The weatherman says mountain snow this weekend… are you ready?  If you know where to go, there are patches of snow to ski on using your rock skis.  The Nordic Centers at both Snow Mountain Ranch and Devils Thumb Ranch are currently open to help you with your clothing and equipment needs, plus featuring sales on last year’s equipment or rental gear. Neither has sufficient snow for grooming at this writing.  Grand Lake Nordic Center is waiting for more snow to roll/groom and open their shop.

On snow that has not been groomed or even rolled, be ready to hit a rock and stop suddenly.  Learn to be able to hop quickly off the stopped ski to the ski that is still sliding.  Look for the bumps in the meager snow – they could be rocks or just a clod of dirt or just a stick. Keeping your knees slightly bent makes you more ready to hop.  I even used a half-snowplow to keep down speed on downhill pitches or even took off my skis when it was obvious that sun had melted much of the snow ahead.

 The main thing is stay safe and use good judgement; flatter terrain means less downhill where the spills occur.  Almost anyone can go slowly uphill but control on the downhill is harder.  Work on your technique in the early season and the speed will come as the white stuff becomes more plentiful.

 Snow seems better toward the Winter Park end of the Valley.  Trails like Deadhorse in the Experimental Forrest or the Vasquez area on the waterboard roads are often in the shade but watch out for sunny patches which mean less cover.  Since it is also higher altitude, watch out for the icy effects of colder nights. And he who climbs up must come down. You need your own equipment and carry the Ten essentials including snacks and water. Don’t forget to let someone know where you are going.

 Start off the season with free lessons and pointers – available soon at two nationally-recognized Nordic Centers in Grand County. Now is the time to learn if you have always wanted to try Nordic or work on skills you want to improve this season.  If a beginner, start with classic technique until you know how to slide on snow; try skate technique if you have a background in ice hockey or rollerblades and need a more aerobic workout.  Nordic skiing in any form is a great family sport as kids love playing games, making snow angels, tracking critters, or zipping up and down through the snow. Before you know it, they’ll be skiing rings around you and loving this incredible winter environment we live in. Check out free Friday kids lessons on Grand Nordic websites.

 Devils Thumb is starting the 2023-24 season with its annual Tommelfest on Saturday December 9, complete with the Nordic-themed festival with free skate & classic cross country ski lessons from DTR Ski Instructors & CU Ski Team Coaches, keg toss, Swedish meatballs, and more – all in the spirit of the first cross-country skiers from Norway and Sweden where the sport originated. Find great bargains at the Broad Axe Barn or Zack’s Mercantile or shop discounts on 2021-22 skis, boots, and bindings. For more information, call the Devils Thumb Activity Desk at 970-726-8231. 

For a full weekend of learning, plan to go the YMCA on Sunday December 10 for free Grand Nordic Classic & Skate Ski lessons for adults and kids at YMCA of the Rockies, Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Center. Trail Passes & Rentals FREE to Grand Nordic Members (Non-members pay regular fees). Morning & afternoon lessons with instructors from Grand Nordic, Winter Park Competition Center, and Colorado Nordic Masters for beginners, intermediate, advanced, and kids. Find great bargains on clothing and equipment at the SMR Nordic Center and see the new Campers Hub that will be a winter events center.  Go to  or the Club website for the sign-up links. For questions or to volunteer, call Grand Nordic at 970-887-0547. 

If there is still not sufficient snow that weekend, both resorts plan to substitute dryland training exercises.  Some people are venturing to Bruce’s Trail on Rabbit Ears Pass for early skiing but rumor has it the Nordic skiing is currently the best on the Grand Mesa if you don’t mind traveling a bit…