Snow Sports

Get Your Winter Sports Fix with Cross Country Skiing or Snowshoeing

By John Coon

December 2, 2014

World-class skiing has always been a part of Utah’s identity. But more and more people are finding out that downhill is not the only way to go on Utah’s powdery snow. Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are growing in popularity as a fun, lower-cost alternative to hitting the slopes.

Cross Country Skiing

Cross country skiing experienced a boom in Utah after the 2002 Winter Olympics. Traditional ski resorts have added more cross country trails in recent years to cater to that segment of skiing enthusiasts.

Things to Know

  • Have your skis properly tuned and, if they are the waxable kind, waxed for the conditions.
  • If somebody wants to pass you (or vice versa), proper etiquette suggests the passer calls out “track” and the slower skier should get out of the tracks, step aside and let the faster skier pass.
  • If you fall and create a crater in the snow, it is courteous to smooth it out so the next one to come along the trail doesn’t fall in your hole.

Trails to Try

  • Alpine Loop (Highway 92). The road is not plowed during the winter, nor is it maintained or groomed. It has no services, but offers a nice, beautiful in-the-trees experience for a cross country skier.
  • Big Cottonwood Canyon. The campgrounds, such as The Spruces area about 10 miles up the canyon, include lots of rolling countryside ideal for cross country skiing.


Snowshoeing can be done on many of the same groomed trails used for cross country skiing. Many hiking trails also double as snowshoe trails in the winter, although it is important to get an updated weather report before going into those areas to avoid the danger of avalanches.

Things to Know

  • Don’t be intimidated. Snowshoeing gives increased control in winter conditions. Lessons or multiple days on the trail are not required, which makes snowshoeing an easy sport for children to learn.
  • During a moderate snowshoe workout, a 150-pound person can burn up to 680 calories.
  • Snowshoes come in a variety of sizes. Your weight determines the amount of floatation you need in a showshoe, as well as your size.

Trails to Try

  • Little Cottonwood Canyon. This trail starts just behind the electronic sign at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. It is a gradual climb that parallels the road and Little Cottonwood Creek. Ice formations along this trail should be fantastic.
  • Scott’s Pass. The trailhead starts at the gated end of the Guardsman’s Pass road just before Brighton Ski Resort. You’ll have to share the first part of the journey as this is also a popular snowmobile area.

Safety First

  • A good safety kit should include an avalanche beacon, a shovel and first aid supplies.
  • Wear extra layers of clothing to keep from succumbing to hypothermia if you get stranded in one spot for several hours.
  • Pack enough food and water to last for an entire day.
  • Cross country skiing lessons are recommended for beginning skiers.

Trail Etiquette

  • Treat the environment with respect. Tread lightly and pack out what you pack in.
  • Respect private property and other off-limits areas.
  • Share the trails with others.
  • Avoid snowshoeing on cross country ski tracks.
  • Obey all watershed regulations.

Gear Checklist

  • Sunscreen
  • Compass/map/GPS
  • Cell phone
  • First-aid kit
  • Duct tape for binding mishaps
  • Headlamp with batteries
  • Matches/lighter
  • Pocketknife 


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