Nordic, or cross-country, skiing is an easy way to get outdoors for some exercise and fun during the winter.
While Red Lodge and Yellowstone National Park offer a variety of groomed and backcountry trails for a range of skiing ability, Billings has some parks that provide quick access for shorter adventures. None of Billings' parks have groomed trails for cross-country skiing, however.
So whether you love Nordic skiing and are hungry for every opportunity to strap in, or you're interested in trying the sport out on a quick afternoon, these nearby trails are worth checking out.
1. Norm's Island
Norm Schoenthal Island, along the Yellowstone River, is a popular park for mixed uses, including Nordic skiing, especially right after a snow fall, said Paul Reinhardt, a recreation specialist with the City of Billings’ Parks and Recreation Department.
The island park is formed by an oxbow side channel of the Yellowstone River. There are more than two miles of trails. The mixed uses include dog walkers, hikers, bikers and skiers.
Norm Schoenthal Island: How to get there
2. Riverfront Park
Located along the Yellowstone River, Riverfront, with Lake Josephine, is a natural park with picnic tables and a trail system that offers numerous paths for skiing.
Riverfront Park is Billings’ largest river park, and dogs are allowed at the park.
The park encompasses 347 acres along the Yellowstone River at the south end of Billings. The 24-acre lake was named for a steamboat that reached Billings in 1875, the farthest point upstream that any boat had reached from the mouth of the Yellowstone River. 8001 South Billings Blvd.
Riverfront Park: How to get there
3. Pioneer Park
Near downtown, Pioneer Park is a large, 32-acre developed park. With its hills and greenspace, Pioneer is popular for tubing and sledding.
But after a snowstorm, Pioneer also provides a central location to enjoy the powder in Nordic style.
Pioneer Park: How to get there
4. Two Moon Park
Two Moon is a large, mostly undeveloped natural park along the Yellowstone River. A grand loop trail runs around the park, but it is intertwined with numerous other paths and trails.
Ice at Two Moon Park
Two Moon Park borders the Yellowstone River on the south and a steep, forested bluff to the north. On the downstream end of the park a weeping wall attracts many birds, and in the winter the springs that seep through the sandstone can freeze into massive icicles. The park was named for the Northern Cheyenne chief who fought at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, according to the Yellowstone River Parks Association.
Two Moon Park: How to get there
5. Golf courses
Some of Billings’ golf courses allow cross-country skiers in the wintertime, but it’s important to call ahead to make sure it’s OK to use the grounds.
6. Red Lodge Nordic Center
For skiers open to a longer trip, the
Red Lodge Nordic Center offers 15,000 kilometers of groomed, dedicated cross-country trails west of Red Lodge. The center asks skiers for a $5 donation when they use the area.
Red Lodge Nordic Center
The center offers clinics throughout the winter, but no pets, snowshoes, or sledding are allowed. There also are no services at the center other than an outhouse, so come prepared with water and food.
Red Lodge Nordic Center: How to get there
7. Yellowstone National Park
Most wintertime visitors choose to tour Yellowstone by snowcoach or snowmobile. But there's really no better way to become immersed in the park than with a pair of skis. There are some easy outings, such as the trails around the Upper Geyser Basin. Then there are the tougher ones, including arduous trails to the Continental Divide.
Yellowstone National Park
The National Park Service
offers some advice on its website to skiers in the park:
before you leave on any trip and get specific information on conditions. Some park areas could be closed to skiing or snowshoeing to protect wildlife.
Plan your time generously. Include allowances for limited daylight, snow conditions, temperature extremes, and the number of people in the group, their experience and physical condition. Check out our maps and descriptions of ski trails in Yellowstone. Read the daily ski trail status (courtesy of Yellowstone Park Lodges) A permit is required for all overnight backcountry trips.