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Five great spots for cross-country skiing

  • Story Highlights
  • Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area allows dogs on some trails
  • Descendants of Maria von Trapp own a lodge in Vermont
  • A lodge in Ontario offers skiers an escape into the wilderness
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By John D. Sutter
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(CNN) -- Cross-country skiing is less speedy -- and therefore less intimidating -- than its steep-sloped cousin, downhill skiing. It also burns more calories, as skiers glide along snowy trails and skate up inclines.

Wisconsin's Telemark Resort offers trail passes that are cheaper than most: $11 per day.

Trail passes at Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area are $21 for adults -- but ask about specials.

So, for those of you trying to stay true to your 2009 resolutions, the sport may be the perfect way to get more exercise and take in a dose of nature in the process.

CNN asked Ron Bergin, publisher of Cross Country Skier magazine, to recommend five places to hit the horizontal slopes.

Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area, Lake Tahoe, California

The area around Lake Tahoe, which straddles the border between California and Nevada, is ripe with cross-country skiing opportunities.

So much so, said Kevin Murnane, general manager of the Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area, that "you can spend a whole week here and ski at a different area every day."

Bergin said the lakeside scenery is top-notch, as is the skier culture. You likely will find buddies who will share trail stories and a drink after a long day on the trails.

Murnane's ski area allows dogs on some trails and offers free lessons to help learners adjust to the balance-intensive sport.

Trail passes at Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area are $21 for adults, but ask about specials. On Tuesdays, passes run $12. Groups and early-morning skiers also get a discount.

Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe, Vermont

Owned by descendants of Maria von Trapp -- yes, that Trapp family, whose life inspired "The Sound of Music" -- the Trapp Family Lodge brings a little piece of Austria's lively hills to the mountains of Vermont.

Johannes von Trapp, the real Maria's youngest son, helped open the lodge in 1968. The family had been in the lodging business before the musical film starring Julie Andrews debuted in 1965.

For Bergin, the history itself is a draw. So is the fact that the luxury lodge, which still pulls off a quaint charm, is dedicated to cross-country skiing.

"It's beautiful. It backs up to the mountains and you've got a great view of a lot of trails," Bergin said.

The lodge offers a range of promotions, from wine-and-dine packages to those geared toward "winter wellness."

The lodge offers rooms and chalets ranging from $275 to $475 per night. Go for the two-night package and you'll get ski rentals, breakfast, dinner and lodging for both days for $500 per person.

Methow Valley, Winthrop, Washington

Northeast of Seattle in the Cascade Mountains, nearly 125 miles of ski trails connect the villages of Methow Valley. It's almost as if cross-country skiing becomes a form of transportation in and around the area, Bergin said.

While the linear path is "not a typical layout" compared to most cross-country loops, Bergin said the trails offer a sense of adventure and exploration.

At one end, you'll find The Sun Mountain Lodge, which is the area's luxurious gem. But the valley also has hangouts for the Bohemian traveler: The Old Schoolhouse Brewery sells $4 pints in a smart red building and the local food cooperative offers organic smoothies and sandwiches.

Trail passes run $20 for adults and $10 for teens ages 13 to 17.

Stokely Creek Lodge, Goulais River, Ontario, Canada

Located in Ontario, Canada, north of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, this remote lodge gives skiers a serene escape from the bustle of everyday life.

"You ski away from the lodge and immediately you feel like you're out in the wilderness," Bergin said. "All of a sudden, you're just transported from the day-to-day."

The natural scenery -- more than 12 square miles of it -- is varied and always exciting, he said. Around some curves, skiers will find a cold creek. Other areas are known for hills or lakes that seem like they're in the middle of nowhere.

The lodge offers $15 day passes for groups of ten or more; kids 18 and younger pay $10 and adult passes are $18. For the full treatment, though, two adults can stay the night at rates ranging from $98 to $170. That includes two ski passes and three meals, which, according to lodge manager Jamie Martin, are almost as big a hit as the skiing. The kitchen serves highbrow treats like filet mignon and Cornish hen, he said.

Cable Area, Cable, Wisconsin

Northern Wisconsin is proof that you don't need huge mountains for good skiing.

The Cable Area -- which includes the towns of Cable, Drummond, Namakagon and Grand View -- boasts one of the world's biggest cross-country ski races and is regarded by some as the birthplace for the sport in North America, Bergin said.

Bergin, who lives in the area, called the Cable Area the "Mecca" for cross-country skiing in the region.

"Within the radius of an hour's drive, you could probably find 30 or 40 trail systems of all sizes and shapes," he said. "There's quite a skiing culture."

The Telemark Resort offers trail passes that are cheaper than most: $11 per day. Lodging at the resort ranges from $79 for a room in the lodge to $275 for a 1,000-square-foot condo, said Darrell Buchmann, the resort's general manager.

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