Last winter we were scraping for any snow we could find to make it through the season without resorting to rock skis before the end of March.  This year most of the state is boasting 130% or 140& of normal snowfall.  What a change a season can make.  Talk about weather weirding?

Last week we were struggling to dig out, now the stronger spring sun and rising temperatures are flooding areas in the lowlands that have never seen flooding before.  In the eyes of Colorado residents, this snowpack with it’s higher water content means rivers again flowing with water and reservoirs filling to a point not seen in years. Hopefully the sun will back off a bit and not start run off too early, too fast.  But the sun’s warmth by day and cold temperatures at night do result in a much anticipated delight called crust skiing.

Spring Crust Skiing

When new Spring snow settles in and the sun comes out again for several days in a row, a spring skiing delight called Crust skiing happens.  Warm sunshine and cold nights produce this incredible phenomenon where a skier can ski on the surface of the snow without breaking through the top layer and ski virtually anywhere.  The warm sun melts the snow surface and the layers combine into a tough crust holding up your weight without breaking.  The mornings after a cold night are best because the snow crust will soften in the sun and suddenly you are on your face or sinking to your knees.  Before the sun does its work, a skier can skate for miles in the open meadows or on golf course fairways in a short amount of time and with comparative ease.  The crust will hold up your dog as well!  And bring along the sunscreen because you might wind up in your T-shirt and shorts… For great crust skiing, the key is to go early in the morning after days of sunshine and a couple of COLD nights. Great way to celebrate Spring!

Later next month as the snow begins to fade, the powder transforms into what I call Hero Snow.  The base has settled into a dense hardpack and the surface crystallizes.  As the sun begins to soften that surface, even skinny skis can find a good bite in the crystals and turn easily.   Link telemark turns down the hillside on any slope and you wish that particular segment of winter could go on forever!

Snow conditions are quickly changing now from day to day, hour to hour.  Charlie and I look forward to skiing on one of the many open meadows at Snow Mtn Ranch in the morning or go to Pole Creek Golf course which is open for skiing with your dog – just stay off the tees and greens.  This morning a friend and I walked up at the top of County Road 87 with the dogs and there are occasional bare spots on the south-facing road where the groomer has dug in too deep but the moose were hanging out in the creek area just below us. Many north-facing or shaded areas will keep the snow into May for the real diehard skier.

The wind and early season storms followed by sheer volume of snow have made the back-country very unpredictable this season.  With a record number of avalanches that have been so totally unpredictable, please stay out of the high country while snow settles.  This snow is going to last and will soon turn to crust and hero snow that will delight all who travel upon it.  But the danger right now is so high – the death toll tells the story.  Most of those people were prepared – they had the right gear. Someone knew where they were going but it was just the wrong place at the wrong time.  Don’t be fooled.

YMCA Spring Festival

Instead of going to the high country come to the Snow Mtn Ranch Nordic Center this weekend for their Annual Spring Festival.   They are offering FREE one-hour demos on all snowshoes, back country skis and fat bikes for the entire family.  The Festival starts Friday 8am thru 5pm and winds up Sunday evening.   Come spend the night and have your Nordic skiing and use of the pool and other facilities included with your room.  End of season sales on Nordic ski gear and clothing will satisfy the most discerning shopper and the snow is great to go out and use it immediately.

Nordic Equipment Donations

For those of you hanging up the skis for other activities, be sure to clean and summer wax them to protect them.  Or if you are done with your gear and plan to get new next season, drop off your old useable equipment at Grand Nordic’s collection boxes at the Grand Park Rec Center, Church of Eternal Hills or Granby Library. Want to clean out your closet before you bring out the bike gear?  We collect unwanted Nordic gear of all types varieties and sizes to be used in our kids and youth programs next season. Grand Nordic can give you a tax receipt for better equipment if you call me at 887-0547 or email to arrange a drop-off at my house.  No clothing please.

This is the tough part of living in the Paradise we call Grand County – in the spring we can often ski in the high country and then shift gears same day and bike in the valleys.  This year we will be skiing another month or more longer.  As we gear up for Junior River Trip One at the High School in mid-April, my thoughts are turning to the rivers swelling with freshly melted snow.  If the snowpack melts quickly, we may have a huge spring runoff.   Or it may be more gradual if the sun relents and more new snows come and go.   I think I’ll contemplate those thoughts from the top of Blue Ridge at SMR.