Grand County news: Mary Jane ski season extended to April 30 |

Grand County news: Mary Jane ski season extended to April 30

This May 2016 file photo shows a resident of Fraser taking advantage of a warm spring day by getting in some target shooting at the Byers Canyon Shooting Range. Colorado Parks and Wildlife plans to reopen the range next weekend on a weekend only basis until improvement projects at the Range are completed, sometime in May.
Sally DiSciullo / Special to the Sky-Hi News |

Mary Jane ski season extended to April 30

As we near the mid-way point for April the end of this winter’s ski season is almost upon us. Granby Ranch ended operations last weekend and Winter Park Resort’s closing date is scheduled for the weekend of April 22 and 23.

Fortunately for local powder heads late spring snows have added to the snowpack and officials at Winter Park Resort have decided to extend the season for the Mary Jane territory. Mary Jane will now remain open until Sunday April 30, giving skiers and snowboarders one additional week to get out on the slopes in Grand County.

The season extension applies only to the Mary Jane territory. According to a press release issued by the resort, “the Winter Park side will still close on the originally scheduled closing weekend of April 22-23”. The annual Spring Splash event will be held at the resort base area on Sunday April 23.

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Earlier this week Winter Park Resort snowfall totals for the year stood at over 280 inches. The spring flurries that moved into the county Monday and Tuesday deposited even more. Wednesday morning the Resort tallied a total of 14 inches of fresh that had fallen over the previous 24-hours.

This is the second consecutive year Mary Jane territory’s ski season has been extended beyond the originally scheduled closing date because of heavy spring snowfall. Last year Mary Jane territory remained open until early May and the resort saw heavy snowfall of multiple inches well into the first week of that month.

Granby Ranch wraps up 2016/2017 ski season

The days are getting longer in Middle Park while the nights are staying warmer. All around the high Rockies birds that flew away to less-frigid environs late last year are beginning to return and the first buds are developing on the region’s trees.

Spring is in the air and summer is not far off. This is the time of year when our local ski resorts begin the formal process of shutting down operations for the winter in preparation for the summer mountain biking season. This last weekend Granby Ranch ended their 2016/2017 season with a weekend long series of events marking the end of snow sports for the recreational property.

The closing weekend celebrations kicked off on Saturday April 1 with the annual Pond Ski event, held at the Granby Ranch base. Guests of the resort were treated to a 10 a.m. coffee tasting event put on by Granby-based Lion’s Head Coffee. Granby Ranch brought in a DJ for the day to keep the party lively and the traditional spring pond skim was a highlight of the day.

The action continued Sunday April 2 for the very last day of the season at Granby Ranch. To mark the end of the season, Granby Ranch held their final Meltdown Series mountain bike race Sunday morning on the west mountain. The resort brought back their DJ Sunday to continue spinning some records for the crowd in attendance at the Pond Skim event and also offered an outdoor barbecue to visitors.

Granby Ranch is now preparing for the summer 2017 downhill mountain biking season. According to the Granby Ranch website the season is scheduled to begin Friday May 26, weather permitting.

Byers Canyon Shooting Range to reopen with restrictions

Hunters, gun owners and other enthusiasts of shooting sports will soon be able to get some time in at the rifle range.

Earlier this week Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced plans to reopen the Byers Canyon Shooting Range to the public next Saturday, April 15. The reopening is occurring after Parks and Wildlife closed the Range for the winter season late last year. The Byers Canyon Shooting Range is typically closed during the winter and reopens each spring. The range closures are intended to protect vulnerable local wildlife from human created stresses during the harsh winter months.

When the range reopens next weekend it will coincide with range improvement work and other construction being conducted at the popular shooting range located just west of Byers Canyon and the town of Hot Sulphur Springs.

Because of the ongoing improvement work only certain portions of the range will be open to the public during the late spring, and the range will be open only on weekends until sometime around mid-May when CPW officials hope to have the construction and improvement work completed.

Local Parks and Wildlife officials say the decision to open the range early this year will allow recreational users to gain access to the property on weekends while still allowing the upgrade work to continue during week days.

“Safety is always our prime consideration,” said Parks and Wildlife property technician Doug Gillham. “We understand there is much demand to use this facility so we compromised to allow weekend access when crews are not present.”

Parks and Wildlife has multiple improvements planned for the range including: new benches, four additional rife lanes, a 50-yard .22 caliber rifle lane, and two additional handgun lanes to include one 100-yard handgun range.

“These upgrade will make this great range even better,” said Gillham. “We appreciate everyone’s patience and cooperation. Once we are done, people will see it will have been worth the wait.”

A press release from CPW about the improvement work and planned reopening of the range also states, “Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers will patrol the range regularly to ensure compliance with current restrictions.”

Forest Service seeks comments on tree thinning project

The U.S. Forest Service’s Sulphur Ranger District is proposing a new project to thin 4,325-acres of regenerating lodgepole pine stands on National Forest in Grand County.

The project comes nearly 15 years after an epic mountain pine beetle outbreak killed some 154,000 acres of lodgepole pine on the Arapaho National Forest. Since then, the Forest Service’s efforts have focused on salvaging dead timber and removing hazard trees in campgrounds and along roads and trails.

The focus on recovering from the beetle epidemic has left the other types of forest maintenance – primarily thinning young stands – largely undone.

“This type of maintenance work is important to keep our future forest healthy and resilient,” said district forester Kevin McLaughlin. “If we don’t do something soon, growth in these young tree stands will stagnate. We’ll end up with what are commonly known as ‘doghair’ forests, which aren’t ideal for wildlife and are more prone to future disease, infestation and wildfire.”

The Forest Service is proposing to open up the young tree stands through manual thinning. The project won’t require any new roads or prescribed fire, and all the work would be done by crews with chainsaws.

One of the wildlife species that stands to benefit most from this type of work is the Canada lynx. Its prey – snowshoe hare – relies on vegetation cover close to the ground for food and hiding cover.

“By opening up the stands, we’ll be able to encourage more of this type of habitat and extend the length of time this habitat remains on the landscape,” McLaughlin said. “If we do nothing, then, as these young trees grow taller and their crowns lift off the ground, what is currently decent habitat for snowshoe hare will someday disappear.”

The public is invited to comment on this proposal. The Forest Service will then prepare an environmental assessment and issue a draft decision. Only those who have previously commented will have standing to object at that point.

To see a map of where the work is being proposed and to submit a comment, visit

Comments must be received prior to midnight on Monday May 8, 2017, to be considered. For additional information, contact Kevin McLaughlin, Sulphur Ranger District, at 970-887-4107, 303-541-2512, or

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