‘Fifth mountain’ conditions great | AspenTimes.com

‘Fifth mountain’ conditions great

Aspen Times Staff

Like the other ski hills, the “fifth mountain” is holding up remarkably well so far this winter, thanks to the early dumps.The fifth mountain, of course, is the tons of cross-country trails around the Roaring Fork Valley.Just about anywhere cross-country skiers go right now, they will find the coverage thin but holding up well. At the Snowmass golf course last weekend, for example, the trails were numerous, the crowds didn’t exist and the conditions fine for early December.There were only a few south-facing exposures where the dirt or grass was poking through at Snowmass. In some spots, the operators of the grooming machines seemed to be facing the problem of wanting to set a good track for classic skiers and skaters, but being unable to dig too far into the thin layer of snow. So, the track wasn’t as immaculately groomed as we can expect later in the season.Spring Gulch outside Carbondale has the best early-season conditions it has had in years. Even southern exposures like Perry Pass were covered with snow last weekend. And, no doubt, the storms this week made what was already good a little better.Sure, there are some weeds poking out here, some scrub brush poking out there – but, hey, it’s mid-December. The midelevation and upper trails at Spring Gulch are in great shape. Finlandia, the uppermost trail, was well-covered and well-suited for one of the best high-speed glides around.One Nordic skiing enthusiast who hails from the midvalley and frequently visits trails in Aspen and Spring Gulch said the trick is to get there around noon, after the ice has disappeared but before the warm afternoon temperatures make the trails slushy.Granted, this guy is kind of a slacker, so he can follow that advice even during the workweek. But that’s sage advice for the rest of us on weekends.