Making new tracks in the midvalley |

Making new tracks in the midvalley

Janet Urquhart
Aspen, CO Colorado

A pair of skiers explore the Rio Grande Trail between Carbondale and the Catherine Store bridge. (Janet Urquhart/The Aspen Times)

CARBONDALE ” Straight and flat.

I’m hard-pressed to think of a better training ground for a cross-county skier than the latest addition to the Roaring Fork Valley’s growing Nordic trail system.

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, those folks who run the buses, have ventured into the trail-grooming business now that the Rio Grande Trail corridor they oversee has expanded beyond the Pitkin County line. That boundary is currently the stopping point for Pitkin County’s trail-grooming effort, for obvious reasons.

This winter, for the first time, RFTA is grooming the section of trail between Carbondale and the Catherine Store bridge. Some friends and I checked it out last weekend.

From all appearances, it’s a pretty popular addition to the system (and dogs are permitted). The grooming includes one set of tracks for classic-style skiing, plus an expanse of corduroy for skaters. (Walkers are directed to keep to the edge of the corduroy.)

The grade change on that section is virtually imperceptible, and there’s hardly a curve on it. It struck me as a great place for a beginning skate skier to nail down technique in the absence of tricky terrain.

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For a classic-style skier, namely me, it was an easy ski – about 45 minutes to finish a length of the trail in one direction at a leisurely pace.

With the warm weather of late, though, the tracks themselves were mostly icy and crusty – the victim of a freeze-thaw cycle. I finally gave them up for the unblemished corduroy and found the skiing much more pleasant.

Driveway crossings are the trail’s only real flaw. I had to take off my skis at three of them; two others held enough snow to ski across on that particular day.

At the end closest to the Catherine Store bridge, the grooming ceases. A section of the Rio Grande between there and Hooks Bridge is closed for wildlife considerations during the winter and spring.

But, with Pitkin County already grooming the Rio Grande as far down as Basalt High School, I’m hoping it’s only a matter of time before RFTA tackles the stretch below the high school, down to Emma.

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