On the hill: Skiing sans crowds
CARBONDALE – I decided to go for the slopes that are truly uncrowded by design last weekend.
On Saturday I ventured to the Spring Gulch cross-country ski area outside of Carbondale and had a blast. It was my first time on nordic skis this season. The conditions, to my surprise, were ideal. There was plenty of coverage on the trails, which are set for both classic skiing and skating. It was cold but the trails weren’t icy.
The parking lot was close to full because of the holiday weekend, but I’ve seen it more packed, with vehicles spilling onto the county road. There was a bit of skier congestion at the launching area, but the experience was like most outdoor pursuits – once you hit the trail, everyone disperses.
I worked my way up to the high traverse called Finlandia and took a break at a rickety old picnic table that’s been there for as long as I can remember. Mount Sopris and other high peaks to the south and southeast are in your face at that vantage point. The clean, white peaks glistened in the sunshine with clear blue skies behind them. It’s a view I will never tire of.
Spring Gulch is operated by the nonprofit Mount Sopris Nordic Council. The group relies on contributions and memberships to provide the funds for trail grooming and other maintenance. Help them out. Visit http://www.springgulch.org/ to learn how.
On Sunday, my daughter and I fought off a case of lethargy and dragged ourselves outside by late morning. We figured by that time parking would be next to impossible to find and the slopes would be swarming. We headed upvalley not sure of our destination, but I figured Tiehack presented the best crowd-free opportunity. Bingo! While I sometimes go an entire season without partaking of lift-served skiing at the ‘Milk, it was the right call that day.
The trails at Tiehack were uncrowded even though the snow was soft and the groomers had performed their usual masterful job. I was thrilled after the first run when my daughter thanked me for rousting her out, something you don’t often hear from a teenager.
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Colorado’s Western Slope is considered a climate hot spot where temperatures are increasing faster than the global average. This warming has contributed to more than 20 years of dryness, which scientists are calling a megadrought.