Nordic Skiing in Grand County –  More K’s  More Days

By Kathy Jamieson

Imagine being outside on a cold, crisp winter morning, the snow sparkling in the sunlight.  The only sounds you hear are the sound of your skis sliding on the snow and your own breathing.  The sky is blue, and the feeling is exhilarating.  This is what cross country skiing is all about!  If you are looking for a way to get away from the crowds and enjoy the quiet of nature while getting a great workout, this sport is for you!

The origins of Nordic skiing can be traced back thousands of years to the people of Scandinavia, and was first used for hunting and transportation.  In the early eighteen hundreds, skiing began its’ transition to a sport and leisure activity.  The Norwegians are credited with developing skiing as the sport we know today.

Nordic skiers use several main techniques – classic skiing, skate skiing and telemark or backcountry.  The classic style ski has a “kick zone” in the center of the ski and the skier can kick and glide or shuffle forward.  This classic style can be used anywhere, without the need for groomed trails, and at any pace.  Skate style is named for ice skating.  The skier uses the edge of the ski to push off and glide with aid of the poles for propulsion.  This style is used on groomed ski trails.  It is more aerobic and most people tend to go faster. There is third form of Nordic skiing, called Telemark skiing.  This is a form of turning is where both knees bend and one knee bends almost pointing into the ground and one ski hooks into the other forming a “C” to make the turn. Telemark skis can be used with climbing “skins” to hike up a slope, and the skier removes the skins to ski down.  This style is now used on both Alpine slopes as well as in actual backcountry skiing.

Taking a lesson the first time is a great way to get started and will make you more efficient at any of these styles.  Renting skis and talking to experts at a Nordic center will help with knowing what to purchase for the type of Nordic skiing you want to do, as there are many types of skis, boots, and bindings available that all need to be compatible for that type of skiing whether you are 4 years old or 80.  The various types of skis are tailored for use in different styles, terrains, and activities.  There are many online resources to help with ski selection also but nothing replaces learning from a proficient skier.

Nordic skiing can be a great aerobic exercise that will increase fitness and make the cold winter months something to look forward to.  Nordic skiing can be a total body workout that burns up to 1200 calories per hour.  It is low impact and does not stress any specific muscle group, so the sport is well suited for people across a variety of levels of health and fitness.  You can take it slow and just walk and talk with your friends or push as hard as you want to and even enter racing events.  This is also a very family-friendly sport.  Children can learn as young as three years old, and for even younger kids, there are sleds that can be used to pull kids behind you as you ski.  Most Nordic centers have “dog friendly” trails, allowing you to ski with your best friend!

Grand County has some of the best, if not THE best, Nordic skiing in the country.  There are five Nordic centers in Grand County:  Snow Mountain Ranch, Devils Thumb Resort, Grand Lake Nordic, Granby Ranch, and the Latigo Ranch, which provide well over 300 km of groomed skiing.  Most offer lessons and rentals, as well as racing opportunities.  There are numerous, ungroomed places to ski for free also, such as trails in the National Forest and the Experimental Forest and even in the center of Fraser.  The Fraser to Granby Trail is a groomed trail that is maintained by volunteers from Headwaters Trails Alliance and the Grand Nordic Club that extends as the Fraser River Trail from the Winter Park Resort to the Town of Fraser and the Fraser to Granby Trail from the Fraser Ballfields to Granby Ranch.  The FVMRD Pole Creek Golf Course has some free packed trails also used to maintain the golf course in winter as well as dining opportunities when you finish.  You can bring your dog and they even encourage special moonlight skiing around the full moon.   Look for these great night social opportunities at the various Nordic centers as well.

School kids have the opportunity to try Nordic skis in Preschool classes, elementary school programs thru the Granby Rec Department or Fraser Valley Metro Rec District, East Grand Middle Schol, Middle Park high School.  Various competitive programs are available for either once a week, weekends, and full time programs that can prepare kids for advanced competition.  Adaptive programs through National Sports Center for the Disabled round out available programs.

Nordic centers and ranches provide lodging, restaurants and groomed trails all available on location from the higher dollar to the less-expensive family lodging.  Some great social or snowmobile-packed trails are available right at the trailheads in towns and along Hwy 40, the main road through Grand County.  Lower valley flatter terrain trails are mixed with more rigorous rolling ups and downs or you can skin up the peaks to the Continental Divide.  The backcountry offers unlimited access to incredible vistas and acres of unbroken powder.

The Grand Nordic Ski Club, a non-profit club founded in 1993, has a mission to serve the Nordic community of Grand County by providing educational, recreational, and social opportunities in Nordic skiing. The club sponsors the Annual Nordic Swap usually the last Friday in October each year as well as offers discounts to its members at most Nordic Centers and shops.  One unique offering is sponsoring three free lessons each year – one at each of the major Nordic Centers SMR, Devils Thumb, and Grand Lake Nordic Center. The lessons are free to anyone and include both Classic and Skate style beginner-intermediate-and advanced levels as well as children’s classic-skate-and never-ever. The club member advantage is that the club includes equipment rentals and trail pass for each member.  Membership is currently priced at $25.00 for an individual, $40.00 per family, $100.00 for business membership (including up to 3 employee memberships with benefits) and special rate of $10.0 for youth 18 and under and seniors 70 and older.  Membership form is available online at, club brochures or by calling 970-887-0547. One of the Club’s biggest functions is to raise money to support youth skiing in Grand County in the form of free lessons, scholarships, and youth race development programs.

Grand Nordic hosts fundraising events throughout the winter, including the Nordic Ski Swap, this year at Snow Mountain Ranch upstairs above the Nordic Center on Friday, October 27th 6-8:00 pm.  Those with gear and clothing to sell should show up at 5:00 pm to get checked in.  The Nordic center will be selling equipment also, and 20% of all proceeds go to Grand Nordic.  Donations of gear will be taken also that will be distributed to the kids Nordic programs.  Please bring a dessert to share!

Another big fundraiser is the Ranch2Ranch Ski Trek, in which skiers glide from Granby Ranch to the YMCA or the reverse and is usually held the first Saturday in February.  The Club also provides free ski lessons and rentals, games, and nature activities for kids ages 5 to 10 at the Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Center on Fridays from 1:00 to 2:30.  This program starts in early January and goes through late February, and ends with a fun festival of racing and prizes.  All dates and times of events will be posted on the Grand Nordic website, , as they become available.  Other races or events held at the various Nordic areas are also posted in the form of races, relays and treks.  If you know of events that are not listed or have questions about website content, please send information to or call 970-887-0547.

Grand County is the home of more Nordic opportunities than exist in most areas in the country.  Our county-wide theme is “MORE K’S  MORE DAYS” as we have more kilometers of both groomed or social or snowmobile-packed trails as well as the most consistent early and late skiable snow than anywhere in the USA.  We have created a new website that provides brief explanations and links to the various scheduled events, Nordic centers, ranches, free trails, and programs offered including adaptive, competitive, and school or youth programs.  Nowhere else have we seen weekly backcountry reports that give an insight into the acres of backcountry exploring and current conditions available in Grand County.  The website also includes weekly columns and Nordic News that appear in local newspapers offering tips and insights into the community and local Nordic opportunities.

If you are already a Nordic skier, you may discover that there are more opportunities than you knew of, and if you haven’t tried Nordic skiing yet, please join us for one of the most enjoyable ways to stay fit this winter!