While the rest of the country is only dreaming of a white Christmas, the world's elite cross-country skiers know where to find prime early-season conditions—Fairbanks, AK. The interior Alaska community is known among competitive cross-country skiers for what is widely recognized as the best early-season snow in the country. By November, conditions are typically ideal for gliding across an expansive network of groomed trails in the area.
One of the best cross-country ski areas in Fairbanks is Birch Hill Recreation Area (co.fairbanks.ak.us/parksandrecreation/birchhill), which is managed by the Fairbanks North Star Borough. Birch Hill recently underwent a major renovation to its facilities through a federal grant, and now features a large heated ski center for changing clothes and warming up, as well as more than 2,400 square feet of meeting space. The center is located in a large stadium area surrounded by 20 miles of lighted ski trails that range from beginner/easy to challenging, from green to blue to black. The trails are easy to follow and are groomed regularly. Clients can rent cross-country skis at a couple of different local sporting goods stores for about $10-$15 per day. After they've burned off some calories, they can spend the evening relaxing at a local lodge watching as the northern lights dance overhead.