Diana Lynn Rau: Grand Nordic Corner
Grand County CO Colorado
The Cottonwood Pass Mailbag Trek on Feb. 11 started at Linke’s Road 553 about 2 miles in on the Cottonwood Pass Road. The trail meandered through the hay meadows where the cows sometimes wandered, behind the hogbacks, slowly gaining altitude along the creek beds and willows. The sun was out, the wind was almost nil, and the snow was packed under the single ski track climbing slowly in front of you. There was little sign of civilization. Mountains and meadows mostly covered in a fresh blanket of snow were laced with fresh animal tracks and crowned with a Colorado blue sky. Even the old road was a beautiful well-covered path reasonably ascending to the Pass. This was a picture of winter perfection, exactly why you venture into the backcounty, away from homes and vehicles.
Smiling faces greeted you at the top with bananas, oranges, bagels, cookies and Gatorade to help you reach you goal still four miles down the next valley. But from that point at the top, you could see the mountains and valleys both east and west just begging for you to linger and get out your camera. The logged path through the Aspen at the top of the Pass was surprisingly skiable, and the dirty snow soon gave way to powder sections winding slowly downhill in and out of the trees. One had better stay on the path or the snow quickly got deep. We hugged the treeline about where the old roadbed wandered, higher than before above Monte Linke’s house and above the sage fields. We found the ditch, entering the hay meadows up high and glided down toward the Jones Creek Ranch. The route was all we had hoped for. The parade and games in Hot Sulphur were fun for all and the SnowBall Saturday evening at SolVista Ski Basin Lodge was a perfect cap for the evening and the whole Carnival event, a real glimpse into history.
The Mailbag Trek kicked off the Grand Winter Carnival closing ceremonies representing one of the most difficult mail routes in Colorado. On the Trek. women were asked to carry some form of pack weighing at least 10 pound and men 15 pounds to represent the mail. Some even carried valentines. The Trek ended at the Hot Sulphur Fire House where the firemen and supporters gave a welcome. Most of the town showed up for the wonderful soups and breads available. The Trek was all through private property, largely the Linke ranches. Please thank all these landowners, respect their privacy in the future and perhaps we can do the Mailbag Trek as a part of an annual weekend Carnival Celebration in the future.
The Panther Nordic teams easily had their best meet of the season on Feb. 4 at Gold Run Nordic, near Breckenridge. The race, hosted by Summit High School, was a 5 kilometer mass start skate, with enough bright sunshine to inspire a few skiers to compete in short sleeves. The snow conditions were excellent, even though Friday’s snowstorm skipped the mountains and made it a challenge for the team from Nederland to get to the race.
The women went off first, and skied to a team 4th-place finish, with Sera Smith in 8th, Linnea Zink 11th, followed by Elly Zietz and Amelia Clancy coming across the line together in 25th and 26th respectively. Kaylene Loo and Jenna Curran were also in sight of each other at the finish in 32nd and 33rd place. Another pair, Sydney Markle and Sophie Larson, continued the theme just seconds apart at 49th and 51st, and Carley Frick finished 66th.
For the first time in longer than three years, the men finished ahead of the women as a team, tied with Eagle Valley, for 3rd place out of 13 teams competing. Captain Taber Miyauchi led the Panthers in 11th, with Colby Zink and Steve Simmons at 17th and 18th respectively.
“A couple of our more experienced guys, Cole Conger and Marcus Curren, have been under the weather lately and made a great effort but had a tough time today,” said Assistant Coach Karl Smith. “But the younger guys like Simmons and Kopp are showing that they can step up and score points when we really need them. We’ve got one more meet in Aspen before we head to the State Championships, so this is a great time for things to come together.”
Panther Nordic skiers then raveled to Aspen on Saturday for their final regular season meet, an individual start classic race. The warm afternoon conditions kept coaches busy as they struggled to find the kick wax solution that would get skiers up the hills without icing and spoiling the glide on the descents. In every case, it was a compromise, since the course had it all: glazed tracks in the sun and shady portions with fresh snow from the night before. Some teams opted for sure kick while others went for glide, so there was much more passing and “getting passed” than would normally be seen in an interval start race. In the end, it was an excellent warm-up to the State Championships, which will have an afternoon start for both skate and classic races in Minturn this Thursday and Friday.
The Middle Park women finished in 7th place, as a team, with Linnea Zink in 22nd place, followed closely by Sera Smith (24th) and then Jenna Curran in 27th place.
The men placed 4th as a team, led by Panther captain Taber Miyauchi in 16th place. Steve Simmon’s followed in 22nd, with Daniel Kopp in 35th, just ahead of the state qualifying time. Middle Park skier Scott Crawford was knocked out of the race in a downhill crash resulting in a broken ski, but was able to walk unhurt back to the finish.
The Panthers get on the bus Thursday morning for the CHSAA State Ski Championships, in Minturn/Beaver Creek. Veteran captains Sydney Markle and Taber Miyauchi will lead their respective teams as they compete in a mass start skate race on Thursday and an interval start classic race on Friday.
YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch
Colorado Biathlon will hold the State championships at the YMCA on Feb.18 (Sprint) and 19 (Relay). For more information, go to coloradobiathlon.org.
Sons of Norway will hold their annual Barnelopet for kids from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Feb. 25. Barneloepet is a non-competitive ski event modeled after similar events in Norway. Every skier finishes a winner and receives a medal. Courses are offered as 1K, 2.5K and 5K. This free event is open to everyone, but we recommend you reserve your ski equipment if needed at the YMCA Nordic Center ahead of time. For more information call 970-412-0433 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
YMCA offers free skiing for Grand County locals on Wednesdays with free kids ski lessons on both Friday and Sunday afternoons at 1 p.m. through the end of February. For those needing equipment, please arrive at least 15 minutes early. On Friday Feb. 24, there will be a Nordic Ski festival with games and prizes. Parents are encouraged to help out.
Then, starting at 9 a.m. on March 3-4 is the 29th Annual Snow Mountain Stampede. This is the first year for a two-day format with the Freestyle 42K, 21K, 10K and 2K childrens race on Saturday and the Classsic 42K, 21K, 10K and 2K childrens race on Sunday. Saturday night starting at 6p.m., the Grand Nordic-sponsored dinner costs $14 for adults, $8 for kids 6-12 and features all-you-can-eat meat or vegetarian lasagna or fish and rice. Come and join the bonfire and moonlight ski. Sign up online for the Stampede races at http://www.ymcarockies.org/smrnordic or the dinner only at http://www.grandnordic.org.
Devil’s Thumb Ranch
Devil’s Thumb offers free kids lessons Fridays 10 a.m. into early March. Please arrive at least 15 minutes early if equipment is needed. A one-time $20 fee applies for hot chocolate and a program fee. The next Skijoring clinic is Feb. 26, where you can learn to ski with your dog. Equipment is available. Call 970-726-8231for details on these events.
Grand Lake Nordic Center
Call 970-627-8008 for snow conditions. Grand County kids ski free on Fridays.
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