Discover spectacularly varied terrain and a ski season that frequently stretches out over six months.
Winters on the eastern slopes of the North Cascades have a reputation for being long, cold and dependably snowy. So it doesn’t come as a big surprise that local history abounds with stories of horse-drawn ski tows, cowboys feeding their stock from sleighs, miners snowshoeing into the backcountry on barrel staves, and local ranchers dragging bed springs behind their snowmobiles to create cross-country ski trails. Less well known is the fact that those first crude attempts at creating cross-country ski trails has more recently made Okanogan Country a world-class destination for skiers.
Today, the 120+ miles of interconnected and meticulously groomed ski trails managed by Methow Trails qualifies as one of the largest cross-country ski networks in North America. With its spectacularly varied terrain, a ski season that frequently stretches out over six months, and an agenda of competitive events that attracts elite racers from across the continent it is not surprising that a number of Olympic-level athletes have found a home in the upper reaches of the Methow.
Skaters, skiers and dogs
For those of you pondering getting out on the trails, bear in mind that this is not Nordic skiing the way you might remember it. The scratchy layers of polyester, duck-bill leather ski boots, and unwieldy wooden skis of the past are, for the most part, long gone.
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Opportunities for touring the woods on your own still abound, but those planning to take advantage of the groomed trails will find the experience much changed. The clothing is comfortable, warm and efficient; the skis are lightweight and responsive; and with a little bit of training and insight, you might just find yourself stepping out of the striding lanes and onto the skating platform.
Ski skating has found huge popularity over the last two decades, largely due to the fact that it involves a fast, fluid, continuous gliding motion. While most groomed trails include one or two lanes for “classic” technique, they also provide a flat platform for the skaters. Or what aficionados refer to as “skiing outside of the lines.” Taking a completely different approach to the ski experience, not surprisingly, turns out to be a pretty common way of doing things in Okanogan Country.
Take, for example, those same trails. On almost any given day you might see parents pulling their infants in specially designed “pulks,” laughing herds of school children, Olympians, backcountry tourers huffing their way uphill in search of unmarked powder or, depending on the trail’s designation, dogs and fat-bikers.
Methow trails – fat bikes and backcountry cabins
Once relegated to a narrow user group of die-hard enthusiasts, the balloon-tired two-wheelers called “fat bikes” have become hugely popular over the last few years. And for good reason. Requiring almost no entry-level technique beyond the basic skills required to ride any bike, these technological marvels are stable, fun to ride, and allow users to glide along the packed surface of designated ski trails with remarkable ease. Aficionados point to the fact that not only can you ride the bike around town sipping cocoa and nibbling pastries, but once you are adequately caffeinated you can roll right out onto the fat-bike trails that connect into town.
Visitors to the Methow looking to combine their skiing with a more complete adventure may also wish to consider booking one of the five backcountry cabins maintained by Rendezvous Huts. These fully equipped shelters sit trailside and provide simple communal dining, sleeping and living arrangements complete with wood stoves and propane lights. You’ll want to bring your own food, clothes, sleeping bags, books and beverages, but don’t fear the gear – baggage shuttles can be arranged through the concessionaire. It’s a good idea to book your reservations well in advance.
Fishing, hunting, hiking, biking, horseback riding – we could go on all day. You will find wide-open spaces teeming with wildlife, spectacular scenery and family fun. Let us help you plan your best family vacation ever with our Online Travel Planner.