As the shortest days of sunlight approach, the consensus is that the nordic skiing is “surprisingly good” from those who have made the drive past the Rodeo grounds outside of Fraser to the end of the open road. Past the Experimental Forest gates, closed to vehicles for the season, one can access miles of kick and glide on the summer roads, graded to a perfect smooth foundation for a somewhat limited snowpack. While some are tempted to try their favorite summer hike and bike trails, such as Flume and Creekside, the uneven surfaces with roots and rocks are not yet buried deep enough beneath their winter coat to enable smooth consistent gliding. Aspect – the direction to which a trail is exposed – remains an important consideration when heading off from the trail head.
The Spruce trail, for instance, climbs along the south side of Morse Mountain. With the unusually strong sunny days of November, the early season base was erased from the trail bed. The few modest snows and colder days of December have been generous enough to begin the process of building the snowpack up all over again, but several sections have insufficient snow to keep one off the rocks. A counterclockwise Deadhorse loop trip is possible, keeping skis on and stepping around rocks, but a descent of the Spruce trail is likely to be perilous until more snow falls. Many of the winter trails (roads) to the south of Deadhorse have provided excellent track skiing for those seeking to get out into the beauty of winter, or to get in a few Kilometers of aerobic fitness in a somewhat natural environment.
Weather patterns are not forecasted for any dramatic change in the current pattern. So while we wait, lamenting the storms that came close but passed us by, and hanging on the hopes of the next promise of white gold, chanting the Coloradan mantra that “we need more snow”, know that there is at least one place you can go to find more snow than you might expect.
See you on the trails!