Nordic ambassadors hit the trail in Aspen, Snowmass |

Nordic ambassadors hit the trail in Aspen, Snowmass

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesVolunteer nordic ambassadors Drew Larson, left, and Mirte Mallory confer Monday on the nordic loop at North Star Nature Preserve, east of Aspen.

ASPEN ” Dispensing everything from trail directions to ski wax, volunteers in blue jackets are spreading nordic goodwill on the Aspen-Snowmass Nordic Trail System this winter.

The nordic ambassador program has debuted with seven volunteers who ply the system’s 83 kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails when and where they can. They aren’t the nordic police, but they will gently instruct skiers who bring dogs to places where canine companions aren’t permitted and explain the rules to pedestrians who trample groomed trails that are meant solely for nordic skiing and snowshoeing.

They also carry trail maps, and wax for the day’s conditions, which they’ll apply to a struggling skier’s skis, if need be.

So far, say volunteers Mirte Mallory and Drew Larson, the response has been nothing but positive.

“It’s totally the happy face ” not the dog Nazi,” said John Armstrong, ranger for the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program.

Enforcement is part of Armstrong’s job description, but for the ambassadors ” recognizable by their blue Toko jackets with the Open Space and Trails insignia and Nordic Ambassador written in silver on the sleeve ” it’s all about providing a friendly presence.

“More than anything, it’s a willingness to help and engage ” to further the sport of cross-country skiing,” said Mallory, an Aspen native and member of the Aspen-Snowmass Nordic Council.

The council has made it a goal this winter to improve its trail signs, and talking to skiers is giving Mallory insight into the spots where directional signs are most needed.

Some skiers simply need a nudge and some directions to explore a part of the system they haven’t tried before, she said.

“A lot of people don’t realize the kind of system we have here,” added Larson, a Woody Creek resident and avid cross-country skier. “I love to nordic ski, and I love to be able to share that with other people.”

The nordic council oversees an extensive system of trails connecting many of Aspen’s open spaces, plus a link to Snowmass Village via the Owl Creek Trail, loops at the Snowmass Club golf course and a connection between Aspen and Basalt via the Rio Grande Trail. And, it’s all free to use.

Dogs on trails, which have been a source of community debate for much of the winter and were in the headlines this week after two separate dog attacks occurred during the Town to Town Tour nordic event on Saturday, are something ambassadors address, through they’re not empowered to write citations.

Instead, the ambassadors will let skiers know where they can go with their dogs ” they can be unleashed on Independence Pass, at Difficult Campground and on Maroon Creek Road, and are permitted on a leash on the Rio Grande Trail. In addition, dogs are permitted on Bernese Boulevard, a nordic loop around the perimeter of the Aspen golf course, and ” new this winter ” on Labrador Lane at the Snowmass golf course, Armstrong said.

“Bernese Boulevard at the Aspen golf course has been so popular, we had some interest in a doggie track up at Snowmass,” he said.

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