Rau: Free skiing abounds in Grand County
Grand Nordic Corner
The snow is flying and back country higher elevations are already well tracked by the adventurous. The Experimental Forest trails with Deadhorse Loop and St Louis Creek, Big and Little Vasquez, and Idlewild depart close to town, and roads like Corona Road on the East side and Elk Creek on the West eventually lead to the Waterboard roads on each side of the Fraser Valley that are packed by snowmobiles and other cross country skiers. You can ski from the Winter Park Resort to the Experimental Forest on these Waterboard roads.
The best of these is the Fraser River Trail starting at the Winter Park Resort down to Beavers and Rendezvous east of the town of Winter Park and you can keep going behind Safeway and on to County Road 8. Then cross Hwy 40 to the Fraser Ballfields and take the Fraser-to-Granby trail to Tabernash, the YMCA, on through Tim’s Tunnel to 10 Mile Creek/Fisher Creek and connect into the Granby Ranch Nordic Trails. Most of this is groomed wide enough to skate in many places, conditions allowing. There are plenty of spots to hop on or off with free parking (Safeway parking lot, Beavers parking lot, Tabernash, YMCA lot, etc.) and even transportation along the way.
Higher up Berthoud Pass, First Creek and Second Creek have well worn trails (if the wind has been kind) and you even find the Broome Hut (booked through 10th Mountain Huts) a mere mile off US Highwyay 40. It’s a tough ski or try snowshoes for an easier go. Another popular hut is the High Lonesome Hut (www.lonesomehut.com ) across and down the valley near Meadow Creek Reservoir. Another hut is in the works in Rendezvous – look for more information from Grand Huts in the summer of 2016.
Toward Grand Lake, the Doe Creek loops are off Arapahoe Bay Road. Or in the National Forest, turn off Hwy 34 at Greenridge to go to Ranger Meadows from Shadow Mtn Dam. For a dog friendly area, try Pine Beach just up the road. Rocky Mtn National Park offers the popular Adams Falls, North Inlet or East Shore Trail but dogs are not allowed.
These areas are not patrolled, not maintained and winter conditions are in full force, sometimes with blowing snow and double digit below at night. With the early season snow, avalanche danger is high. Be courteous to each other but GET OUT THERE. Go prepared with heavier duty equipment and a pack with extra clothing, food and water. Many of these areas are great for your dog but be careful of animals that your dog might chase or might chase you! Some dogs need extra food, water and warmth layers the same as you and they love to carry their own pack available at Icebox in Fraser and several of the Nordic Areas. Booties or Mushers Secret salve for their feet keeps them playful and moving easily thru the snow. Above all, remember to tell someone where you are going.
Free recreational skiing more central in the Fraser Valley is available at Pole Creek Golf Course – another great amenity from your Fraser Valley Metro Recreation District. Please stay on the packed cart paths away from the greens, tees and water hazards. The greens are roped off – trekking over the greens will kill the special grass and give reason to revoke the privilege of skiing there. The popular moonlight skis are offered monthly – the next is Dec. 26. The rolling terrain is delightful for both you and your dog but skiing is at your own risk. Dinner is available Thurs-Sun at Bistro 28 and the public is welcome. For more information call 970-887-9797 or 970-887-9195.
Another free spot right in the center of town is Grand Park where they pack trails right along US 40 in the meadow behind the Rec Center. Park in the lot west of the General Store. As everywhere, remember to pack out your trash and clean up after your dog. The public is welcome but please treat this private property with respect. No rentals or other services are available but it is perfect for a midday ski on your lunch break. Hot tub and other facilities are available at the Rec Center next door for a relaxing afternoon. Ski rentals are found at Ice Box Sports in Fraser for both the flat trails in Grand Park or more challenging areas right outside of town.
Speaking of free, don’t forget to sign up for the Free Nordic Lessons at Devil’s Thumb Tommelfest Saturday December 12. Classes meet at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Grand Nordic members also receive free Nordic equipment and trail pass if needed for the lessons. There are also free demos from Boulder Nordic Sport, sleigh rides are available on a first come basis, and don’t miss the air rifle biathlon relay midday. Watch the Viking Hat competition or the key toss, have grog and beer and BBQ, take advantage of retail specials and win prizes. For more information or to reserve your free lesson call 970-726-8231 or visit http://www.devilsthumbranch.com. Call early as limited class size means spots for the lessons fill up quickly.
See you on the trails! Happy Holidays and ski safe!
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This summer’s potential for record-breaking recreation in Grand County comes down to simple math.