We did it! Grand Nordic’s 8th Annual was definitely as safe as it could be. Participants were limited to 25 spread out over a half hour with a max of 75 each day. Sending those people out into the wind and driving snow on Saturday seemed almost cruel but those people were driven to ski that 12 km distance from Granby Ranch to Snow Mountain Ranch to prove to themselves that they COULD DO IT. The scenery along the way was incredible but it was up to them to ski the distance. They might ski alone or with their family or one or two friends. They might turn around somewhere on the course and decide their own distance to be covered.
From the Granby Ranch Base area, the Trail was carefully chosen to vary between climbing on wide Alpine slopes, to beautiful meanders through the Aspen woods rolling up and down and curving with the hillside, to well-groomed corduroy excellent for skating or classic technique. The groomers at Granby Ranch worked hard on Pirouette – before the new snow came, they actually pulled snow onto the trail with shovels and packed it in. That’s dedication!
The trail winds through the forest but the wind still creates a bit of havoc blowing snow into our faces or making drifts across the trails. We had warmed up as we climbed the Alpine trails and then loved the flats where you can glide effortlessly. The downhills can be fast or controlled with a simple snowplow or half snowplow in the fresh snow. The wind decided where to blow the snow.
Ah the aid station at last. Smiling faces belonging to volunteers dressed to keep out the wind are encouraging. They have laid out banana pieces, orange slices, cookies, energy bars. Do you want warm water or Gatorade? Warm? Great touch… Stop for a few moments and feel your energy return.
Then we take off again before others arrive to take their break. The trail winds across the open meadow and the wind whips at the skiers. Thank goodness for the pink signs that lined the trail providing directions and warning of steep hills. Follow the pink signs!!! Getting off the trail might put you into a snowbank or just in deeper untracked powder. The wind is doing its best to keep the skiers safe from Covid19 transmission – nothing like being in the fresh air outdoors…
Into the trees again, the wind slows. Beautiful glide down the tree-lined path. Out in the open again and out to the ridge, wind blowing in your face. Goggles feel really good right now. And so glad I put on that extra wind layer. Down the long hill, sliding back and forth like a bit of a telemark lets one leg relax while the other pushes against the snow to slow you down. Change up your technique and your muscles last a lot longer. Coming to the Fisher Creek sheltered valley – the wind all but stops and the grooming is great. Is that a moose or a deer in the willows?
Now the big hill up out of the valley. Nothing but herringbone, keep your head up. Or take off the skis and walk up. Then glide back down the other side to Tim’s Tunnel. Groomers had pushed snow into the Tunnel the week before and it was filled with white with no ice in sight. They had scrounged the snow from the surrounding sagebrush fields. More dedication! But a fantastic job indeed. Finally, on the other side of the Tunnel is the second aid station.
The wind whips across the open YMCA meadow. The aid station workers huddle to keep warm behind a rectangular umbrella set ingeniously in the snow as a wind block. Another rest break and some refreshment before heading on toward the protection of the trees around the NSCD Riding Center. The skiers in front of us turned back to ski back toward their car parked at Granby Ranch. My car was at Snow Mountain Ranch so we kept on going in and out of the trees before crossing the meadow and heading up Adun and Just. The young trees offer some protection but this was definitely the windiest section. The 360 view from the top of the ridge was astounding whether the sun is shining or not. Really glad for the goggles now.
We headed down the other side skiing almost effortlessly with the curves in the trail but mainly heading down to the Pole Creek Valley where we turned and climbed slightly toward the Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Center. Wow, the headwind was fierce but the sense of accomplishment when we finally reached the Nordic Center was such an incredible feeling! We made it and turned in our bibs at the timing shack to prove it…
Next day the sun came out for the Sunday skiers but the wind was even worse. We decided you could put up with a lot more of anything when it was sunny. Skiers smiled when they registered and answered their Covid19 questions. They were challenging themselves for the distance and the intermediate terrain and all of them would win. It was another day that everyone finished. They challenged themselves to support the Youth Nordic programs in Grand County and our kids were the winners. Every school and pre-school in East Grand has received ski equipment so our kids could grow up on Nordic skis or receive financial help to train at the level they wanted… Every one of those skiers at the Ranch2Ranch Saturday and Sunday helped that cause. We thank you one and all – the Grand Nordic Board, the staff at Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Center and Granby Ranch, the dedicated groomers, and most of all our volunteers and skiers. We did it and we did it safe for all…