Cross Country Skiing in Durango, Colorado

Cross Country Skiing in Durango, Colorado

Cross country skiing or nordic skiing is one of the best ways to get outdoors in Durango, Colorado. Not only does it allow you to enjoy nature, but it can be a great workout as well! All you need is a pair of skis and some good ski boots, warm clothes  and you can be on your way! Check out these tips on how to get started with cross country skiing, and some of the best places to go cross country skiing in and around Durango, Colorado. 

FYI: There are so many more locations to go cross-country skiing or skate skiing in and around Durango, Colorado than are listed here. Especially if you have your own gear (or have rented gear for multiple days) then you can go to so many locations within our area. You can also venture to nearby towns such as Pagosa Springs or Telluride, Colorado and find numerous backcountry or cross country skiing areas. In this post, I have listed the top four places that I have personally gone to within an hour from the downtown of Durango, Colorado.  

Cross country skiing is an excellent way to get outside and stay active.

Cross country skiing is a great way to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. Yes, it is a winter activity and it can be cold out but its an amazing fun activity to do alone, with friends or with your kids!  If you're looking for somewhere that offers cross country skiing or snowshoeeing in Durango, Colorado then look no further than Molas Pass, The Nordic Center at Purgatory, Vallecito Nordic Ski Club or the Hillcrest Cross Country tracks. 

Here are some details on each place listed above:

Molas Pass:

Molas Pass Cross Country Ski Area

Molas Pass Cross Country Ski/Snowshoeing area

Within an hour drive of Durango, Colorado, Molas Pass is a local favorite for snowshoeing or cross country skiing. The views are incredible (especially on those bluebird days, which is almost everyday!) and the peaceful atmosphere of the San Juan Mountains makes this one an extremely unique place to cross country ski (or snowshoe or snowmobile)

To get to this area, go north from Durango for about 40 miles on HWY 550 and get to the top of Molas Pass. There are parking spots to the right after the sign for Molas Pass and you will see the pull off area. There are multiple parking spots, but during the winter there are fewer amounts that are plowed, but if there is a lot of snow, then some of the plowing for the parking area will be delayed. You can park at Molas Pass (info above) and Little Molas, or at Andrews Lake. Just be aware of your surroundings during the winter as a driver (as one should!!) and know that these areas get alot of snow, plus the snow plow drivers are doing the best they can to keep the passes clear and the parking areas for recreation (such as skiing, snowmobiling or winter hiking) come second or third on the list. Do your best to park in a safe area, and one that will allow for easy passes for the snowmobile and for you to get in and out of without getting stuck. 

There are about 23 miles of groomed trails and about 200 acres are set aside for non motorized use. Some trails will not be groomed, but will be packed down from other skiers. There is a toilet that is open at the Molas Pass, but no other facilities (such as rentals, food, etc.) This location is on top of a mountain pass and the trail can be found just across the road. 

There are no rentals available at this location, and it is FREE! Please be respectful of the signs and trails, and pack out what you packed in. 

Durango Nordic Center (at Purgatory)

Durango Nordic Center
Photo Cred: Durango Nordic Center Picture from Website 

The Durango Nordic Center is situated at the base of Engineer Mountain and Twilight Peaks, and offers 23km of trails. It is a beautiful location and roughly 35-40 mins from downtown Durango and just 1/3 mile north of Purgatory Ski Mountain. 
This is also a great place to get lessons or rentals for cross country or skate skiing. Please know that you need to make reservations for lessons or rentals, so hop on the webpage and reserve what you need!

This area at the Nordic Center is a perfect for families and kids too! But please remember to leave fido at home, as they do not allow dogs. Tickets for a day pass are 16$ for adults and 11$ for kids 16 and younger. They also offer different prices for snowshoeing and rentals for that too. 

They open at 9am and ask that you do not ski on the trails until that time, so the groomers have time to get all the trails groomed. 


HillCrest Golf Club Cross Country Track:

This one is right in Durango, Colorado, and its FREE!!  During the summer months, it is a beautiful golf course, but during the winter (or when there is enough snow to cover the trails) the cross country track is open. This track is about 5k, with about four loops around the golf course. The traditional cross country track is groomed after snowfalls with cross country ski track, and then also skate skiing track. 

The best option to check to see updates on trails or if they are open is to call the maintenance number: 970-259-0424

You can also check the facebook page for Hillcrest Golf Club and on this page they post updates during the winter when the track is open. 

They are very good at updating the voicemail on the maintenance number to give information on track updates, and it is worth it to call or check first before heading up the track. The trails here are groomed by the Hillcrest maintenance workers and they ask that you do not ski on them until they open. 

