January 30, 2007
CARBONDALE For a cross-country skiing experience that couldn’t be more different than the trails of the vaunted Aspen-Snowmass Nordic System, I head to Spring Gulch.And I mean different in a good way.Sure, the Aspen-Snowmass trails are immaculately groomed, pretty much daily, and the cross-country centers at the respective golf courses that bookend the extensive system offer food, rentals, indoor restrooms and, if you feel the need, lessons. But here’s the thing: With a couple of notable exceptions, much of the terrain is a bit ho-hum and virtually all of it is within earshot of either Highway 82 or a major arterial road.Spring Gulch, some eight miles west Carbondale in the Thompson Creek area, feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere. On a weekday excursion, a skier might not see many other skiers, let alone a hint of urban trappings. With blue skies overhead and soft snow beneath my feet, I took to a fraction of the 20 or so groomed kilometers of trails at Spring Gulch on Monday and marveled again at the almost backcountry feel of the place. Aside from the distant roar of an occasional airplane, I heard only schuss schuss of my skis in the tracks and the birds chirping in the scrub oak.If you go, make sure you make your way up to Finlandia, the uppermost trail, a mostly flat stretch on an upper bench that offers great views of the valley and the backside of Mount Sopris. Getting there: From Highway 82, head south on Highway 133; turn right at the 7-Eleven in Carbondale (Thompson Creek Road) and go 6.9 miles to a parking area on the right. FYI – Ski for Sisu on Sunday: The Mount Sopris Nordic Council, which maintains Spring Gulch, hosts the 15th annual Ski for Sisu fundraiser from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 4.The event is a noncompetitive race for skiers of all ages and abilities; go to http://www.springgulch.org/entryform.jpeg for an entry form, or register at the event starting at 10 a.m. Sopris Servers will donate up to $1,000, with a pledge for every “kilometer-year” (a product of a skier’s age and distance skied), and competitors are urged to collect pledges. The goal is raising $5,000 for maintenance of the system.