A few years ago I took up cross-country skiing – skate skiing to be precise – bought the gear and a season pass to Devils Thumb, and quickly found out this was the toughest form of exercise I had ever participated in. And that was fine, because that’s what I wanted, having felt seriously out of shape ever since I switched jobs back in 2003. Back then, I was big into Colorado back-county snowshoeing, often out at 6 in the morning in significantly below freezing temperatures, pretty much breaking trail wherever I went. In addition, I played golf in the summer, choosing to walk and carry my clubs instead of driving a cart, so this kept up my level of fitness.

Despite possessing a pass to a top-10-North American ranked cross country center, my visits were infrequent and over all too quickly. That, combined with less golf in the summer (and the rounds I did play primarily cart-driven), plus my inability to cut down on my consumption of beer and wine, I’ve had to have a serious re-think about how and where to get my workouts.

I have a pass to the new Recreation Center, which is a wonderful facility, but loathe working out indoors – lifting weights, running the track, etc. However, outside I think I have my answer, to at least part of my dilemma. Directly outside the Rec Center, and extending across the whole of the meadow pretty much down to the Bank of the West, is a cross-country and snowshoe trail which is groomed, open 24/7 (although with no lights you’ll have to restrict your nighttime activity to moonlight), and is free to the public and their dogs if applicable.

The Winter Park cross country skiing trail is primarily one big loop, but is a massive 32 feet wide and includes classic tracks as well. It’s about 4 miles long and affords wonderful views of the Continental Divide, and the ski area. While it is to all intents and purposes flat, depending on your origination point, you will climb up the valley from North to South (i.e. from the Fraser end to the Winter Park end) at some part of your loop. And depending on your level of fitness and commitment, a lap can take 20-30 minutes, so perfect for a mad dash at lunchtime, or a more sustained workout over 2 laps.

Free is definitely good – as is close, well groomed, and yet another alternative for fun for locals and those enjoying a Colorado ski vacation.

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