To most people, Winter Park and Mary Jane are well known for incomparable Alpine skiing but the Nordic world recognizes this area as about the best Nordic skiing in the country. Our two premier resorts – Snow Mountain Ranch YMCA of the Rockies and Devils Thumb have been the training home of many US Nordic and Biathlon teams over the years. With our altitude, most world class races cannot be held here but training at Grand County altitude builds more red blood cells and oxygen capacity as well as endurance than any other site.
Our locals can share stories of the challenges of altitude back country skiing. Our Nordic competitors have definite advantages when competing at lower altitude where there is more air. And our visitors can share stories of not having enough air.
Well, lucky for the locals with just a lunch hour or a couple hours before or after work, there is abundant Nordic skiing available departing right from either Fraser or Winter Park to keep that fitness edge that so many people look for. After work just this week, I pulled on the Nordic boots and clicked into my skinny skis and started at the bridge into the Rendezvous development east of Fraser and Winter Park. I could have skied north to Fraser on the Fraser River Trail or the Lunch Loop closer to Hwy 40 but, since I did that last week, I chose to go south through all the new cabins and townhomes close to the trail that FVPT and Headwaters Trails Alliance first built in the 1990’s. Rendezvous embraced the trail and expanded it into their development making trails a real ownership amenity. Fraser and Winter Park too have helped fund the trail expansion and winter grooming because this is an incredible community asset for visitors and locals alike.
As the sun faded and beautiful colors filled the sky, the delightful corduroy and Nordic track set by Jeremy Straley and Mountain States Snowcats just kept beckoning me onward. My new dog Dixie was racing to keep up when we tucked down the hills behind the Catholic Church but easily beat me up the rolling terrain and wooded areas over to the main road crossing. A couple weeks ago, Charlie and I skied up through the old Idlewild trails in the Arapahoe National Forest criss-crossing the old in-town Idlewild Alpine Ski area. The vistas were spectacular on Yankee Doodle and the tracks could take you into the likes of Serendipity and Southfork Loop heading far into the woods while really being right next to town! So many choices…
This time I stayed low and on the east side of the meadow behind the town of Winter Park. The foothills glistened with the recent snows and the trail laced through the trees barely allowing the outlines of the houses to show. I couldn’t hear the regular traffic but a siren or two jolted me back to reality. The next intersection offered a choice of skiing right over to the Hwy 40 stoplight and Cooper Creek Square. What better access could you ask for? But I chose to continue skiing on up to Beavers. The meadow was so beautiful in the fading light and tracks showed the deer, elk, and foxes still populated the area. Next week I’ll ski on up to Trademark at the Winter Park Resort. Or better yet park at Safeway, take the local bus up to Trademark and ski all the way back! Great way to spend the afternoon… and I really haven’t left town.
This area is well traveled by walkers and skiers alike, especially people with their dogs. I stopped several times to move piles of poop off the trail. Please remember to clean up after your dog – most of the time, just take a pole or stick and flick it into the deep snow as far off the trail as possible. Or bag it if you are taking it with you – but NEVER put poop in a bag and leave it on the trail. Poop will disintegrate on its own if moved well into the snow off the trail but bags DO NOT go away.
Some dogs are fine left unleashed. They get more exercise and can be socialized so well when allowed to be free. But some areas and some circumstances require that a dog be restricted. I have been caught a time or two violating this rule like when Sally and Odd caught me with Dixie off leash during the Ranch2Ranch Trek when we were collecting signs at the end of the Trek. Or at the SMR Nordic Center when Dixie doesn’t know when to stop wanting to play with another dog. I’ll try to be better if you will try as well. After all, we need to do this outdoor thing together.
Such a wonderful place in which we live and so many choices to do any kind of skiing or snowshowing we want. Or we can do it all! We can watch it as a spectator or join in the competition fun at events like the Latigo Loppet family races this Sunday or the nationally known Snow Mtn Stampede weekend March 9 and 10. See www.skigrandnordic.org for all things Nordic in Grand County where we have More K’s and More Days!