Last week’s storm blessed many of the Colorado mountain communities, but left the Fraser Valley continuing to want more. While Crested Butte, Aspen, Steamboat and others were reveling in double digit snowfalls, we were bracing against howling winds, sideways snow, and wishing for more wind-breaks. While the additional snow was greatly appreciated, it did not do much more for the nordic trails in our valley than to bring us back to a little better than where we had been, as far as trail coverage, before the weeks of 40 degree daily high temperatures eroded the sun-exposed trail sections back to bare ground. By the time this goes to print, the results will be in the history books. As I sit here and write this, we’re seeing a strong front blow in at a rate of 3” per hour. Hopefully we won’t see a repeat of the first December storm, but with predictions of 80 mph winds, our expectations might well be tempered.
Whether trees have been removed by beetle-kill, firebreak clearing, blowdowns or by fire itself, their absence leaves us unrelentingly exposed to the effects of a longer fetch. One of the more intimate experiences on cross country skis comes with being nestled among thick evergreens, aware of the forest’s protective barrier to the elements, as we glide comfortably along the trail. The loss of these evergreen stands makes the remaining ones ever more precious and valued and allows us to appreciate how cold the winter world can be without them. Brian Seppala, Biology teacher at Middle Park High School, has been working with the Middle Park Conservation District to provide local youth with some horticultural knowledge, while working on growing and planting trees, and perhaps help restore some of these evergreen stands. That project can’t happen too fast! Hopefully the rapidly growing lodgepole will restore some of those experiences in our lifetimes.
Brian is also assistant coach of the Middle Park High Nordic Ski team, whose first meet of the year will be at Snow Mountain Ranch, the YMCA of the Rockies this Friday morning, so if it’s not too late, head over and cheer our nordic skiers on. They have been training hard, walking to get to skiable trails so they can get the on-snow training that makes all the difference when it comes to being competitive in this sport. Other teams have come from as far away as Leadville and Fort Collins to get on some groomed snow, and while ours has just been tucked under the shadows and shade of north-facing hillsides, we are so happy to have had that, so a big thanks to the groomers!
If you miss the High School race, there’s still opportunity to witness some excellent nordic skiing this weekend as the competition and development branches of the Winter Park Competition Center Nordic Team will be in Aspen with a skate sprint race scheduled for Saturday, and a classic race on Sunday. Both races will be staged at the Aspen High School trail system and provide an exciting venue for supporting our local skiers. In the meantime, let’s be thankful for the snow we do have and the opportunities to enjoy it!