With its simple appeal, unrivalled vistas and tranquil charm, it's no surprise that cross country skiing's popularity is soaring. New recruits to the sport are finding it an exhilarating and unique way to enjoy the snow and, as a result, resorts are flourishing. Thanks to such a proliferation, the all-important destination decision can be a difficult one to make so we've put together five of our favourites...
No more than 30 minutes out of Oslo city centre, Holmenkollen is home to the Norwegian capital’s top attraction, the Holmenkollen Ski Museum and Ski Jump. The subway up to the borough gives a fantastic view back down across Oslo and really sets the theme for what’s to come. Holmenkollen opens up to Nordmarka where cross-country skiing trails spread out into the forest and through spectacular landscapes. For the most part, all ski routes are well marked and sign posted varying in distance and difficulty with some often sweeping past mountain restaurant and cafes. A selection of routes are floodlit, allowing you to hone your skills late into the evening too. Picking up some skis or getting yours maintained is not difficult either with an excellent ski rental and workshop in Tryvann, providing revellers with over 100 pairs of the newest skis to rent.
Off the slopes, the borough offers exceptional options of hotels and restaurants. The Lysebu at the top of Holmenkollen offers exceptional quality of accommodation and food and comes accompanied with a spa. Equally, venture down into Oslo and discover a beautiful historic city, or hit up the lively and buzzy nightlife if that is more your scene.
The Engadin valley, St. Moritz offers an exceptional range of trails stretching 220km’s over the frozen lakes and through dense forests. With the diversity of trails on offer, cross-country skiers of all abilities will find their place in Engadin. Skiing the frozen lakes is a unique experience and the perfect way to enjoy the inspiring high valley. Choose between skirting around the outside of the lake or gliding straight across it; either way, sheer enjoyment and stunning views are guaranteed. Ski 12km of the infamous Maloja – S-chanf marathon route on the lakes or really test yourself and take on the whole 41 kilometres at the flagship marathon event on the first weekend of March, along with 13,000 other ski enthusiasts. The route is, in parts, lined with boisterous crowds, cheering on the competitors and revelling in some comedy falls that are rife in certain sections.
If tranquillity is more what you’re looking for, discover the forests around the three villages of Samedan, Celerina and Pontresina, which boasts a large network of trails to explore with some sections proving a stern challenge. Hiring skis in the Engadin valley is simple; the villages throughout the valley are littered with rental shops to pick up the latest equipment and competitive prices.
Off the slopes, St. Moritz is one of the most exclusive alpine resorts, offering a huge array of attractions. The shopping is second to none, with some of the most exclusive labels setting up shop in the town. Add a day with the credit card to your St. Moritz bucket list as well as a trip to the Segantini Museum, a must for any alpine enthusiast. Visit Stubli, a small, smokey bar of legend, home to live guitarists in peak season and ideal if you’re seeking something with more of a buzz.
The Engadin Valley is the ultimate destination for cross-country skiing enthusiasts with its scope for exploring the beautiful landscape on your skis and wining, dining and partying off them.In such a location, you need to be at your best; with the men’s Odlo STRYN soft-shell jacket as your go-to outer layer, you’ll not only look stylish, but also stay warm and dry due to the windproof and breathable technology. The moisture wicking material looks after you whilst you’re burning up the trails. For women, the Odlo PRIMALOFT jacket keeps the water out and the warmth in. It’s lightweight material and body-mapped construction provides maximum breathability, ideal for endurance skiing in the mountains.
Home of the 2019 Nordic World Championships, Seefeld’s 271 kilometres of cross-country trails provide superb skiing opportunities based on the Tyrolean destination’s long tradition with Nordic sport disciplines. All routes that make up the vast network are clearly marked and signposted through stunning landscapes that makes it a magnet for skiers of all abilities. Seefeld adds an extra string to its bow with the Nordic Competence Centre which along with the 271 kilometres of trails, has state-of-the art biathlon facilities and two brand new ski jumps; coming to Seefeld gives you the opportunity to try your hand at a range of Nordic sports. There is added appeal of testing your legs on the World Championship routes before the professionals come in 2019.
Off the slopes, Seefeld is home to a high density of four and five-star hotels accompanied by spas and leisure complexes. When the sun goes down, plenty of exclusive bars and casinos come to life for those looking for a more sophisticated way to relax, giving the traditional village its luxurious reputation.
