Where has the Nordic season gone? There’s still a lot of snow in many places but well-used trails are melting out due to warm daytime temperature. If you get several sunny days and a few cold nights, you can experience the Nordic skier delight – Crust skiing! We had that happen a couple weekends ago when the warm sun somewhat melted the snow crystals on the top layer of snow and the cold night fused the crystals together into a crust that you could ski anywhere. The thickness of the snow is not that important but that hard crustly layer is what supports you – the harder the better! Once that crust warms up or softens and those bonds break, you’ll sink right through. Continual new snow on top of the crust will also soften it. Spring crust skiing allows you to go almost anywhere for no charge, your ultimate reward!
If you plan to hit the groomed trails at Devil’s Thumb Ranch or Snow Mountain Ranch, better hurry as the shops at both close this Sunday. There is still decent snow easy to find but there will be no formal grooming. Grand Lake has already closed for the season and warns they are starting the dangerous burn pile process.
Grand County has many areas where you can Nordic ski for free throughout the season which in some areas, is already done. Headwaters Trails Alliance and helpers groom many dog-friendly areas inside or close to Winter Park, Fraser, and Granby as well as trails connecting those areas. Two of my favorites are the Fraser River Trail or the Lunch Loop around the ponds between Fraser and Granby that you can enter from the Safeway Center, a lot off Hwy 40 or the Rendezvous Bridge. Drive past the Thrift Store and park in back. The trail starts beside Local Experience just in case you forgot some of your gear! The trail loops down the highway side of the wetlands and ponds with several spots to cut through to the other side. Ski or walk behind the fire station and City-Wide Bank up to the road into Rendezvous where a bridge brings you to the beautiful River Trail. Circle back down to the Safeway Center for a round trip of about 1- 1 ½ hours depending on how fast you are.
This loop is a part of the River trail system that starts at Trademark next to Winter Park Resort and rolls gently down to the town of Winter Park through the forest along the river, going under Hwy 40 and into town. New construction is causing detours but you can work your way over to the river trail or access a larger loop around Rendezvous, but make your way down the Fraser River Trail to the Safeway Center, then cross at the light to the river trail to Cty Rd 8 and on to the Fraser Sports Complex. Loops are groomed in the ballfields or continue on to Tabernash via the Fraser to Granby Trail behind the Icebox Ice Rink. After crossing the bluff, pick your way out Sunnyside Road into Tabernash. Unfortunately this time of year, it is very difficult for HTA to groom through that area and the trail may only occasionally be accessible. Snow melt west of Tabernash from the 5221 Trailhead also comes early in the valley through prime beaver habitat along Hwy 40 to the YMCA. Or park at the Y parking lot, cross under Hwy 40 at Tim’s Tunnel and ski the beautiful creek and up the winter trail over to the Granby Ranch Resort trails.
Other spots are everywhere! Most are groomed by our fabulous Headwaters Trails Alliance who deserve even more than their award-winning kudos! With recent warm temperatures, check HTA’s Trail Conditions Report before you go. Try turning off Hwy 40 at the light at the Pub and ski Leland Creek up toward WTB and D2. You can head over to Elk Creek and then connect to the roads in St Louis Creek which are also accessible from the Experimental Forest Road. Each road seems to have a trail head or lead to one in the valley nestled around Winter Park, Fraser, Tabernash, and Granby. Ski the waterboard roads packed by snowmobiles, Corona Pass railroad grade, go up Vasquez, Tunnel Hill, Blue Sky – they are all fantastic skiing but don’t expect a groomed track like featured at Snow Mtn Ranch or Devils Thumb, just rolled terrain and access points into the mountains surrounding our Fraser Valley. Above all be aware that this is multi-use so expect snowmobiles, dogs, other critters and more. Be courteous! Check information on HTA Facebook page, Cotrails, and Chambers of Commerce. Be safe and carry water, extra food, and other essentials. Above all – TELL SOMEONE WHERE YOU ARE GOING!