, even in warmer temps. With the warm, mild days and spring sunshine, spring skiing is some of the most delightful—and one that skiers often miss out on as they itch to move on to warm-weather sports.

There’s still time to visit the Nordic center trails, and don’t forget that state and national forest area trails are up for the taking, as long as the crust holds—which can be as late as the end of April.

So here’s an epic, get-it-all-in end-of-the-season loop for adventurers chasing the last, best snow of the year.

Day 1

Head to the Winter Park/Tabernash area and you’ll find two of the region’s most celebrated X-C ski destinations literally across the road from each other.

Where to Ski

Devil’s Thumb Ranch delivers a deluxe guest-ranch experience (with a very cushy spa) and approximately 70k of groomed trails, while nearby Snow Mountain Ranch clocks in around 110k. If conditions are thin, skiing out from both Nordic centers and their sunny meadow locations can be tricky, but there are multiple trail access points (by the barns at Devil’s Thumb, or up by the cabins at Snow Mountain Ranch) with wooded trails that hold the snow.

Mingle with the Locals

Fraser River Beer company is where to snag walking tacos from the food truck out front and a Beyers Peak Brown Ale.

Where to Stay

Both Nordic resorts offer plenty of lodging. Snow Mountain Ranch boasts a greater variety at a more accessible price point, with basic hotel-style lodge rooms as well as snug hilltop cabins in a range of sizes. If your taste runs more to feather beds, plush robes and in-room soaking tubs, Devil’s Thumb Ranch is a treat—and their spa is legendary.

Day 2

After a quick breakfast (both resorts have onsite cafes), hop back on Highway 40 for a beautiful drive into Routt County—we’re heading to Steamboat Springs for the day. On the way, stop at Big Shooter Coffee in Kremmling for a latte and fresh cinnamon roll, and say hello to owner Sean “Shooter” Scholl and his family, all hardcore Nordorks.

Where to Ski

Push on to the top of Rabbit Ears Pass, and park at the West Summit parking area. 1A West Summit Loop A is a moderate trail with stellar views of the Yampa Valley. Pro tip: Ski it clockwise for more moderate climbs. The local Nordic council grooms trails like Bruce’s Trail if you’re in the mood to skate.

Mingle with the Locals

Mountain Tap Brewery is the perfect place for a beer on a bluebird afternoon—the garage doors lift to let patrons flow out onto a patio next to the Yampa River. Don’t miss the wood-fired pizzas here.

Where to Stay

The Nordic Lodge in the heart of downtown Steamboat makes for a sweet, walkable location, and there are a variety of room sizes including suites and apartment-style digs.

Day 3

Start the day with a stack of pancakes from The Shack Cafe, then head back east through Kremmling. Today you get to choose your adventure guided by conditions.

Where to Ski

Two routes, two choices today.

Vail area: Take highways 134 and 131 to Wolcott and onward to Beaver Creek and Vail if you want to add them to your list—Beaver Creek’s trail system is a chairlift ride up the mountain and nicely shaded, so a good bet for spring skiers.

Breckenridge area: Head straight south on Highway 9, where you’ll check in with Frisco, Gold Run, and Breckenridge Nordic centers.

If it’s late in the season and you’re looking for non-resort options, a sunny afternoon skin up Boreas Pass Rd. in Breckenridge is a classic.

Mingle with the Locals

In Frisco, The Moose Jaw has a friendly dive bar vibe. It’s a great place to shoot pool, share adventure stories, and tuck into a burger.

Where to Stay

Spend your last night in Frisco. No matter where you skied today, this local-forward town is a perfect, centrally located base camp for skiers, within striking distance of three great Nordic centers as well as plenty of national forest. The Frisco Lodge right on the main street is cozy, includes a delish breakfast and happy hour, and puts you within walking distance of this charming little stretch of shops, bars, and restaurants.

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