Complement the town’s luxuries with Odlo’s fantastic under and midlayers. For men, the SILLIAN t-shirt is lightweight and moisture wicking to keep you dry and the figure hugging t-shirt moves with you to ensure all-day comfort. For women, the Odlo NAVAJO cross-country midlayer incorporates a traditional wool look with modern materials to ensure you’re warm and cosy, making it the ideal midlayer for a day on the trails and the early evening in the town. A paradise for cross-country skiers who like to test themselves and rub shoulders with professionals on the trails and enjoy the finer things in life off them; Seefeld is a fantastic place for families, elite athletes and everyone in between to test their cross-country skiing credentials.
VAL DI FIEMME, ITALY
Another home to past Nordic skiing World Championships, Val di Fiemme in the Trentino region of Italy boasts a fantastic network of cross-country skiing trails at the gateway to the Dolomites. Val di Fiemme guarantees breath-taking views along its expansive 150 kilometres of ski routes made up of the famous Passo Lavazé and Lago di Tesero cross-country ski centres. At Passo Lavazé, the use of the pistes is free throughout the day and into the night when they come to life under the impressive lights. Lago di Tesero offers a tougher challenge, perfect for those who really want to test themselves on the thin skis; however, for less of a challenge, it links to the legendary Marcialonga track that gives you the chance to ski mainly flat tracks. The 70km route is located in the valley floor and passes through the majority of the towns in the valley of Fiemme and neighbouring Fassa. An event is held on it each year at the end of January for those elite athletes, but it is also an ideal challenge for those just starting out in the sport.
With its rich elite history, skiing in Val di Fiemme having the gear to match is essential. Kit yourself out in the men’s Odlo STRYN cross-country pants, the 3-layer soft shell material provides excellent warmth and top-quality wind proofing and breathability. The moisture wicking material in targeted zones ensures you stay dry and warm giving you the perfect cross-country experience. Equally, for women, the Odlo PRIMALOFT cross-country pants are ideal for the sub-zero temperatures with durable Pertex® Ripstop Quantum fabric and PrimaLoft®'s best-in-class synthetic insulation provide unrivalled warmth and comfort. The perfect balance of insulation and breathability allows you to go all day whilst retracing the tracks of past world champions.
Stay at Cavalese, the valleys “capital” which is the end point for the Marcialonga event, the cross-country skiing areas of Passo Lavazé and Lago di Tesero are easy to get to from the town. The town is steeped in tradition and has plenty to see for the culturally trained eye, as well as plenty of restaurants and bars to spend your long indulgent evenings in.
Finland’s rolling hills provide the perfect opportunity for Nordic skiing and Ruka-Kuusamo’s 170 kilometres of cross-country routes are set in beautiful forests providing skiers with breath-taking scenery and a range of challenges suiting traditional and skating styles. If you’re starting in Ruka, head to the Ski Stadium where the first ski tracks filter out from. Equally, head to the Kuusamo centre at Petäjäkangas to take on the trails from there too. Along the routes, there are ski cafés in abundance providing you with the perfect spot to have a coffee and warm up again before heading out, just be warned, once you’re comfortable, dragging yourself out again requires a lot of will.
Ruka town itself has a vibrant nightlife with clubs like Piste and Zone offering those who want to party into the small hours the perfect opportunity to let their hair down. The Après scene is fantastic too with early finishers packing the slope side restaurants and terraces with a fresh beer or mulled wine to warm the cockles.
Ruka is a perfect destination to get the ideal balance of serious cross-country skiing on testing terrain, and a party lifestyle in a vibrant scene off the trails.
HRABETICE, JIZERA MOUNTAINS, CZECH REPUBLIC
Get off the beaten track and away from the bigger, well-known resorts and discover this secret gem in the Czech mountains. The trails wind their way through enchanting forests, littered with snippets of the areas history. The perfect rest spot on the 180km’s of tracks finds itself in the shape of a 1756 glassblowing factory which is now elegantly converted into a mountain villa, offering sumptuous local refreshments.
The area is very much a Czech destination, as yet untouched by the tourists, more regularly seen amongst the famous resorts of the western Alps. Heading to the Jizera Mountains will provide an education, you will be thrust into the culture and if you don’t speak Czech, be prepared to stumble through conversations. However, the beauty of the landscape and the diversity of the trails that roll through the forest blanketed in powder, make up for any communication and cultural struggles you may encounter.
Hrabetice has so far managed to ward off large chain hotels, with most being family run, traditional Czech lodgings, offering warm welcomes and superb hospitality. For a completely different experience including quiet trails, spectacular scenery and fascinating history and culture, the Czech Republic is the perfect secret spot to discover next.
Choosing the right destination for your cross-country skiing trip makes discovering the thrills of the sport even more rewarding; it’s now time for you to find your best match and get out there.