One of the more difficult things to remember, living here in Winter Park, is that what you see out your door is not necessarily what you will find out on the forest and mountain trails. The distinct brown of the valley floor does not inform of the potential to be had should one seek it out with just a little gain in elevation. This past month has been one of the driest and warmest Novembers on record according to Front Range meteorologists. Hopes that were raised by the pre-Thanksgiving blessing that Winter Park Resort announced as a nine inch addition to the tally, melted away with an unseasonably warm week. The new-fallen powder of the middle of the month was well-packed on popular trails by the throngs of holiday visitors.

The freeze-thaw cycles at lower elevations have left some trails with a sheen of ice more typical of east coast snowpacks. Some of these are slippery enough to be treacherous even on foot. The good news, if you could call it that, is that there is enough snow in the forests at higher ground to get out for a decent tour. The slick surface of the West St Louis Loop, for instance, provides some good kick and glide potential north of the King Creek siphon, all the way to the West St Louis Creek crossing.

One would best select metal-edged touring skis for this venture until we get at least another 4-6″ of snow, as an approach from either direction involves traveling over vehicle-packed (somewhat intermittent) snow along St Louis Creek proper, or snowcat-churned snow along West St Louis creek. Getting out there provides great opportunity for fitness and cardiovascular training, exceptional balance training, and technique work. Admittedly, the thought of skiing on this snow requires a certain level of desire, adventure, and skill. A quick step turn, hockey stop or power wedge will likely be necessary on any downhill. It also helps to have had some experience with skiing in locales that are not usually as fortunate as we usually are in regards to generally great skiing conditions.

One other thing to remember about living in the Winter Park area, is that, while we don’t often get the large digit dumps that some other areas are known for, we do often get small one to three inch waves of snow from disturbances that don’t make it to the forecast. With snow falling this Sunday night as I write this, and cooler temps predicted for the coming week, there is good reason to have hope for change.

Happy trails!