XC skiing in Mazama
Mazama is on Highway 20, the North Cascades Highway, but in the winter you can't get there the short way: the pass is closed. So you experience the one negative aspect of going to Mazama up front: the 5+ hour drive, long enough that you could be going to Whistler instead. We got lucky with the weather and road conditions, and had a smooth trip over Snoqualmie Pass, then north on Hwy 97 to Wenatchee, on to Chelan, and then into the Methow Valley. (Side note: drove more miles on snow with the studless snow tires than ever before and am very pleased. (Blizzaks))
That long drive is the only negative of the trip I can report, really. We loved it. We stayed at the Mazama Country Inn, a 20-room casual lodge where the room rate includes breakfast and dinner served family-style at tables of 8, and guests hang out reading books by the fireplace in the living room. You get to know the other guests, many of whom have been coming back each year. Some for 20 years. (Apparently we were lucky to get last minute reservations.)
Mazama itself doesn't really amount to much as a town; it's said to have 100 residents, but all you find is the country store-coffee shop-gas station, the ski school/rental, a real estate office, the Inn, and some cabins. They've resisted development in the valley, and it shows in the undeveloped rural feel and wide open vistas. It's really beautiful out there.
The groomed cross country ski trails are right there at your doorstep, with the valley trail the backbone of a 150 km trail system that's groomed for both classic cross country skiing (which is apparently *completely* out of vogue) and skate skiing (which is the big thing now and has you going three times as fast--if you can manage the heart rate). Since we're fuddy duddies, we stuck with the classic style, took a lesson to start, and then spent the next three days practicing what we learned and improving our technique a bunch each day. By the third day I was getting a fair bit of 'glide' and not using my arms to propel myself, though also not getting the momentum that makes cycling such an efficient way to move. XC skiing seems more like low-intensity running. It uses muscles that I apparently have no other use for--I had wickedly sore hip flexors.
The trails mostly wind through snowy forests--winter wonderland, serene, very pretty. Sure, it's cold much of the time (20ish F). You don't feel it when you're moving, and besides, that's what keeps the snow really nice. After you're done skiing, there's not much to do other than showering, socializing, reading a book, and sitting by the fire place. It's great.
A+, would go again.