Skiing at Tennessee Pass Nordic Center Leadville Colorado
Family ski day at the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center. Photo by Tim Gormley Jr.

Nordic and Cross-Country Skiing in Leadville

With typically the longest season in Colorado and more than 50 miles of free, groomed trails, the Leadville and Lake County area features an endless array and variety of Nordic and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities. Ranging from fee-based professionally operated and maintained tracks to no-cost raw back-country trails that stretch into the wilderness, there are enough trails to keep you busy for days on end. A new winter trails map is available at the Visitor Center at 809 Harrison Avenue and other area businesses.

Aside from the hundreds of square miles of ski touring offered in the San Isabel National Forest and Mt. Massive Wilderness, there are several distinct areas with groomed tracks for Nordic enthusiasts to experience in Leadville and Twin Lakes:

Colorado Mountain College – this often-groomed trail system climbs up, down and all around the woods on the CMC-Leadville campus. It is a “living laboratory” for students in the school’s Ski Area Operations program, and the multiple loops afford skiers sheltered trails with many fun turns and twists. CMC’s trails can be used to link with the southern end of the Mineral Belt Trail. Access is from the southeast end of the main CMC parking lot. (for intermediate to expert skiers)

Mineral Belt Trail – a donations-accepted trail that doubles as a paved bike trail in summer, this frequently groomed historic route climbs eastward out of the downtown area, affording magnificent views of the Sawatch Range and up-close looks at historical sites along its 11.6-mile length. Major access points, including parking areas, are located near the eastern ends of 12th Street, 5th Street and the Highway 24 / CMC Road junction near the Dutch Henry Sledding Hill. Minor access points are found everywhere in between. There are three shelters on the trail where you can take a break. (for beginners and intermediate skiers)

Mt. Massive Golf Course & Nordic Area – along with awesome scenery in the Arkansas River Valley, this donations-accepted, frequently groomed cross-country ski trail system is located just three miles west of town near Turquoise Lake. It features loops ranging from a half  kilometer to 12 kilometers that beckon to beginners, families and athletes alike wanting to classic-style or skate-ski on flat, wide trails that wind gently in and out of forested areas and along the open golf course fairways. Rental equipment available; call 719-486-6670 to reserve. Dog-friendly; please clean up after your pet. (for beginners and intermediate skiers)

Tennessee Pass Nordic CenterTennessee Pass Nordic Center – a fee-based, highly maintained and regularly groomed trail system features challenging elevation changes in forested trail areas, along with easier, wide-open segments in the meadow near its namesake pass. Rentals and lessons available. Located at Ski Cooper, 10 minutes up Hwy 24 from town. Dog-friendly; please clean up after your pet. (for intermediate and expert skiers)

Turquoise Lake – for the explorer in all of us, this shared-use trail is groomed Mondays and Fridays by the High Riders Snowmobile Club, and can be accessed from either the parking lot at Leadville Junction three miles west of town off County Road 9, or the south portal road to Turquoise Lake off County Road 4, which is also known as Turquoise Lake Road. (Due to its length and sustained climbs, this trail is recommended for expert skiers; please bring food, water and extra clothing.)

The east side of Leadville is quickly becoming another Nordic hotspot, with trails groomed every Wednesday by the High Riders Snowmobile Club. Access via 5th or 7th Streets. (for expert skiers)

For classic cross-country skiing and snowshoeing:

Twin Lakes - access the Colorado Trail for classic cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at Twin Lakes, one of the most scenic spots in all of Colorado. Parking is available at the South Elbert Trailhead off of County Road 24.

Leadville Fish Hatchery - located south of Leadville on Highway 300, the Fish Hatchery offers well-marked trails for classic cross-country skiing and snowshoeing that are sheltered in the trees, with lots of ups and downs and beautiful scenery.

Dogs are welcomed on all of these trails as long as they are leashed. As with any back-country or high-elevation recreation, please plan ahead and follow basic safety precautions. Do not go out alone. Make sure someone knows where your group is headed and when you expect to return. The weather changes rapidly and frequently, so check the forecast often. Check the guidelines at the bottom of our hiking page for more information.

Leadville Nordic offers maps and grooming reports on their website, as well as information about events. There are several annual competitions in the area, including the the Mt. Massive Biathlon in February, the Harrison Knockout Nordic Sprints and the Paintball Biathlon during the ski joring weekend the first full weekend in March, a Winter Triathlon and the Leadville Loppet. Check the calendar for upcoming events.