Cross-country trails offer fun on flat ground for the family

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Downhill skiing might get more attention, but cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are becoming increasingly popular with families, even those with young children, on winter holidays.

At Smugglers' Notch in Vermont, for example, families can learn cross-country skiing together through Mom & Me and Dad & Me private lessons or they can participate in a guided snowshoe trek suitable for children as young as age 3.

Some treks include hot cider breaks, fireworks and nature talks.

Roger Lohr, the editor of XCSkiResorts.com, suggests that families consider renting a pulk, a sled that attaches to a cross-country skier like a belt. Little kids can sit in the pulk and get pulled along.

"Cross-country skiing is something you can do as a group," Lohr said. "Older kids can ski ahead, but the new equipment allows families to bring even really young children along."

According to Lohr, top destinations for families interested in cross-country skiing or snowshoeing include:

" Lapland Lake Ski & Vacation Center:  Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice-skating, tubing, sledding and kicksledding are among the activities at this resort in Northville, N.Y. Accommodations are in cottages with full kitchens.

" Lone Mountain Ranch: At this resort in Big Sky, Mont., kids can take half-day and full-day ski lessons and enjoy snowshoeing, snow tubing, scavenger hunting and ice cream socials. Guests stay in log cabins or the Ridgetop Lodge.

" Maplelag Resort: There are no phones or TVs here, but families can top off a day of cross-country skiing with a family-style dinner, by participating in a talent show or by attending Saturday-night dances. Maplelag is in Callaway, Minn.

" Montecito-Sequoia Lodge: A supervised children's program has snow tubing, cross-country skiing, igloo building and nature hikes to examine animal tracks at this resort in California's Kings Canyon National Park.

Families can also take in the giant trees for which Sequoia National Park and Monument is famous. Dancing, karaoke and bingo are offered nightly.

" Palmquist's Farm: Kids who don't want to spend the day on the extensive network of cross-country trails can make friends with the animals at this 800-acre working ranch in Brantwood, Wis., or take a sleigh ride pulled by a team of Belgian horses.

Accommodations are in cabins and a lodge, and activities include sledding and ice skating on a pond.

" Trapp Family Lodge: Owned by the von Trapp family of "The Sound of Music" fame, the 116-room property in Stowe, Vt., features a fitness center, an indoor pool and a supervised Mountain Kids program.

" Vista Verde Ranch: Activities at this resort in Steamboat Springs, Colo., include guided cross-country skiing in the backcountry and on groomed trails; guided horseback riding; dog sledding; cooking classes; and evening entertainment. Accommodations are in a lodge or in one-, two- and three-bedroom cabins.

To contact reporter Felicity Long, send e-mail to [email protected].

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