To get to the Hillcrest Golf Course from downtown Durango, follow North College Drive or East 8th Avenue to Rim Drive (up to Fort Lewis College) The Hillcrest parking lot is located at 2300 Rim Drive. You can park at the golf club area parking lot, or follow the road around and park at the lower parking lot. There are restrooms at the lower parking area that are open when the tack is open. 

Just FYI, the local college and high school students do practice at this track, and so often on school days from 3pm till dusk, it can get very busy.

Also there are NO ski rentals at this location.To be able to use this track, you need your own cross country or skate skis, boots and poles. There are multiple places in town that you can rent skis from, such as 2nd Ave Sports (640 E Second Ave, Durango Colorado).  

Vallecito Nordic Ski Club 

Photo Cred: Picture from Vallecito Nordic Club Website

 The Vallecito Nordic Club ski area is one of our favorites to go to! This nordic ski area offers a bit for everyone, and for all X-country ski expertise. They also offer snowshow trails, and dogs are welcome (please be sure to keep your dog with you at all times and pick up after them!) This area is on the far side of Vallecito Lake, near all the main campgrounds for the lake. During the winter time, once there is enough snow the groomers head out and groom skate skiing trails, and traditional cross country ski track on the over 15KM of trail. 

These groomers are all volunteers! There is a place to donate to the ski club at the start of the trail area and you can see it when you walk up. Yes, it is free to go, but a few extra bucks to donate is very much appreciated to keep these trails nicely groomed for you! Also, please remember that it is 5$ for each car that goes to the Pine River Irrigation Division to use Vallecito and you can normally find a person that is taking the 5$ when you park, or you can drop it in the drop box. 

This cross country ski area can get busy during Saturday and Sunday and sometimes you have to park pretty far away from the trails, but once you get onto the trails it typically does not feel busy at all! (Even when there are alot of parked cars)

To get to the ski trails, you head up to Vallecito Lake from Durango, check out the directions from website: 

  • Take Florida Road (CR 240) northeast out of Durango.
  • Turn right at Helen’s Store, then turn left onto CR 501 at the stop sign.
  • At Vallecito Reservoir, turn right at the first paved road beyond the RV park, just before the fire station.
  • Follow the road approximately 1.7 miles until you arrive at the Vallecito Nordic trailhead at Old Timer’s Campground.

Also, check out their website for the DEMO days for cross country skiing and for the skate skiing new gear, new boots and more! This is a great opportunity to try out any type of gear, especially if you are unsure if you want to get into this sport! At this Demo day, they also have some lessons too when is very helpful in the beginning.

Just a reminder, on every day besides the DEMO day, there are no rentals at this location. You need to bring your own gear. For other facilities, there is a port-o-potty that is right at the start of the trail, but there are no other facilities beside that. On the other side of the lake, there is the general store and a restaurant that you can eat, so you can always check that out after your day skiing! 

What should I wear when I go out to these amazing ski areas? Dress in layers!

When you're cross country skiing, it's important to keep in mind that the temperature can change drastically depending on where you are and what time of year it is. For example, if you're skiing in southern Colorado during wintertime and the sun is shining then you will be warmer than you might think! The amazing part of being out, cross country skiing or any type of skiing is that you body starts to warm up as you move it and you probably will end up taking off more layers than you began with! But that is also the key, LAYERS! So important with any type of winter sport you do in Colorado. The better the layers you have, the more comfortable you will be, and the more time you will want to spend in the great outdoors. Colorado has a way of being warmer during the day and then as the sunsets, it can become cold very quick, so make sure you are prepared as you head out into the wilderness. 

Your layers of clothing will help reduce this difference by keeping your body temperature steady as long as possible.

There are many types of layers available for use during wintertime:

  • Merano Wool Socks keep warm feet from freezing up (check out Durango Outdoor Exchange or Backcountry Experience to stock up

  • Long underwear keeps legs warm under ski pants

  • Slimmer pants protect against wind chills while walking uphill (if you do not have long underwear, leggings work great!)

  • Long sleeve shirts with quick dry material (You can also stock up on some low priced gear at Big Five)

Cross country skiing is an awesome hobby that anyone can enjoy.

Cross country skiing is a great way to get outdoors and stay active. You can cross country ski in so many amazing places in southern Colorado, and it is a beautiful time to enjoy with friends and family! So go ahead and get out there and try it out!

Let us know what your favorite place is to go skate skiing or cross country skiing! 

See you on the trails! 

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