The mountains surrounding Lake Tahoe, California are known for their world-class downhill ski resorts, but the area is also a mecca for cross-country skiers. Just minutes from many Lake Tahoe vacation rentals are stunning views and phenomenal areas to partake in winter sports. You can admire the landscape as you soar through the forests and on perfectly groomed trails. Whether you’re completely new to the sport or want an intense challenge, the local peaks and valleys have you covered. During your vacation, check out these five ski areas for excellent snow conditions and varying terrain.

1. Resort at Squaw Creek

Glide down more than 11 miles of groomed trails at the Resort at Squaw Creek, which is located near the popular Squaw Valley ski area. Here, the easy Lake Placid, Grenoble, and Val d’Isere trails meander through a meadow, offering spectacular views and leisurely speeds. If you’re looking for a more challenging route, head into the hills on the Calgary and St. Moritz trails, or go all out with steep climbs on the difficult Troll-Stigen. Don’t worry if you didn’t pack your skis; the Nordic Center offers gear rentals and lessons. When you’re done skiing, the resort also offers ice skating on a private rink and three heated swimming pools to soothe your muscles.

2. Royal Gorge

For travelers staying in vacation rentals near the Sugar Bowl or Boreal Mountain ski resorts, Royal Gorge is the perfect location for cross-country skiing. The massive area features eight different trail systems and covers more than 6,000 acres, so you can ski for days without covering the same ground. Warm up with a few laps around the easy Small Change loop. Then, head out into the beautiful Van Norden Meadow for flat trails with views of the mountains and Lake Van Norden. Hop on the intermediate Snow Mountain trail and ski around Palisades Peak, and head back to the Summit Station chalet via the challenging Castle Pass trail. When you’re ready for a climb and excellent views, enjoy the exhilarating skating up Wagon Trail to the Horseshoe warming hut on Devils Peak. For beginners, Royal Gorge offers daily lessons with professional instructors.

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3. Tahoe XC

When it comes to high-altitude cross-country skiing and lake views, it’s hard to beat Tahoe XC. This system, which is popular with locals, features more than 40 miles of regularly groomed terrain. With 21 trails, it’s easy to find an option for skiers of all levels. If you’re confident, the Lakeview trail is a must; after a steep climb, you’re rewarded with a panoramic vista of Lake Tahoe and the snow-covered hills. An easier option is the dog-friendly Special Green trail, which rolls gently through the forest. For fun twists and turns, check out the steep Special Gold trail. Three warming huts next to the trails make it easy to escape the cold. Tahoe XC opens as soon as there’s an adequate snowfall, usually in early December, and remains open until mid-April. The rental shop offers both classic and skate skis; if you’re new to skiing, get a great deal on a lesson, which includes equipment rental and a daily trail pass.

4. Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center

Enjoy breathtaking views and fun climbs at the Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center, which sits just west of the Nevada border and a few miles north of Donner Memorial State Park. Here, wide, groomed trails run along mountain ridges and over saddles, providing 360-degree visibility of the surrounding hills and lakes. Start your visit at the Alder Creek Adventure Center, where you can rent gear and fuel up with an organic snack. Then, set out to explore more than 62 miles of trails. Take Snowshow and Andromeda on a steady uphill to the Drifter Hut at 7,656 feet for some of the best photo opportunities in the area. If you want to take it easy, try the lovely Cowboy Camp or Broken Spoke trails. For wild twists and turns, it’s hard to beat Show Down. Four different warming huts create convenient rest points, and lessons are available from the Alder Creek Adventure Center.

5. Kirkwood Cross Country and Snowshoe Center

With more than 49 miles of trails, the Kirkwood Cross Country and Snowshoe Center is a paradise for skate skiing, classic skiing, and snowshoeing. Each of the center’s three trail systems are interconnected, so you can ski for a full day without returning to a trailhead. More than 60 percent of the terrain is geared toward intermediate-level skiers, so it’s a great choice if you’re looking for a manageable challenge. If you need to warm up gently, start on the easy Meadow Trail or Dog and Pony Trail near the main trailhead near the Kirkwood Inn. Across Caples Lake, the Schneider Trailhead grants access to intermediate routes such as Rambler and the hilly White Pine loop. For a true challenge, hop on the expert-level Agony or Ecstasy trails. If you’re bringing little ones, the Kiddy Kilometer is a fun loop bordered by entertaining animal cutouts. The onsite ski school offers a variety of packages, so you can learn the basics or work on specific skills such as stopping and turning.

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