Women's gear, up first
What are your top three cross-country ski destinations in the U.S.?
Santa Fe, NM
My dream Nordic skiing destination is Lone Mountain Ranch (lonemountainranch.com; three-night, four-day packages that include trail passes, lodging, and meals start at $950 per person) near Big Sky, Montana. The ranch itself, which was built in 1926 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places, offers 90 kilometers of skating or classical trails that are groomed to crenulated perfection every morning. Skating this corduroy, which loops around through pine forests and onto a nearby golf course, is the most fun you can have on snow. You won't get tired of the ranch's trails, but if you want to ski the backcountry, Yellowstone is only 18 miles away. Or if you want to ride the lifts for the day, Big Sky and Moonlight Basin are just a few minutes away. Best of all, however, is that you'll ski so hard that you'll earn every last meal, from the glorious buffet at breakfast to the homemade chocolate-chip cookies for lunch to the bison, salmon, or Montana-raised natural beef at dinner, all of which is served in an elegant Western lodge dining room, complete with elk-antler chandeliers. If there are just two of you, reserve Chipmunk, one of the original log cabins with a wood-burning stove, a bathroom, and a comfortable double bed. It's all you'll need.
Lone Mountain Ranch
Lone Mountain Ranch
My hometown favorite trails are at Giant's Ridge (giantsridge.com), in Biwabik, Minnesota. The 60k of World-Cup worthy trails are some of the best in Minnesota, which says a lot.
Weaving through the Norway pine forests of the Superior National Forest, the trails—especially The Gold—climbs at least a few hundred feet of altitude, an impressive gain for the Midwest. You're guaranteed to feel worked by the end of the day. But if, by some miracle, you don't, ski the 3k of lighted trails.
The top on my list to try in the East is Craftsbury Nordic Center (craftsbury.com) in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. The recently-turned non-profit's mission is "to support and promote participation and excellence in lifelong sports, which a special focus on rowing and Nordic skiing…and to protect and manage the surrounding land, lake, and trails." With 85 kilometers of trails, they take their skiing seriously. Plus, I've heard the food is divine.