Looking around the valley you wouldn’t guess that there’s much, if any, cross country skiing to be had. Winter’s cold reach has been advancing and receding from the mountains this fall like the ebbing and flowing of the tides on a flat sandy beach. The alpine environment has been staying white more consistently, but we haven’t had any storms with enough staying power to set up the nordic season very strongly on the valley floors. Yet, there are die-hard skiers out there, making tracks in places like the Experimental Forest, or on roads or aqueducts that are sheltered from the sun’s shine, getting their legs and lungs ready for another season of sliding on snow.

Our seasons clearly have some overlap, as mountain bikers stretch the summer and fall seasons, seeking the south-facing trails, such as the newly minted .25 trail in The Phases, while popular trails such as Flume and Creekside, have had enough moisture, without enough sun to potentially be a soupy mess. While others have fled the shoulder season, those of us who stick it out are fortunate enough to be in a place where one could get their knobby bike and skinny ski fix in the same day. For these activities, however, timing is important at this time of year in Colorado, with our rapidly warming and cooling, dry mountain air. We can have rock-hard snow or mud in the mornings, that by afternoon has warmed up to become a slippery, slimy muddy muck that clings to shoes or bike tires. Likewise, the snow transforms from a firm, supportive crust that can keep skis off whatever stumps or stones lurk below the surface, to a soft, wet, consistency, compressible like a sponge, leaving behind a sopping layer that will become ice the next morning, after a cold Colorado night sets it up. So if you want to do the trails (and your skis) a favor, whether on single track or snow, take advantage of the morning light, now that we’ve passed the mark on the calendar for re-setting our biological clocks to whatever times our society deems we should, and be done before things soften up.

We have another storm or two on the radar which may change things by mid-week or next week, but as always, mountain weather is highly unpredictable, and one certainty is that the further out you try to predict it, the less certain it becomes. Until then, if you want a taste of winter, it can be found at higher elevations on service roads tucked below the north aspect of ridges and hillsides. If you want to hold onto summer just a little longer, the south sides are where it’s best to be.

Happy Trails!