Backcountry & Beyond: Cross-Country Skiing & Snowshoeing Spots
You know there’s something special about cross-country skiing in this section of the Adirondacks since Olympic biathlon athletes Lowell Bailey, Tim Burke, and Bill Demong all honed their skills here. From the groomed paths of the state-of-the-art facility right in town to beautiful backcountry stretches that traverse frozen lakes and dash along forested glades, here a few of the favorite places to race, train, and play.
Jackrabbit Ski Trail
Named in honor of Herman “Jackrabbit” Johanssen, a Norwegian and Nordic pioneer who blazed his own trails all over the Tri-Lakes Region in the 1920s, this 50-kilometer Scandinavian-style backcountry path through the Adirondack wilderness links the towns of Keene, Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, and Paul Smiths (as well as several cross-country centers, including the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center, Whiteface Club, and the Cascade Cross Country Center). The most popular stretch to cruise in Saranac Lake is a four-mile round-trip route, with access from a marked parking lot off McKenzie Pond Road. The first half features several ups and downs (climbing a steady 900 feet) before hooking up with an old trucking road that leads to McKenzie Pond with beautiful views of Baker Mountain.
Dewey Mountain Recreation Center
For a $5 day pass, you can get both a groomed and backcountry experience at Dewey, thanks to lower trails (13 kilometers’ worth) reserved for skate and classic cross-country and upper trails left ungroomed. All of the trails are one way, so you never have to worry about oncoming traffic, and there are separate paths for snowshoers to follow. The trails are also lit for night skiing.
Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center (“The VIC”)
Offering 15 kilometers of groomed trails for snowshoeing, skate, and classic cross-country skiing, the Nordic network at Paul Smiths College is one of the most beautiful places to lay tracks as its surrounded by hushed hardwood forests and marshlands with few to no crowds. Trails vary from significant climbs with switchbacks to easygoing loops that circle frozen ponds. Day passes are $10 per person.