New director keeps Snow Mountain Nordic Center on track |

New director keeps Snow Mountain Nordic Center on track

With the arrival of this gorgeous snow over the past several days, the Nordic Center at Snow Mountain Ranch now has all of its 100-plus kilometers of cross-country ski trails groomed and open for another season of skiing.

“We had a slow start in November, but with these latest series of storms, we have now launched into our full season,” said Jeff Schmidt, the Nordic Center’s new director.

“Conditions are fantastic, and the cold temperatures are helping to keep our snowpack. Everyone can put away their rock skis because the skiing is great.”

Schmidt, who took over as Nordic Center director a few weeks ago, is in his second year with Snow Mountain Ranch’s cross-country skiing operation. Before moving to Colorado, he worked as ski instructor at the Minocqua Winter Park Ski Area in Wisconsin.

“I love cross-country skiing,” Schmidt said. “I’ve been skiing since I was 4 ” not really in competition, but more in family settings. I grew up in that kind of environment and it’s become my winter sport.”

That’s one of the things that attracted him to the Nordic Center at Snow Mountain Ranch, which is also the YMCA of the Rockies.

“Snow Mountain is such a cool place. It’s a perfect combination of two mindsets ” one is family oriented while the other appeals to the serious skier and ski racer. Both coexist here.”

As the new Nordic Center director, Schmidt is overseeing the re-routing of parts of the Snow Mountain’s extensive ski trail system as a result of the cutting of large sections of forest on the YMCA property. The reason for the cutting is to remove the trees stricken by the ongoing pine beetle epidemic.

“Everyone’s going to notice the cutting that’s been done as part of our pine beetle mitigation and fuel reduction project,” Schmidt said. “It’s sad to see the trees go, but the YMCA has lots of plans to plant new trees and reorganize our facilities here. Eventually, we’ll make things better and more usable for the public.”

Those familiar with Snow Mountain’s Nordic ski trails will notice some re-routing of trails in places. One major area has been on the “Old Lynch Trail.”

“We’ve re-routed it and made it even better,” Schmidt said. “We now have a longer downhill with more ‘S’ turns. It’s great for expert skiers who want a challenge and like steep downhills and tight turns. It’s also part of the Stampede ski marathon course.”

To encourage local residents to come out to enjoy the skiing and explore Snow Mountain’s trail system, the Nordic Center is once again offering free skiing to Grand County residents on Fridays. Those wanting to take advantage of this offer must present IDs as proof of residence.

“Our goal is to promote Nordic skiing in this county as an activity that local families can enjoy together. So come on out and ski,” Schmidt said.

Along with promoting individual and family skiing, the Nordic Center has also planned a winter full of exciting events and races. Just a few of these include Ranch Classic 15-kilometer races on Jan. 12; the Barnelopet (Children’s Ski Carnival) on Feb. 23; and the 25th Annual Alpina Stampede ski marathon on March 1.

On Jan. 21, the University of Denver’s ski coaches will be on hand to offer a special advanced/expert ski technique classes to the public.

In addition to its great snow conditions, huge trail system and exciting events, Snow Mountain’s Nordic Center also offers a full-service ski shop for rentals and retail purchases. It is open seven days a week (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends). It also offers night skiing on a lighted two-kilometer loop until 10 p.m.

The Nordic Center has a staff of four ski instructors who can teach not only children and novice adults, but can give the intermediate and advanced skiers important tips about how to improve their ski techniques.

“People of all ability and skill levels are welcome here,” Schmidt said. “To me, our Nordic Center has a comfortable, even homey atmosphere. It’s a great place to be with friends and family where you can enjoy some great skiing on a world-class groomed trail system. And it’s all very affordable. So come on out and enjoy.”

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