It doesn’t seem like a ski town, right? People come to Laramie to catch a football game or to get smashed at the brewfest during Jubilee Days, they don’t come here to ski.
But they should and here’s why.
Our ski trails are awesome!
(you might get blown off the parking lot at the Tie City trailhead but that’s part of the experience right?)
Sure we’re not Canmore, Alberta or West Yellowstone, Montana…places known for their amazing nordic skiing. We also don’t have any fancy schmanzy ski lodges with hot chocolate, handsome foreign ski instructors named Sven, and ski rentals.
But what we do have is a vibrant ski community and trails just a short drive from town that have a funky local feel to them. They are the kind of trails shared by cowboys in blue jeans, high school and college ski racers, and even former world-class level nordic skiers and biathletes.
Here’s where we give you the inside scoop on cross-country skiing in Laradise.
Where to Ski:
- If you’re pressed on time and looking for groomed trails we recommend starting from the Tie City trailhead. We’re not sure how snow accumulates in this area or how Randy, the amazing groomer keeps snow on these trails sometimes. Nonetheless, this is the most popular place to cross-country ski near Laramie and your best bet for groomed trails. Trails are groomed often and you can check the grooming report here. The Medicine Bow Nordic Association publishes a great map of these trails too, you can check it out here.
- If you’re looking to get out of the wind quicker and don’t mind going off the groomed trails one of our favorite places to start skiing from is the Happy Jack trailhead. If you don’t feel like skiing you can always zip down the old ski hill on a sled or watch snowboarders wipe out when they try to tackle gnarly homemade jumps.
- Chimney Park is my favorite place to teach beginners how to ski. Often it is groomed by the Forest Service and occasionally you can even skate ski there. The trails are nice, gentle, and surprisingly fast. It is a little bit longer of a drive to get to Chimney Park than Tie City or Happy Jack but so worth it to get out of the wind (sometimes).
- The Medicine Bow Rail Trail is awesome if you’re looking to get out on untouched and ungroomed trails with your touring or backcountry skis. Nobody ski’s there but they should. It’s Laramie’s best kept secret when it comes to nordic skiing. We like to start from the Woods Creek trailhead.
- The Green Rock trailhead is a good place for a few different ski adventures. You can ski along the trail network there or if you’re looking for a fun adventure, park a car Green Rock, park another car at the bottom of Barber Lake Road and ski from Green Rock down Barber Lake road. Or you can park at Barber Lake Road and ski up the road and then down. Either way, this is a nice little ski that’s super fun (and one of our favorite places for full moon skiing). Of course Barber Lake Road isn’t groomed but it’s popular with skiers so unless you get first tracks after a storm you shouldn’t have to break your own.
- Another fun ski trek, especially with kiddos is up Sand Lake Road. We like to park at the Little Laramie trailhead, take the trail that heads off on the left hand side of the parking lot and link up with the road. It’s not groomed but every once in a while you can find a snowmobile track to follow.
Where to ‘Gear Up’:
Our favorite local outdoor shop is Cross-Country Connection and it’s the best place in town to go to purchase or rent cross-country ski equipment. We love that you can rent kid’s ski’s for the season here too. You can also pick up anything you need to keep your ski’s waxed and finely tuned as well as a wide assortment of things like water bottle holders, day packs, coats, ski pants, hats and gloves. If you’re a Laramie local and you don’t feel like paying shipping Cross-Country Connection sells our Pole Mountain Trail Deck as well.
If you’re affiliated with the University of Wyoming you can rent a wide assortment of ski’s from the Outdoor Rec program. We’ve never rented ski’s here so we can’t vouch for their quality but it’s worth checking out if you’re a UW student.
We get a lot of Cheyenne and Fort Collins based skiers on our trails. That’s awesome and we welcome you!
If you’re a Fort Collins skier looking to ski in southeastern Wyoming we’ve learned that the Outdoor Rec program at Colorado State University in Fort Collins doesn’t rent cross-country skis (but they do rent snowshoes).
If you’re a Cheyenne skier and looking to make the little bitty drive over the hill FE Warren Air Force Base also offers a wide variety of ski rentals if you’re in the military. Once again we can’t vouch for the quality of equipment but the prices are reasonable so if you’re stationed at FE Warren give it a shot, they even rent cross-country skis for the entire season.
Where to ‘Fuel Up’:
Unless you’re headed from Laramie to Tie City or Happy Jack for a quick hour or two long ski session you’re going to need some serious fuel because from Laramie you’ll have about an hour drive on either end of your ski trip.
