Grand Nordic Corner: What’s with this late winter start? |

Grand Nordic Corner: What’s with this late winter start?

Out on the cross-country ski trails in Grand County.
Courtesy / Jeff Russell |

It has been many years since we have had a start to the winter season like we are seeing this year. But there is decent coverage to be had if you look hard enough. The forecast comes and goes promising six to eight inches and we only get a dusting in the Valley. But somewhere in the high country that six to eight inches is happening and we have enough to be out each day on everyday skis, maybe not our best but beyond our rock skis now. If I can glide down the hills with confidence that I won’t be screeching to a halt on rocks or bare patches, it just reminds me of ski days in New England where I taught weekends in Hollis, N.H. This week, one of the High School Nordic guys hit a bare patch in the dark and smashed onto his knees but, like the trooper he is, kept on going.

Grand Nordic has given all the used skis donated over the last couple of years to the school Nordic teams. Coaches have changed bindings as needed and handed them out for the kids to continue to practice without damaging their competition skis. In early season, dryland strength and balance training and just time on skis is a huge priority. Conditions are rarely the most favorable but I commend these kids and particularly the coaches and other parent helpers for finding every way possible to get out there — no excuses! Just save the good skis for the good snow!

Blue ridge and trails in the shadow of Blue Ridge are in good shape — YMCA staff has rolled the trails with great success. Mostly the snow depth is not enough for tracks yet but strengthen your legs and force or step your own turns. Learn to shift your body weight and your turns will be much improved as the conditions improve. Keep working on technique — the SMR Annual Classic Race is coming up Jan. 6 followed on Sunday Jan. 7 by Grand Nordic Free Lessons and inaugural Demos-Burgers-and Beer Social joint event by Boulder Nordic, Boulder Nordic Sport, Grand Nordic, and Snow Mountain Ranch. See these and more on our event calendar

A few notes from our backcountry guru, Jeff Russell. His notes on Off Track Nordic conditions appear regularly on Check it out.

As the shortest days of sunlight approach, the consensus is that the Nordic skiing is “surprisingly good” from those who have made the drive past the Rodeo grounds outside of Fraser to the end of the open road. Past the Experimental Forest gates, closed to vehicles for the season, one can access miles of kick and glide on the summer roads, graded to a perfect smooth foundation for a somewhat limited snowpack. While some are tempted to try their favorite summer hike and bike trails, such as Flume and Creekside, the uneven surfaces with roots and rocks are not yet buried deep enough beneath their winter coat to enable smooth consistent gliding. Aspect – the direction to which a trail is exposed – remains an important consideration when heading off from the trail head.

The Spruce trail, for instance, climbs along the south side of Morse Mountain. With the unusually strong sunny days of November, the early season base was erased from the trail bed. The few modest snows and colder days of December have been generous enough to begin the process of building the snowpack up all over again, but several sections have insufficient snow to keep one off the rocks. A counterclockwise Deadhorse loop trip is possible, keeping skis on and stepping around rocks, but a descent of the Spruce trail is likely to be perilous until more snow falls. Many of the winter trails (roads) to the south of Deadhorse have provided excellent track skiing for those seeking to get out into the beauty of winter, or to get in a few kilometers of aerobic fitness in a somewhat natural environment.

Weather patterns are not forecast for any dramatic change in the current pattern. So while we wait, lamenting the storms that came close but passed us by, and hanging on the hopes of the next promise of white gold, chanting the Coloradan mantra that “we need more snow”, know that there is at least one place you can go to find more snow than you might expect.

See you on the trails!


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