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Nordic prudence

Janet UrquhartAspen, CO Colorado
Pyramid Peak and blue skies beckon, but avalanche danger made the Maroon Creek Valley less than tempting on Sunday. (Janet Urquhart/The Aspen Times)
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Maybe it’s a fine line between cautious and chicken-hearted, but I was one or the other last weekend.Prudence got the better of a me on a cross-country ski outing up Maroon Creek Road on Sunday. I’d skied this stretch years ago, but that was before the folks at T-Lazy-7 Ranch began grooming it for skate and classic-style skiers. With blue skies and no-need-for-gloves temperatures, a friend and I drove upvalley on a perfect day for a ski up to Maroon Lake – a distance of about six miles from the closure gate at the ranch.We were perhaps a mile beyond the gate when the grooming ceased and a sign posted the route as closed to T-Lazy-7 employees and guests. Sure, other skiers had made tracks in the snow beyond the sign and there was nothing to prevent us from continuing onward – nothing but caution, or chicken hearts.Most likely, we could have skied to the lake and back without issue, though there are some serious avalanche chutes up that valley. We carried no shovels, probes or beacons, though, and I’ve been up there when the road has been cleared after an avalanche dumped a pile of debris at least 10 or 12 feet high.We turned around.After aborting our original plan, we headed back down Maroon Creek Road to the high school for a lap around the challenging nordic trails there, trading the slow but definite climb up the Maroon Creek Valley for herringbone uphills and screaming downhills that invariably end in a sharp turn. The outer loop at the high school isn’t for the faint of heart, which makes it one of my favorites.After huffing and puffing our way around it, we took the turnoff toward the Marolt Open Space, where another loop is set, and crossed a snow-covered bridge to the Moore Open Space, where a loop through the sagebrush takes skiers to connections with the Aspen, golf course, the Owl Creek Trail or a back to the high school system. It’s a pretty seamless system, which is pretty amazing.It’s also free of avalanche danger.


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