Rau: Fraser to Winter Park Nordic skiing a blast
What a difference the weather can make. What a great day for the Ranch2Ranch Trek! Last year it was 40 mile per hour wind and a blizzard; this year it was 40 degrees calm and sunny!
The cold night before glazed the packed snow and made it a little scary on the downhill at first but the views coming out of the woods onto the Fraser to Granby Trail, the great stretch across Ten Mile Creek and into Tim’s Tunnel (Charlie even shoveled snow into the tunnel the day before!) and the wide open beautiful countryside of the YMCA with its 360 degree views were so gorgeous! We all considered ourselves so lucky to live and play here.
I skied backwards from the SMR Nordic Center with Duke the Dog Pulling the sled holding the signage materials and spoke with everyone along the way gathering their comments. While cleaning up the signs around Tim’s Tunnel, we saluted the procession for the fallen police deputy before heading back in – such a moving show of solidarity could happen only in Grand County. Consensus was the Ranch2Ranch Trek was well coordinated, well signed and well groomed. The barbecue offered at the end was fabulous and everyone went home happy.
Town to Town
Next day instead of skiing Ranch2Ranch, we skied between towns. Charlie and I went with my friend Gail to explore the new grooming by Mountain States Cats in Winter Park and Fraser.
We usually spend so much time on the Fraser to Granby Trail west of the Fraser Ball Fields and Ice Rink that we groom that it was time to try out the part we have been hearing raves about. Jeremy, Dennis and Dave take a big cat from the Winter Park Resort to behind the Safeway Center and the trail showed the extra love. The snowmobile hauling a groomer can’t do the same beautiful grooming done by the cats but, before the snows fell at Christmas, the trail needed to be widened and worked on by Jeremy and Andy Miller to make it possible for the wider machine. Special alterations were made on the machine itself to make it fit through the tunnel, but the raves I have been hearing from trail users tell the story. It was well worth it and money invested by the towns for the grooming was money well spent. Now what we need is more snow!
We parked at Beavers and Grand Adventures parking lot and hopped on the Fraser River Trail skate skiing up to Trademark. Then we turned and glided back down. The grade is perfect for someone learning to skate ski as it is a gradual slope with long straightaways and some fun turns. Lots of people were on the trail – some skiing, some snowshoeing, some walking with their dogs – all acceptable uses of the winter trail. Even with multiple footprints, the surface was packed and very skiable. More people need to pay attention to picking up after their pooch but the snow remained firm except in the sunny areas where it was starting to break down.
We crossed the road beside the Grand Adventures building and parking lot and skied out east of the town into beautiful meadows and crossed the sparkling Fraser River. The snow was great and you could put your back to the condos at the edge of town and almost feel like you were out in the wilderness. There was a cutoff to Hideaway Park and Chamber of Commerce parking lot for easy access from the center of town. We glided by the spot where the old Idlewild barn housed the Nordic Ski area and where the Idlewild Lodge used to be where Charlie and I got married 30 years ago. The base of the old downhill ski area was up the hillside and trails still wind down the face of the small mountain where kids learned to ski. It brought back many memories of the races held there in the ’80s and the times we skied over to the newly developing Devils Thumb — on much of the trail used for the Stagecoach Classic a couple of weeks ago.
Except for a short muddy section in Rendezvous, we were able to follow the signs and connect into the part of the trail passing behind St. Bernard’s Catholic Church and into the Fraser River trail between Winter Park and Fraser. Open to the sunlight, the trail was soft and slushy in many places but still skiable. We made it all the way to behind Safeway where we walked out to the front of Changes and caught the bus back up to the Winter Park Resort, caught the parking lot bus which dropped us off just beyond Adolph’s at the lower road to Trademark and put our skis back on to ski back down to Beavers. We did it all with trails connecting the towns and using the public transportation to get back to the start. What a circle! What fun!
• Celebrate Valentine’s Day with the Cross Country Ski and Snowshoe evening 5-9 p.m. at Pole Creek Golf Club. Follow the solar lights around the course and join others at the bonfire for complimentary hot chocolate and star gazing. Have dinner with your Sweetie at Bistro 28 with delicious specials and Live Music. Call 887-9195 for reservations.
• Feb. 19 and 20, the Nordic State Championships will be held at Frisco Nordic /Adventure Center. Our Middle Park Panthers have now qualified 14 skiers. Go Panthers!
• Get your tickets now for the Moonlight Progressive Ski Dinner on Saturday, Feb. 28, at the Snow Mountain Ranch. Tickets are $60 for adults and $20 for children for this Nordic ski adventure, five course meal, silent auction and live music by Sasquatch Mountain Project. Tickets are available at http://www.grandhuts.org/about/events.
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ESPN’s Winter X Games is back in Aspen this week for the 20th straight year, although it’ll lack most of the usual flair. Out of precaution to safeguard against further spread of COVID-19, there won’t be any fans, any music and, well, really anything outside of the main competitions.