We usually eat a good breakfast at home, pack a lot of snacks, and brew our coffee or seep our tea at home.
But if you’re looking for a tasy warm meal or delicious hot drink after your ski we recommend these two places.
- The cafe in the historic Mountain View Hotel in Centennial is our favorite stop either on our way up to the Snowies to refill our mugs or on our way down to refill our mugs again or grab a bite of lunch. Cat and Mike, the owners of the place are awesome and Mike might even dance with you. The food is delicious and affordable and service is outstanding. We’ve tried every restaurant in Centennial and this is our new favorite, (try the black bean wrap). You can also pick up a Trail Deck here too. Coffee and trail maps it’s a total win!
— Rebecca Walsh (@RebeccasTrails) December 20, 2014
- The Woods Landing Restaurant just down the hill from the Chimney Park trail system and another great place to pick up lunch. This rustic old building is quaint and full of Old West charm. The food isn’t too shabby after a morning of skiing either. We’ve eaten here several times, the most memorable being late at night after trying to full moon ski in a blizzard.
Who to Look For on the Trails:
When my Dad went to law school at the University of Wyoming in the late 1970’s he remembers the UW ski team’s Norwegian roster and that this town was hit hard by the cross-country ski bug. Times have changed but you’ll still find some incredible skiers out on the trails.
Keep your eyes peeled for the Laramie Junior High Ski Team and the Laramie High School Ski Teams training hard and of course the University of Wyoming Ski Team. They pretty much dominate things around here and sometimes even compete internationally. There’s another new team, WHAT, yep, Wyoming High Altitude Training which is focused on helping junior ski racers qualify for junior nationals. This is a team we can get behind.
If you’re lucky you might catch a rare glimpse of a member of the Wyoming National Guard’s biathlon team out on the trails. I coach this crazy crew so be sure to stop and say ‘hi’ if you see us out there. All that’s missing in Laramie is a robust biathlon program and biathlon range, but don’t worry, as a biathlete and biathlon coach it’s on my ‘to do’ list.
Where to Take Cross-Country Ski Lessons:
With the absence of a local bonafide Nordic ski resort comes the absence of ski instructors. But, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t former world class caliber level skiers to learn from on our trails and coaches who love their job and their athletes and skiing, of course.
We’ve learned that the junior high and high school programs are great for young skiers, even those without any previous ski or racing experience are welcome and encouraged to join. Additionally, the Medicine Bow Nordic Association offers several options for ski lessons for both adults and children. We’ll be helping out with their Wee Ski and Kids Ski program this winter.
Unfortunately, their Wee Ski program doesn’t start until age 5. I’m a firm believer in getting kids onto cross-country ski’s as soon as they can walk. If you have a toddler or preschooler and are looking to teach them how to ski check out this blog post or shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we can take our little ones skiing together.
If you’re an adult looking to ski and affiliated with UW, the University of Wyoming Outdoor Rec program also offers several classes and ski clinics throughout the year.
If you’re looking for a virtual ski lesson, we have an entire blog series with everything you need to know about how to get started in the awesome sport of cross-country skiing. Check it out here.
If you just want to get out we love to ski with Just Trails fans too!
Where to Find More Information:
- The Medicine Bow Ski Forum posts an occasional ski/snow report, we’re not sure who runs this site but we’d love to join forces with whoever it is. If that’s you leave a comment below.
- The Medicine Bow Nordic Association posts their grooming information for the Tie City/Happy Jack trail network here.
- Amber Travsky authors a website with local snow conditions here and Amber if you’re out there we’d love to join forces with you too!
- Follow the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests on twitter to stay informed about things like trail and road closures and grooming.
- Every once in a while our friend Roger writes about cross-country skiing near Laramie too.
You may have noticed that throughout this post we kept using the hashtag #xcskilaramie.
We want to get more cross-country skiers out on our trails and enjoying the awesome sport of nordic skiing. If you’re out there skiing post a photo onto your personal facebook, instagram or twitter account using the hashtag #xcskilaramie or give a quick update on the trail conditions. When we see that hashtag pop up we’ll share your photo on our social media channels and make you famous. Let’s show some ski domination here and put Laramie Wyoming on the map as a nordic ski destination.
Have you cross-country skied near Laramie, Wyoming? Where do you like to ski, eat, and shop? Did we leave out the website of a local skier that we should be following or more information about things like rentals and lessons? Leave a comment below.