SEATTLE — When winter slithers into Seattle, bringing dank darkness, it's easy to hide in the house and yearn for spring.
Instead, head for the snow and go cross-country skiing.
Within about a half-day's drive of Seattle are world-class areas for nordic skiing that also offer close-to or on-the-trails lodging.
Compared with downhill skiing, which can shred knees and wallets, a cross-country getaway is a budget-friendly and healthful way to go.
Here's a look at some destinations (most hope to open around Thanksgiving) in Washington and British Columbia for a skinny-skis weekend.
—Whistler Olympic Park
The place: Whistler is best-known as the mega-downhill area in southwest British Columbia. But 14 miles south of the ski resort you'll find days' worth of groomed cross-country trails winding through a wilderness valley ringed by snow-draped peaks.
What's there: Whistler Olympic Park was developed for the 2010 Winter Olympics for nordic skiing, ski-jumping and more. Recreational skiers can follow in the tracks of Olympic greats on 56 kilometers (about 35 miles) of trails, groomed for classic (skiing in parallel tracks) and skate skiing (gliding in a V-shape).
Beginners will be happy on flat trails in meadows; more advanced skiers can surge up and down steep, thickly wooded hills. Weekends are getting busier as skiers embrace the new area, but on a weekday last spring with perfect snow and bright sun there were only a few skiers, counting their blessings.
Where to stay: There's no lodging within Whistler Olympic Park, but Whistler Village has dozens of hotels and condos with rates from around Cnd. $145 a night (Canadian and U.S. dollars are roughly equal) or double or triple that for luxury lodging. See http://www.whistlerblackcomb.com or http://www.tourismwhistler.com.
On a budget? Hostelling International's Whistler hostel charges about $35 per person for a shared room.
Ready to splurge? Callaghan Country Lodge is a ski-in lodge near Whistler Olympic Park. It's an 8-mile ski to the lodge, an island of comfort in the wilderness surrounded by dozens of miles of groomed nordic trails and endless backcountry skiing. Rates start around Cdn. $169 per person per night and include meals and a trail ticket plus snowmobile transport of luggage. http://www.callaghancountry.com.
More info, fee: A Whistler Olympic Park day pass is Cdn. $22 with discounts for youths and families. The base area has a spiffy big-windowed lodge with a cafe, ski rentals and shop. http://www.whistlerolympicpark.com
P.S. Next to Whistler Village is Lost Lake Park with 32 kilometers (almost 20 miles) of cross-country trails. Ski for an hour or all day, although early-season snow often isn't great since the village is about 2,200 feet elevation (versus about 2,700 feet and up at Whistler Olympic Park). http://www.whistler.com/nordic/lost(underscore)lake/
—Lake Wenatchee State Park
The place: For a smaller-scale, closer-to-home getaway, drive over the Cascades and through the woods to central Washington's Lake Wenatchee State Park near Leavenworth.
What's there: Swarming with campers and swimmers in summer, the park's lakeside trails turn into about 18 kilometers (about 11 miles) of winding cross-country ski trails in winter, part of the state's Sno-Park program for winter recreation. It's a family-friendly place of narrow, gentle trails, groomed mostly for classic skiing. For more snowplay there's a popular sledding hill and snowshoe routes.
For more challenging terrain, ski on over to the adjoining Nason Ridge with 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) of trails on rolling (and sometimes steep) hills and a ridgetop with big views of mountains and the lake. It's also groomed through the Sno-Park program for both classic and skate skiing (there's also a new snowshoe route).
Where to stay: For ski-out-the-door convenience, stay at Kahler Glen Golf and Ski Resort adjoining the park. Condos and town houses are spacious and comfortable, and a ski trail (across what's a golf course in summer) links to the Lake Wenatchee and Nason Ridge trails. Rates start at about $145 a night for a two-bedroom condo with a fully-outfitted kitchen. See http://www.kahlerglen.com (and check for third-night and fourth-night-free special offers).
Individual owners also rent out Kahler Glen condos and vacation cabins around Lake Wenatchee at websites such as Vacation Rentals by Owner, http://www.vrbo.comCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun