cross country skiing and snowshoeing in Alaska

The 10 km Winner Creek trail leaves from the Alyeska Ski Area's base and wanders through woods, across meadows and up and down gentle hills. The trail is not groomed, and locals recommend it for snowshoeing. Groomed and tracked trails are in the nearby Moose Meadow area—locals will point you there. Rental equipment is available at the Alyeska Prince Hotel's rental shop. In spring, you need to wait late enough into the morning for the ice cover to melt. Lessons are available but since they're not regularly scheduled, make advance reservations with the ski school by calling 907-754-2280.

If you are a serious cross-country enthusiast, Anchorage is the place to go. About 120 km of groomed cross-country trails are in Kincaid, Russian Jack and Far North Bicentennial parks. Kincaid Park is the best developed, with more than 1,500 acres covered by trails for all abilities. The Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage (907-561-0949; www.anchoragenordicski.com; grooming report, 907-248-6667) maintains the trails, all supported by donations and volunteer labor (Hint: If you use the trails, please make a donation.). NSAA puts out a great map of the trails, printed on a water-resistant paper. Anchorage Visitor's Bureau offers a toll free phone number at 800-478-1255.

Hillside, Chester Creek and Tony Knowles Coastal Trail are also recommended. The gas line near Hilltop is good for beginners, Skijoring is popular for skiers to go out with their dogs. the Eagle River Nature Center has a network of snowshoe trails and the Powerline Trail is multi-use that shares with snowmobilers. There's great vistas of Mount Susitna, Mount McKinley and Cook Inlet. The Ski Train is highly recommended for getting into the backcountry treks. Check www.anchorage.net for additional details.

Matanaska-Susitna Borough Trails in Palmer, AK (907-745-9690) offers 25 km of groomed trails that are shared with snowmobilers and dogs. These trails are on old logging roads that were on moraine left by retreating glaciers and there are 3 km of lighted trails for night skiing. Hatcher Pass Lodge (907-745-5897) is also in Palmer, AK.

Eaglecrest Ski Area in Juneau, AK (907-586-5284, www.juneau.org/eaglecrest) offers trails groomed for classic and skate skiing.