GRAND NORDIC CORNER: Ranch2Ranch trek
Grand Nordic president
The Ranch2Ranch Trek on Feb. 11-12 was about as spectacular as you can get! Bluebird skies with temperatures in the high 20s and virtually no wind. How close to perfect can you get spoiled with?
Groomers Shawn and crew from Snow Mountain Ranch set beautiful track in well-prepped trails from the Nordic center out to the Pole Creek Valley and turning uphill on Audun; with its delightful well-signed switchbacks that gently climb to the top of the ridge.
The fast-growing trees each year provide more and more protection from weather, but nothing could hide the beautiful vistas from the top of the ridge. Then came the exhilaration of the sweeping turns descending to the valley floor and meandering through the riding center, out to Tim’s Tunnel and the highway 40 underpass at the YMCA entrance. Follow the pink signs!
Ah, the aid station. Smiling faces belonging to volunteers offering banana pieces, orange slices, cookies, and energy bars. Do you want warm water or Gatorade? Warm? Great touch. Stop for a few moments and feel your energy return.
On Saturday, the Winter Park Comp Center kids in their colorful World Snow Day bibs worked the aid station and skied back and forth from the aid station to the Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Center, a colorful sight along the trail. On Sunday, the Middle Park High School Nordic team worked the station, meeting the people donating to the Grand Nordic Youth Scholarship Fund by skiing the Ranch2Ranch Trek.
Take off again before others arrive to take their break. Groomers had pushed snow into Tim’s Tunnel the week before and it was filled with white snow. Snow from the surrounding fields was pushed into the tunnel where possible. Charlie and Diana Rau completed the job with shovels and sleds. Dedication! A hard job indeed, but it will last for weeks.
Up the hill to the campground and then down the scariest of hills on the Fraser to Granby Trail with its sharp left turn in the 10-mile Creek Valley. Take your skis off and walk down if you want. It’s just a fun trek. The beavers have invaded the creek. They created beautiful pockets of vegetation mixed with pools of water that invited other critters like moose, deer and waterfowl (in warmer times of the year).
Now the expanse of Granby Ranch approaching Val Moritz is laid out before you. Years ago when it was Silver Creek, we used to Nordic race these trails that are now Granby Ranch. The Val Moritz area is still a secluded development but is no longer filled with vacant foundations with full grown trees sprouting in the cement. Instead beautiful homes dot the roads that we once raced on. In summer, it winds through the vegetation and across the slopes of West Mountain as it heads towards Granby.
Head up the big hill to another panorama vista point and across to the Nordic trails of Granby Ranch. From the sharp corner of Grenoble Street in Val Moritz, head up to the base of Rabbit Run, the Green Gate and the second aid station. From this course highpoint, it is so fun skiing back to Tim’s Tunnel. Consider even turning around and skiing back to Snow Mountain Ranch from here or the juncture with the Alpine trails.
Where did you park your car? At Granby Ranch to take the morning shuttle provided to Snow Mountain Ranch for the start? Or park at the ranch and turn around anywhere on the course you feel like? It’s your choice. Just follow the pink signs that line the trail providing directions and warning of steep hills or hazards. Getting off the trail might put you into a snowbank or in deeper untracked powder up to your hip this year.
The second aid station on Saturday was handled by East Grand Middle School Nordic Team members, and on Sunday by Mountain Park High School CREW members. These are all kids who benefit from the Youth scholarship fund and people get to meet the youth they are supporting.
Into the trees again on cakewalk, a narrower beautiful glide down a tree-lined path leading to the Alpine trails. Groomers could bring their big cat over to this point, but over to the Alpine trails is definitely a kickback to older-style trails and beautiful scenery, groomed only by snowmobile. Granted it’s more difficult for skaters, but their treat is ahead where Deer Trail is blocked off above. The Nordic skiers have the entire alpine slope to themselves all the way down to Granby Lodge base area and the finish tent.
We made it and turned in our bibs at the Grand Nordic finish tent to signal we were off course.
Skiers were challenging themselves for the distance and the intermediate terrain and all of them would win. They challenged themselves to support the youth Nordic programs in Grand County and our kids were the winners. Every school and preschool in East Grand has received ski equipment so our kids could grow up on Nordic skis, or receive financial help to train at the level they want. Every one of those skiers at the Ranch2Ranch helped that cause.
We thank you one and all, the Grand Nordic Board, the staff at Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Center, Headwaters Trail Alliance, Granby Ranch, the dedicated groomers and most of all, our volunteers and skiers.
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