Nordic season almost coming to an end
The evening light was soft on the trail by the Fraser River. We had started at the Granby Ranch Golf Course clubhouse for their Moonlight ski last Friday and skied down the hill toward the river on the packed track. We ventured out onto the smooth expanse of the river valley but found that the new snow had softened the crust so it would not hold us up. Rather than break through and be up to our knees or even thighs in the transformed snow, we scurried back to safety on the packed surface.
It had been years since I had skied the Golf Course Trail system at Granby Ranch but couldn’t resist the offer of hot chocolate and a possible bonfire to celebrate the end of their season. Several Nordic skiers had taken off just as we got there to make the loop down to the Fraser River and then follow the river almost to the other end of the golf course. There was a big figure eight dotted with little lanterns that you could loop around a small jagged mountain. Many people had brought out their dogs to enjoy running circles around then. Groups of snowshoers gabbed incessantly as they walked and laughter ruled the evening. Some of us explored the river trail upstream and were delighted by the sound of the ebb and flow of the water as it surged over the ice in places and then gurgled as it retreated. You wondered if the tracks down the middle of the river belonged to a fox or a coyote looking for rabbits and if either predator or prey had made it to safety or been swallowed by the thinning ice giving way.
It was a delightful evening with no wind, temperatures just cold enough, great companionship and beautiful soft light that was beginning to fade. A great way to end the season for Granby Ranch. It was sunset skiing at it’s best!
Now, at the beginning of April Grand County still has snow that is the envy of skiers everywhere. March snow gods were kind to us this year and now, as winter winds down, the boaters are drooling with the thought of rivers flowing full in May and June. Many areas still have great skiing and are fully open but have few people. Strange how people stand in long lines in November for a skinny patch of snow down one or two runs but abandon the high country in April when the snow is still measured in feet!
Grand Lake Nordic Center will close after this weekend so all sorts of fun events are planned. Snow Mountain Ranch will remain open until at least April 15 or later and Devil’s Thumb hasn’t yet posted any closing information. Call ahead to make sure Nordic areas are open. Mostly Nordic skiing will keep happening as long as Mother Nature keeps giving us the white stuff. The main stage will just move uphill.
High country will be the big draw as the valley thaws and gets green. But the current freeze thaw cycles make the high country potentially very dangerous as evidenced by the avalanche on Berthoud Pass reported in Wednesday’s Sky-Hi News. A group of experienced skiers did everything right – they dug a snow pit and made snow cuts to detect movement of the various snow layers but observed nothing. They observed the wind loading in the area and set up three spotters in the area to be skied. One skier started to descend when the fracture started, carried the skier around 60 yards down the slope and buried him up to the chest. Injuries were minor but what if the skiers hadn’t been so careful?
Go prepared to the high country with extra clothing food and water, clear thinking, proper equipment and rescue gear, and, above all, tell someone where you are going. No one wants to be the next statistic! Until I start writing about summer trails in May, I’ll say, enjoy the rest of winter. It’s springtime with lots of sun, liberal sunscreen, and T-shirts in the snow. Thanks to everyone who has helped make this a great season. I’m gonna go find a river to float down.
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