Rau: Free skiing abounds in Grand County
December 16, 2016
The snow is flying and our backcountry higher elevations have been hit with wild fluctuations in temperature and strong winds. What is normally already well tracked by the adventurous is just beginning to settle into a decent base. Just outside the valley floor around the towns of Winter Park, Fraser and Tabernash are miles of old logging or waterboard roads and trails that climb up through the surrounding mountains and make excellent backcountry touring trails.
The Experimental Forest trails with Deadhorse Loop and St Louis Creek, Big and Little Vasquez, and Idlewild depart close to town, and roads like Corona Road on the East side and Elk Creek on the West eventually lead to the Waterboard roads on each side of the Fraser Valley that are packed by snowmobiles and other cross country skiers. You can ski from the Winter Park Resort to the Experimental Forest on these Waterboard roads.
Fraser River Trail
The best of these is the Fraser River Trail starting at the Winter Park Resort down to Beavers and Rendezvous east of the town of Winter Park. You can keep going behind Safeway and on to County Road 8. Then cross US Highway 40 to the Fraser Ballfields and take the Fraser-to-Granby trail to Tabernash, the YMCA, on through Tim's Tunnel to Fisher Creek and connect into the Granby Ranch Nordic Trails.
Just outside the valley floor around the towns of Winter Park, Fraser and Tabernash are miles of old logging or waterboard roads and trails that climb up through the surrounding mountains and make excellent backcountry touring trails.
Much of this is groomed wide enough to skate, conditions allowing, because it is a corridor trail but remember snowshoers and walkers with their dogs are also allowed, so be courteous. There are plenty of spots to hop on or off the trail with free parking (Safeway parking lot, Beavers parking lot, Fraser Ballfields parking lot, Tabernash, YMCA lot, etc.) and even transportation along the way.
With all the recent winds, watch out for downed trees and please report any to the local Headwaters Trails Alliance (HTA) office 970-726-1023.
Berthoud Pass area
Higher up Berthoud Pass, First Creek and Second Creek have well used trails (if the wind has been kind) and you can find the Broome Hut (booked through 10th Mountain Huts) a mere mile off US 40. It's a tough ski,or try snowshoes for an easier go. Above the hut you can access great above treeline terrain. Another popular hut is the High Lonesome Hut (www.lonesomehut.com) across and down the valley near Meadow Creek Reservoir. Another hut is in the works – look for more information from Grand Huts in the summer of 2017.
Grand Lake area
Toward Grand Lake, the Doe Creek loops are off Arapahoe Bay Road. Or once in the National Forest, turn off US Highway 34 at Greenridge to go to Ranger Meadows from Shadow Mountain Dam. For a dog-friendly area, try Pine Beach just up the road. Rocky Mountain National Park offers the popular Adams Falls, North Inlet or East Shore Trail but dogs are not allowed.
These areas are not patrolled, not maintained and winter conditions are in full force, sometimes with blowing snow and double digit below at night. With the temperature fluctuations and blowing snow this month, avalanche danger is pretty high. Be courteous to each other but GET OUT THERE. Go prepared with heavier duty equipment and a pack with extra clothing, food and water. Many of these areas are great for your dog but be careful of animals that your dog might chase or might chase you! Some dogs need extra food, water and warmth layers the same as you and they love to carry their own pack available at Icebox in Fraser and several of the Nordic Areas. Booties or Mushers Secret salve for their feet keeps them playful and moving easily thru the snow. Above all, remember to tell someone where you are going.
Pole Creek Golf Course
Free recreational skiing more central in the Fraser Valley is available at Pole Creek Golf Course – another great amenity from your Fraser Valley Metro Recreation District. Please stay on the packed cart paths away from the greens, tees and water hazards. The greens are roped off – trekking over the greens will kill the special grass and give reason to revoke the privilege of skiing there. The popular moonlight skis are offered monthly –last weekend was fabulous! The next is January 14. The rolling terrain is delightful for both you and your dog but skiing is at your own risk.
Another free spot right in the center of town is Grand Park where they pack trails right along US 40 in the meadow behind the Grand Park Community Recreation Center. Park in the lot west of the General Store. As everywhere, remember to pack out your trash and clean up after your dog. The public is welcome but please treat this private property with respect. No rentals or other services are available but it is perfect for a midday ski on your lunch break. Hot tub and other facilities are available at the Rec Center next door for a relaxing afternoon. Ski rentals are found at Ice Box Sports in Fraser for both the flat trails in Grand Park or more challenging areas right outside of town.
Free Nordic Lessons
Speaking of free, don't forget to sign up for the Free Nordic Lessons at Grand Lake Nordic Center Sunday December 18. Classes meet at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Grand Nordic members also receive free Nordic equipment and trail pass if needed for the lessons. There is also a free tubing hill and a good set of trails accessible with your dog. For more information or to reserve your free lesson call 970-627-8008.
See you on the trails! Happy Holidays and ski safe!