Hafjell Ski School, Norway (photo by Chris Fancher)If downhill skiing or snowboarding are not in your skill set, or you’d like to learn but have previous knee injuries (like a torn ACL – anterior cruciate ligament – which makes it tough to handle sudden lateral movement) then you may feel left out when it comes to wintertime vacation spots.

I know I’ve felt that way….my husband is an avid downhill skier but I’ve never learned, and now my own old ACL injury makes it risky to try (basketball and racquetball are not in my future, either.)

A winter trip to near Lillehammer, Norway a few years ago had me in major pouting mode – what the heck was I going to DO all day long while he was on the slopes and the kids were learning to ski?

Enter the calorie-obliterating (400+ calories/hour) and relatively-easy-to-learn sports of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.  After a short lesson at our Hafjell resort, I could manage cross-country skis and poles pretty well, and I really enjoyed the hushed quiet of schussing along through the trees with my instructor.

If you’d like to try the same experience in the US, the 15th annual Winter Trails day is coming up this Saturday, January 9, 2010.

At more than 100 facilities, both children and adults can try cross-country and/or snowshoeing at no cost.  The organizers – SnowSports Industries America (www.thesnowtrade.org), American Hiking Society (www.americanhiking.org) and the Cross Country Ski Areas Association (www.xcski.org) – all hope that you’ll find these trail sports a satisfying alternative or addition to downhill snow sports.

Are any of our readers big cross-country or snowshoe fans? Let us know down in the comments about your favorite resorts for those sports.