Nordic nirvana |

Nordic nirvana

Things are getting better and better for cross-country skiers in the upper Roaring Fork Valley.

New pedestrian bridges designed to hold a layer of packed snow for nordic skiers were built this summer. The trestles are making things easier than ever for skiers wanting to travel from Aspen to Snowmass, said Austin Weiss, trails coordinator for the Aspen Parks Department.

The new Tiehack bridge is the second-largest free-standing span in Colorado and provides what Weiss says is a vital link between the towns.

“It’s unique to have a bridge of that scale dedicated for pedestrian and skier purposes,” he said. “And the Owl Creek Trail ” the main connection from Snowmass to Aspen ” is the most popular trail in the valley.”

The completion of the bridge cuts back on the number of times cross-country skiers have to stop, take off their skis and walk across a road.

Weiss said the founders of the valley’s nordic trail system, U.S. nordic ski racer Craig Ward and Aspen Nordic Ski Team head Toby Morse, originally had a vision that came from European mountain towns, where nordic trails are prevalent.

“In Europe there are ski trails that permeate through communities and connect them, serving as a form of transportation,” Weiss said. “Little by little, with pedestrian bridges in town, we’re getting those types of connections.”

The pedestrian bridge over Castle Creek Road near the roundabout allows nordic skiers to swish their way from the Tiehack bridge through the Iselin Rotary fields and all the way to the high school trails.

Weiss said the parks department is working on improving the highway underpass near the Aspen Golf Course. A “ski carpet” is going to be put in, allowing skiers to slide across where there is no snow. There are five kilometers of trails at the golf course.

“The entire nordic system has 65 kilometers of trails, and we consider that system everything from Aspen to Snowmass, not including Ashcroft,” he said.

“Our goal is to keep these areas packed firmly enough to safely walk across them, and in many cases I’ve seen mountain bikers riding across them.”

He said the goal is to keep the bridges snow covered from Dec. 1 through February.

The parks department also wants to keep locals and visitors aware of etiquette on nordic trails. Weiss said walkers are asked to use snowshoes on trails and not to walk on the classic cross-country tracks that must be preserved for skiers.

The biggest push lately is to warn skiers not to bring their dogs onto trails where they are not allowed.

“A number of nordic trail easements go across private land, and our license agreements could be threatened if skiers bring dogs out to those areas,” Weiss said.

The parks department does have some trails that are dog friendly, such as Bernese Boulevard at the Aspen Golf Course and the Marolt Trail.

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is]

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